Olympic National Park, Part 2: Mountains, Forest, and Wildlife
As stunning as the beaches and lakes were, Olympic did not disappoint with its glaciated mountains and dense temperate rainforest. The 17 mile drive from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Hurricane Ridge at 5,572 feet offered spectacular views of the Olympic Mountain Range and the Victoria and British Columbia Coat range as well as Vancouver Island across the Strait. From the Big Meadows Trail we were treated to these views from the level of lush alpine meadows.
Due to the overwhelming amount of rainfall the Peninsula receives, trees there grow to incredible heights of 300 feet or more and circumferences that rival the redwoods. When these behemoths eventually fall and start to decay, they provide excellent places for new trees to take root leading to root systems that are visible above the ground once the original nurse log has decomposed. This cycle lends to the rich soil which supports the abundant ferns and mosses as well.
The excessive precipitation causes the unusual phenomenon of a temperate rainforest. The Hoh Rainforest within the park receives up to 170 inches of rain per year, providing ample support for huge sitka spruce and big leaf maple trees as well as conditions to support large amounts of spikemoss, which hang from the branches.
The old growth forest also also contained one of the most beautiful waterfalls yet: Marymere Falls.
Such a rich ecosystem also contains hundreds of species or animals, some of which are unique to the park. We were treated to eagles, sea life, unabashed birds that joined our picnic, and a herd of elk grazing.