In the Shadow of Mount Olympus – Hurricane Ridge

Waking up in a rainforest is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.  The pristine sounds of nature trickling through the canopy are a soothing alarm clock as the sun rises in the east.  My brother and I crawled out of our tent to birds chirping and dew glistening on blades of grass as rays of light shone through the pines.  We broke our fast with some oatmeal and quickly followed by breaking camp.  Today we would be driving further into and around Olympic National park to one of the premier views, Hurricane Ridge.



Walking to our car we passed an old phone booth, perhaps left as a reminder that our cell phones might not penetrate this deep into nature’s beauty.  We piled into the car and took the scenic drive out of the Hoh Rainforest.  Leaving the forest I couldn’t help but notice the trees are still green and beautiful but thin out as quickly as the nostalgia for massive redwoods sets in.  The best cure is to look forward to the next adventure!  We followed the Olympic Highway skirting the park with a few scenic stops along the way.  The first was at the beautiful, glacial Lake Crescent.  These icy waters were refilled with this years’ spring melt; although the 600 ft deep fissure was carved millions of years ago by a glacier taller than the towering peaks above.  A few more curves through the mountains and we could see Port Angeles; we took a quick gas stop and started our way back into the park.  The 17 mile drive up mountain roads was a gamble; we knew the road was open but my brother had been to the top a few times only to have the clouds roll in front of Mt. Olympus.


We followed the 2 lane road as it wound around and through the mountain in tunnels blasted into the rock.  Suddenly we saw brake lights ahead, luckily it was only construction.  We waited patiently for the single lane to open in our direction but before we knew it the orange flag waved us through.  My gaze veered to the clouds above the evergreens on our left, hiding all of the magnificent peaks. My brother insisted that I shouldn’t worry as these clouds were too low to matter when our drive came to a crawl yet again.  This time fog surrounded us just before we entered the next tunnel.  Bursting out of the passage we found even more mist; there was a magical sense to it all which was only enhanced by the tiny Christmas trees lining the guardrail.  I quickly realized that we were staring at the tops of massive evergreens growing on the cliffs below.  All of the sudden we came through the clouds with blue skies above!  Before us lay a peaceful panorama of glorious green hills above a sea of white fluff with the snow-capped peaks in the distance.


We took a quick stop at the next overlook to dance among the treetops.  The cool mountain air was a refreshing break from the recirculated cabin of our car.  Following a short path we quickly found the edge and stared down into the mists below.  A massive raven erupted out of the white veil; skimming the treeline the beast let out a shrill cry before diving back beneath the clouds.  My brother informed me that the illustrious Hurricane Ridge wasn’t much further.  Crossing our fingers as we got back into the car, we made a silent prayer that the Olympic Mountains would be as clear as the info panel’s picture.



Another mile up the road leveled off.  Hiding at the edge of this rounded bluff was the Hurricane Ridge visitor center.  We parked, stretched and were ecstatic to find the only clouds in sight high above in the stratosphere.  Mt. Olympus stood above its stoic brethren at 7,980 feet.  Just to the left of the massive mountain we could clearly see the beautiful Blue Glacier; its icy sisters now a distant memory.



It is a wonder to think that only yesterday we were far beneath that ridge hiking through the bountiful rainforest.  After a brief photo op we took the short hike to view the northern ridge behind us.  Sadly it had lost its white wisps in the summer sun. Drawing ourselves closer to the edge we peered down to the cloud cover in the valley below.  I figured the evergreens on our hilltop continued all the way beneath the clouds but was quickly informed that I was in fact peering into another country.  On a clear day you could see the far shore of Canada’s Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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Walking the rest of the paved loop lined with evergreens and wildflowers, we made our way back to the visitors center.  There, we found a ranger leading a discussion about forest fires and the havoc they could wreak.  He quickly consoled a naturalist in the crowd reminding everyone that nature was resilient.  In fact, there had been a number of blazes over the years; evidence of which were covered up by a thick forest of conifers that fed on the nutrients which fell beneath the ashes.  I took a moment for one last photo with this amazing panorama before my brother reminded me that I had a plane to catch.  A few more hours on the road and we said our goodbyes before I flew back to the East Coast.


Read about the first day in Olympic National Park here!