Olympic National Park, WA

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The Olympic peninsula is across the Puget Sound from Seattle. A good portion of the peninsula belongs to the Olympic National Park. The park can be roughly divided into three regions: the Olympic Mountain Ranges runs through the center of the peninsula, forming a rain shadow over the west side, which nourishes the second region, one of the few temperate rain forests in the world. And the third region is the rugged but gorgeous Pacific coastline. This rich, diverse, and prolific land was established into a National Park in 1938, and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1981.

From Seattle to Olympic peninsula, we needed to take a huge ferry boat to cross the Puget Sound. Once we got on the peninsula, the surrounding instantly became greener; and before long, the road extended deep into forests -- we've arrived in Olympic wilderness.

 

Hurricane Ridge. Follow the winding mountain road through dense forest, we arrived at the Hurricane Ridge, at the heart of the Olympic Mountain Range. The name hurricane comes from the perpetual gusty wind over the ridge, often over 75 miles per hour. But this is the best view point for the majestic Olympic Mountain Range.

Around the ridge is boundless sweet, open meadows. In a distance, we could see glaciers on the snow-capped Mt. Olympus and Mt. Carrie. Over millions of years, damp Pacific air condenses around these coastal mountains ranges to build up their ice cap, which eventually got heavy enough and form glaciers.

 

Lake Crescent at the foot of the Olympic Mountain Range was carved out by glacier during the last ice age. It was first just a valley, but then a huge land slide some 8,000 years ago block the exit and water accumulate into a deep lake.

This is one of those places you want to sit for hours without thinking about your mortgage, GM's bankruptcy, and the final report that is due tomorrow. Instead you contemplate for hours: why is the water in front of you so crystal clear?

Well, the short and scientific answer is the lack of nitrogen in the water, so algae don't do so well here. But be sure don't let that spoil your deep meditation.

A walk on the Marymere Fall Trail near the lake.

 

Temperate Rain Forest. Continued Westward, we drove into some 40 miles of Temperate Rain Forests -- Hoh Rain Forest on the north and Quinault Rain Forest on the south. Temperate rain forest, as opposed to tropical rain forest like Daintree in Queensland, Australia, is less common due to the requirement of heavy and evenly distributed annual rainfall (>1,400nm) in a temperate region. Here in the west side of the park is the rainiest spot in continental US because the Olympic Mountain Range acts as a huge screen, trapping all the moist air from the Pacific Ocean. The result is a dense rainforest dominated by conifer timbers, heavily decorated by drapery of mosses.

Mosses are small, primitive, dampness-loving plants that typically found in those dark, remote corners -- you probably can't think of a more inconspicuous, insignificant plant than the mosses. Here in the Hoh Rain Forest, however, they flourish into feet-long tendrils dangling from tree trunks. With frequent rainfall and the misty air, these mosses thrive even without touching the soil.

This majestic Hall of Mosses, an open space with very tall canopy and hairy tassels of mosses hanging everywhere, is just impressive.

The Hoh Rain Forest is an Old-growth Forest, meaning it's extremely old and exhibits unique biological features. Take this enormous tree, for instance, it is simply the largest Cedar Tree in the world.

Water in the woods make the surrounding extra serene and soothing.

 

The Pacific Coast. On the west end of the park is a stretch of 73 miles of rugged black sand beach, with rocks and boulders scattered everywhere.

What really sets the beach here apart, is the large amount of eroded driftwood deposit -- logs, dead heads, roots... Not a surprise if you notice the dense Sitka Spruce forests right above the beach. In addition, large amount of dead woods carried by the nearby streams -- Hoh River and Columbia River -- are often washed onto the beach as well.

Speaking of the Spruce groves above the beach, you can spot many of the trees have some sort of strange, unproportionally large burls grow on the stem. A sign explains that these are indeed tumors -- abnormal growth stimulated by virus or certain inorganic compound in the sea salt. However, these burls cells are chemically the same as normal wood, so they're not exactly as harmful as cancer, except that the tree has to carry extra burden. Lucky you, I thought.

It's low tide at 4:30pm in the afternoon. Many of the tide pool creatures, anemone, shellfishes, sea stars... are now exposed to the frying sun. It's amazing how these creatures survive these cycles day after day.

On the beach, we found at least dozens of Scoters (sea ducks, mostly Surf Scoters / Melanitta perspicillata
and White-winged Scoters / Melanitta deglandi) lying on the beach. Some were dead, some were just waiting to die, but some struggled to stumble back to the water. According to wildlife officials, they're likely sicken by a toxic algae bloom.

Other Wildlife in the park. In the first two pix are a pair of Roosevelt Elks (Cervus canadensis roosevelti); the next 2 pix is a Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus).

Group of Seagulls (2 pix); a Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus, 3rd pic); an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus, 4th pic) and a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus, last pic).

 

Yichi and company enjoying Olympic National Park.

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