Olympic National Park

Tracy and I went on vacation the week of August 20, 2006. We had a round-robin road-trip planned that would end up putting over 3000 miles on Tracy’s car in one week. We left on Friday after work and drove to Ontario, Oregon, for the night. That was our first time in Oregon, so that was one more state off the list. From there we drove to Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington. Of course, first we had to get gas in Oregon…no one ever told us Oregon was a police state and it’s illegal to pump your own gas. Oregon really was a little strange. Between not being able to pump your own gas and not being able to drive over 65 on desolate interstates, we felt like it was worse than Virginia for being a police state.

But we made it to Mt St Helens, where we met Chris and Stacia. Mt St Helens was really cool. It was smoking out of the newly formed cone in the center of the old crater. Usually it was just a single column of smoke, but a couple of time we watched it belch out quite a bit of smoke from several different holes. We couldn’t get great pictures of the mountain because it was so smoky and hazy, but we did get a great view into the old crater from the trail we hiked at Independence Pass.

We then drove to Mt Rainier National Park the next day, and hiked the Fremont Lookout Trail with Chris and Stacia. Mt Rainier was also really cool. The trail was more crowded than I like, but the views of the mountain were outstanding. The mountain was just so big that it was hard to judge relative size or distances of anything around the mountain.

After leaving Mt Rainier we headed towards the Olympic Peninsula. We ended up circumnavigating the Olympic Peninsula, but that was fun, too. We backpacked on the Olympic coast in Olympic National Park. We started at Rialto Beach and hiked in about 4 miles or so. We camped right on the beach after debating the tide chart for an hour or so. We tried to learn our lesson from Alaska, but the driftwood-littered beach made it harder to measure the incoming tide. We ended up taking our chances and pitching the tent on the beach. It turned out okay, and the high tide didn’t really come anywhere near us. The beach hike was a little crowded the first mile or so, but after the first headland obstacle, we only saw three other hiker groups. There were only two other groups anywhere near us in the cove we camped in, and they were pretty far away. The beach hike was nice. We saw some starfish and had our first exposure to, what I guess was, seaweed roots. These were very long rope-looking things with round heads on the end. They looked like very long snakes. We threw an old one on the fire at one point, and it sparked and sputtered like crazy. I decided they were actually aliens and we had just killed one.

After leaving the coast, the next day we backpacked in the Quinault rain forest in the Olympic National Park. We hiked the Enchanted Valley Trail about 10 miles up to Pyrites Creek. There were also a lot of cars at this trailhead, but we didn’t see many people on the trail. We had Pyrites completely to ourselves. We had a black bear pretty much come through our camp, which was cool. He wasn’t aggressive or looking for camper food, so it was fun to watch him forage around. That was actually the first bear I’ve ever seen in the backcountry. We were going to stay out for two nights, but we decided the Olympic rain forest actually looked a lot like the Smoky Mountains…only with much bigger trees. And we wanted to change the plan a little and see what the North Cascades looked like. So we only spent one night and then hiked the 10 miles back to the car.

We then drove to Seattle and spent the night with Chris and Stacia, and then headed up the next day to the North Cascades. The North Cascades were actually really cool, and I’d like to kayak on the lakes in that park. After seeing it, I would like to have spent more time there, but I didn’t feel like dealing with grizzly country on this trip, which was why I didn’t include it in the itinerary.

But we took a long, slow drive across northern Washington, Idaho, and Montana. We really liked the Missoula area in Montana. I wouldn’t mind living there. Missoula is surrounded on the north and south by the largest unbroken stretches of wilderness in the lower 48…the wilderness is broken only by Missoula itself. And the area was absolutely beautiful.

We tried to take mountain roads most of the way back home through Idaho, but after a wrong turn in Salmon that we didn’t realize for 40 miles, we ended up missing most of the Sawtooths. Oh well…it looked great, so we’ll go back up to check it out when we can spend more time.

This was a great trip. I now officially only need to make it to Hawaii in order to have visited all 50 states. And Tracy only needs Hawaii, North Dakota, Vermont, and California.

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