September 1-4, Port Angeles, WA and Olympic National Park (continued)
Monday morning we drove to Neah Bay and hiked to Cape Flattery which is the most northwestern point of the lower 48 states. We are on the Makah Indian Reservation and needed to purchase a recreation fee. The ¾ mile trail was very lush and beautiful.
The moss growing on the tree limbs created some very unusual sites – this limb looked like it had a face on the end of it.
When we arrived at the tip of Cape Flattery at the end of the trail the views were great with rock stacks, sea caves and even a few sea lions.
There were a number of sea caves on either side of the point. We enjoyed watching the waves crashing into the caves.
Tatoosh Island just off the end of the point is a sacred place for the Makah people. Vancouver Island is just across the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
The Cape Flattery Lighthouse sits on Tatoosh Island.
We next drove to the trailhead for the 4 mile round trip hike to Shi Shi Beach, which claims to be one of the most unspoiled beaches in the US. At the beginning of the trail we met a lady coming back and she told us she saw a couple of whales at the beach – we hope they are still around by the time we get there. The trail wound through a beautiful rain forest and was so muddy in some spots we had to use bypass trails. At the end of the trail we had to make our way down a very steep cliff to the beach. Once down the cliff the long beach was beautiful with rocks out into the water on each end.
We hiked to the rocks on the opposite side of the beach and climbed over an outcropping where we found a nice small cove. There was only one other person on the beach so it was very isolated. We were looking through our binoculars from the outcropping and were able to see the two whales a long way out – we think they were Grey Whales but it was hard to tell. We watched them for a while but couldn’t get any pictures as they were too far away.
We really enjoyed our trip to Neah Bay, the drive was beautiful with lots of views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island. The hikes were great and we especially enjoyed Cape Flattery.
Tuesday we decided to go see some of the waterfalls the ranger at the Visitor Center told us about earlier. Our first stop was at Madison Creek Falls along the Elwha River Entrance to Olympic National Park. We hiked a short easy trail to this beautiful waterfall on Madison Creek.
Our next stop was Marymere Falls which drops 90 feet into a small plunge pool. The 1.5 mile round trip hike to this beautiful waterfall was a little more difficult than the Madison Creek Falls trail but was well worth the effort.
We ate lunch at the Lake Crescent Lodge and when we told our waitress we were on our way to Sol Duc Falls she said that when you round the corner and see the falls they will take your breath away.
After lunch we headed up the Sol Duc River road and stopped at Salmon Cascades. These powerful cascades were once a great place to watch salmon swimming upstream to spawn. But because of over fishing it is rare to see native fish leaping these cascades today.
We drove past the Sol Duc Hot Spring Resort to the end of the road where we found the trail to Sol Duc Falls. The 1.5 mile round trip hike was beautiful and the falls were just as breathtaking as our waitress told us. These falls are seen from above stream level and fell in three separate streams. We could see that when the river is higher there is a fourth channel on the far right side.
Beyond the bridge in the trees you can see the roof of the Canyon Creek Shelter built by the CCC. This is a rustic shelter for hikers that is like the ones we saw on the Appalachian Trail.
On our way back to the RV Park we stopped at Lake Crescent, a deep, glacially carved lake – officially the maximum depth is 624 feet but unofficial depth measurements of more than 1,000 feet have been recorded. The lake is a brilliant azure and exceptionally clear which is caused by a lack of nitrogen in the water which inhibits the growth of algae.
We really enjoyed our hikes to all the waterfalls in beautiful Olympic National Park.
Wednesday we drove to the west side of Olympic National Park and hiked in the Hoh Rain Forest. The temperate rain forest valley of the glacier-fed Hoh River receives 12 to 16 feet of rainfall a year, not including the 30 inches of tree drip from fog condensing in the canopy. We can believe that as it rained off and on most of the morning. Our first stop was at the Big Sitka Spruce Tree, one of the largest in the US. It is over 270 feet high, has a diameter at breast height of over 12 ½ feet and is between 500 to 550 years old.
This old telephone booth at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center shows just how wet this area is with its hat of moss.
New trees sprout up on the rotting logs of fallen trees called nurse logs. Here are three in Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock trees in a row on a nurse log.
After lunch in the picnic area, we drove to the coast and stopped a Rialto Beach, also part of Olympic National Park. This is a beautiful beach at the mouth of the Quillayute River.
We had a good breeze so Rex decided to try out one of his kites. Of course, as soon as he got the kite out and in the air the breeze died down!
We enjoyed another great day even though it did rain on us. We have enjoyed the northern Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park – another gem in our national park system. We are looking forward to seeing more great beaches as we move down the coast tomorrow - hopefully it won't rain.