Part 1 of 3: Visit Olympic National Park in Washington State!

There’s a long bridge between Astoria, Oregon into Washington state. As I drove across the bridge, I realized my west coast visit was continuing with misty fog into the next state! Is there any other weather happening on the Pacific Northwest coast? The good news: my front windshield is so clean!

Highway 101 is closer to the Oregon coast. Where fog lifted, I saw waves and shoreline, but not at Cannon Beach so I skipped that visit. In Washington, Highway 101 is further from the coast with plenty of trees between me and the coast. When along the shore, it is mostly mudflats. I visited Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge in Hoquiam, Washington. Walking the boardwalk with a couple from San Diego helped me enjoy and pass the time since few birds were in the area.

My first stop at Olympic National Park: Lake Quinault. There are 4 rainforests in the park and this is one. Here I visit the world’s record oldest sitka spruce tree. This tree is 1,000 years old and people standing at its trunk are puny compared to the tree’s girth. The branch that fell off the tree has been determined to be 400 years old, wow! 

1000 year old Sitka spruce tree
Branch fell off…it is 400 years old!

This park has 4 rainforests: Quinault, Hoh, Queets and Bogachiel. They are moderate temperate rainforests, different from tropical rainforests. When I climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro years ago, one of the biomes you trek through is tropical rainforest. Being close to the equator, it was a hot moist area with dense vegetation where rains fall year-round. The moderate temperate rainforests in the northwest USA coastal areas also have dense vegetation with milder temperatures and seasonal rainfall. Everywhere you look, there are beautiful, huge trees! The misty fog certainly provides moisture for these trees to grow. There are also many beautiful ferns, wildflowers, fungi and goatsbeard lichen which hangs from the tree’s branches. 

Goatsbeard lichen

My next stop was to be the Hoh Rainforest; however, it was not to be. With its small parking lot, park officials monitor the number of cars in the lot so there is no gridlock. I did not want to wait an hour or more hoping others would be leaving the area. I continued miles down the road to La Push Beach. With three beaches in this area, people park their vehicle, walk to the beach and I suspect many stay for the day. I went to First Beach and had my lunch after walking the area. Here are photos from this beach:

First beach at LaPush

Most people are stopping at various vistas and hiking trails as I am. For others, their visit is a backpacking or bicycling trip through the area. The hiking trails vary in their steepness and the road through the park is not the easiest to cycle. After few hour’s drive, I decided to stretch my legs near Lake Crescent. Amazingly I saw an American dipper playing around in the lake’s edge! This is a new bird for me:

American dipper

Highway 101 is right through Port Angeles, a busy sea port with ferry service to Victoria Canada. I checked out the waterfront and spent little time in the city. My campground was about 10 miles away and I was ready to end this day. I had been traveling 11 hours … driving and sightseeing all on the park’s west side. Already I am realizing I needed to plan more days to visit this park.

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