Park Beat II – Olympic National Park: Part 1

Categories Mountains, National Parks/Monuments
It’s hard to stay away from the road too long. Last weekend, as we sped steadily across the Olympic Peninsula, rain hit the pavement in a sporadic stream and softly trickled down the car windows in small droplets. Although it was the end of May, it was a crisp 60 degrees.  The sky was overcast with clustered bluish-gray clouds. As we drove closer to the coast, the route progressively grew greener; the road lined with more and more lush evergreens. We traveled west on Olympic Highway 101, passing through Aberdeen and Hoquiam, Washington before turning north towards Kalaloch Lodge situated on a bluff above the beach in Olympic National Park. As we pulled up to the parking lot of Kalaloch Lodge, white-capped waves spread out in lines across the ocean. 

 

We walked down a zigzagged stairway, past a gazebo, marking the way to the beach.

 


The beach was littered with stacked drift wood like misplaced Lincoln Logs. Waves crashed idly 20 feet out in long rows, never quite reaching the shore. Still water slowly lapped onto the rocky beach.

 

 

 

 

 
There is something about the ocean that breaths life even into the darkest days.  Although the wind was chilly and my ears slowly started to ache, a light blue sliver cut through the overcast sky. The sun peeked through the stubborn clouds casting a shimmery glow onto the water. 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the beach, spring flowers spouted up from the course sand between the enormous logs.

 

 

 

We stumbled around on the beach for a bit and then hopped back into the car to head north to Beach 4. Along the way we stopped to see a giant spruce tree. Several shades of green lined the path into the forest.


 

 

 

 

The massive spruce tree was hollow inside. Veins wrapped around the tree like giant serpents.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t stay long. Instead, we opted to travel on to Beach 4. When we arrived, we made our way down the path to the cragged rocks towering up from the water and the stony beach like lost islands. The beach was covered with smooth rounded stones and drift wood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The waves crashed up against the oddly shaped rocks cemented at sea. At the same time, water pooled in the soft stones at shore. Far in the distance, an island sat with a solemn lighthouse at its tip.

 

 

 

 

 

We spent a little time exploring before heading back up the path. 

 
As usual we were short on time, so we raced back towards the other side of the peninsula as the sky began to clear.  By the end of our trip, the moist air made my hair go limp and our clothes were dampened by the ocean spray. But as always, our quick trip to the coast was well worth the drive, lending some classic Pacific Coast photos. Because the landscape of the park is so diverse, it creates a great opportunity to see contrasting colors depending on where you are in the park (and provides perfect scenes for terrific editing effects too). 

 
Just for a little background…The Olympic National Park (and the Olympic Peninsula in general) is one of the pinnacles of the Pacific Northwest. The national park comprises a total of 992,651 acres of the Olympic Peninsula. The park is especially rich in wildlife from marine animals just offshore such as whales, seals and seal lions to mammals that walk on land such as deer, elk and beavers.  Of course, there are also 300 species of birds and 37 species of native fish including salmon running through the rivers of the peninsula. The park has three very different ecosystems from the mountains to the coastline to the old growth and temperate rain forests.


Also rich in cultural history, there’s been over 650 archaeological sites discovered in the national park which document 12,000 years of human occupation on the peninsula. As proclaimed by the National Park Service, the Olympic Peninsula was America’s last frontier of westward expansion in the contiguous 48 states. Eight Native American tribes also call the peninsula home: the Hoh, Ozette, Makah, Quinault, Quielete, Queets, Lower Elwha Klallam and Jamestown S’Klallam. 


 

 

Today, the Olympic National Park has 16 developed campsites and four lodging options including Sol Duc Hot Springs, Lake Crescent Lodge, Log Cabin Resort and Kalaloch Lodge. But of course, always be prepared for rain no matter whether you decide to camp or not. This year is the park’s 75th anniversary since it’s establishment in 1938. We plan to go back in August to explore a greater portion of the park, so stay tuned. More is to come!

For a birds eye view of the peninsula, see the map below.  Keep driving further up Highway 101 from Kalaloch Lodge to explore additional beaches and the Hoh Rain Forest.

View Larger Map

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