WASHINGTON’S OLYMPIC PENINSULA – A Quick Trip!

We were itching to go back to the Olympic Peninsula. We knew two days would be barely enough time to make a dent, but…off we went! It required a drive to the ferry, a chilly trip across the sound, and more driving to get to Hurricane Ridge, a popular spot up in the Olympic Mountains with great views and our first destination.

Fellow chilly ferry passengers.

While docking we saw a gull dining on a sea star – how he got it down, I don’t know!

We stopped at our favorite “truck stop” ever:  the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe’s Longhouse Market & Deli. Selling gas, groceries, wine, take out food, and much more, it is the epitome of taste in gas stations.

A closer look at one of the totems guarding the entrance.

On the way up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains we broke through the morning fog into a clear, sun-filled day.

Cooperative black-tailed deer posed along the trail. No one was feeding them, happily. They seemed to be getting salt or minerals from a little seep of water in the rocks near the trail and clearly didn’t mind having people close by.

What seemed to be the very last flower of the season up there was this tiny spreading phlox, sitting pretty on a sunny slope. This kind of situation is what gardeners call “sharp drainage” – I’ll say! It takes a tough plant to survive these harsh conditions.

Another detail that fascinated me was the amount of sap on these cones:

A long view across a valley in the Olympics, with snow in the distance. You can see two people on the trail to the right near the trees.

Looking down onto the fog:

These cones were losing their seeds to wind, birds, or squirrels. I don’t know which, but it made for a comical profile!

The fog returned as we made our way to the coast, to Third Beach. First we stopped at our hotel in Forks, the little town famous for the Twilight books and movie. Having secured our room, we drove to one of the nearby beaches. I knew it would be low tide when we got there and I was eager to walk out and see what I could find.  Fog gave the narrow two lane road lined with tall trees an enchanted look.

By the time we parked and walked about a mile through the forest to get to Third Beach, it was late afternoon and light was getting low.

Hardly anyone was around – just a few gulls and one or two people. It was a good place to lose yourself in the mist and rocks.

I picked my way across the rough, barnacle-covered rocks towards the sea stacks.  I was hoping for sea stars, anemones, whatever might hide in those crevices…

And there they were, but it was hard to focus properly in the low light.  I guess I’m happy to have gotten anything. It’s just more reason to return.

In the photo below, the little trench of water is filled with sea anemones. The sea stars in both photos are the same species even though they’re different colors. Called Purple Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus) it’s thought that diet may play a role in the coloration.

The next morning we visited the Hoh Rainforest. Instead of too little light, there was too much – it was unusually bright and sunny. Most days the rainforest is, well, rainy, or at least very misty. But that day the contrast of bright sun and dark shadows made it difficult to photograph the complicated landscape.  There were only a few workable images. But again, it’s more reason to come back.

An old phone booth with no phone in it at the parking lot was overgrown with moss. I’m so glad they didn’t remove it.

Sunlight created complex reflections and shadows on the surface of a fast-moving creek full of aquatic plants.

I saved our prize sighting (and the worst photo!) for last. As we drove into the rainforest that morning, we noticed something big up ahead in the road. When we saw it – a bull elk and two females – we slowed to a stop and then tried to creep forward in the car to get a photo, as I scrambled for my camera – I was so excited! I ruined shot after shot because I couldn’t calm down enough to hold the camera steady.

But it was still a great experience.  The bull soon became annoyed with us, whistled to his women, and with a nonchalant glance over his shoulder he strolled into the forest and disappeared. They dutifully followed.  I remembered to breathe.

Later that day we saw several warning signs in the park. You’re never supposed to get as close as we did to a bull elk in the fall. Ignorance was bliss, this time.

After the rainforest we returned to the coast one more time. It was almost high tide at dramatic Rialto Beach. Being a weekday in the fall, almost no one was around. Ethereal mist and fog silvered the water, the wind blew, round black stones clattered under breaking waves that crashed with enough force to roll log giants…it was impossible not to be fully there, with all senses engaged.  Photographs from that day are here.

And here are a few more shots from Rialto:

One more, snapped with my phone as I regretfully left Rialto for the long drive home.

The road home across the peninsula’s north side (the middle is unpassable because of the mountain range so you either go north or south) follows Crescent Lake’s quiet, scenic shoreline for miles.  I thought about our next visit to the Olympic Peninsula. Maybe the rainforest will be rainy…maybe we’ll spend more time in the mountains…explore another beach…get out to Neah Bay…take a closer look at Crescent Lake. But for one trip, we sure packed it in.


45 comments

  1. A wonderful set with lots of variation – beautifully done. I’d say squirrels eating the cones. Elk are amazing how the they can appear and especially disappear. Even with their huge racks they can silently navigate through fairly dense forest and be gone in seconds. Leaves you wondering if you actually really saw them. The beach stones are great – a stone skipper’s delight. Thanks for the tour!

  2. That was a glorious day to be at Hurricane Ridge, I could swear you visited the same day as a friend of mine who did a hike up there in a different direction….she did the easy walk up Hurricane Hill. Was it a weekday you went? I wish I could remember the exact day I’m thinking of, because I was in the mountains, too (it was going to be one of the last really nice days up high before the snow level dropped for the season). I like your pictures from the Hoh. A couple years ago I went out there with a good shutterbug friend of mine, he wanted me to go with him so badly but I was resisting a little because it was a bright, sunny day and I really felt we should go there only when it was gloomy and misty. He won out on our plan-making. I still had a wonderful time but I kept thinking that it felt wrong to be there on such a sunny day. Photographically-speaking, I felt very challenged…..I just wasn’t creative enough after boxing my thinking of the place.

    The Longhouse Market and Deli is indeed a fine establishment……I’ve been stopping there for years to use the powder room at ungodly hours of the morning when I was on my way to places loftier. One of these days I’ll buy a sandwich.

    • It’s fun to compare notes with you. We were there around 10/20-21. And we just took the easy walk, too. One of the things I did not photograph, a totally charming scene, was tow toddlers whose parents allowed them to take their clothes off, running around the grass in pure joy. Yeah, it just didn’t seem right to see all that sun in the Hoh. I heard they had (like we did) an unusually dry summer, too, so it looked different than I expected. I saw the Quinault Rainforest in fall 2011 on a more typical day. Food’s pretty good at the Longhouse! And the restrooms, with TV’s!!

  3. You’ve totally shown me the different atmospherics up farther north. Seems as though you have the same sort of scenes, but they’re more intense up there. Such great shots to convey the mood. Truly breathtaking.

    • You know I can’t wait to see Oregon, now that I’ve learned how not to say like an easterner. 🙂 It will be interesting to see if I have the same reaction you do. I’ve been to Rialto twice now and both times it was very intense. Nothing gentle about it.

      • It’s usually easy to pick out someone from out of state when they say Oregone or Williamette (as opposed to Will AM ette)! I’m glad to hear you can say Oregon. I think you’ll enjoy a visit here.

  4. It’s been ages since I’ve been to the Olympic Peninsula, Lynn, so thanks for bringing back some great memories. Gosh, I think it’s been over 31 or 32 years. It looks much like I remember it, except for the cool and charming truck stop and the sea anemones. Beautiful, as always. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the beautiful shots – and for making me smile: I don’t remember how many elks I saw and how many elk photos I took a couple of years ago on a trip to Norway, But I do know that I spoiled every single one due to excitement 😉

  6. A quick trip maybe but you packed so much into every minute! You can make all the plans in the world but still miss out on surprises and wonderful to take the ride with you Lyn!

      • I am not sure I know the answer to this Lyn – we are better at spontaneity than the planning and tend to follow vague ideas of what might be ahead. Including accommodation! Can’t wait to roam this corner of the world and visit your spectacular photos!

  7. Absolutely stunning BB !
    Such a treat to scroll down and read your account I found myself staring into streams across mountain hikes , looking closely at sea anemones and the coastline along with you …..

  8. Love the deer and the starfish… And those woodland images are just magical and then the coastal shots… Stunning gallery!!

  9. Gorgeous montage’ of the trip. Brings back lots of memories and I recognize several of the places and things (like that crazy mossy phone booth). Makes me want to go back soon… Thanks for bringing it to me so beautifully!


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