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169_Olympic NP_080113_Hurricane Ridge Panorama
Olympic Range from Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center

We had never been to this national park, and had never seen some of the birds living in the extreme northwest part of the U.S., so it was with a lot of excitement that we spent about a week recently in Olympic National Park.

The last few years we have done extensive explorations of the national and state parks in California and the Southwest. My birthday is in spring, so that's been a good time to visit Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, Carrizo Plain National Monument, and others.

We've also been whale-watching in Channel Islands, and brought to tears by the tragedy of Manzanar National Historic Site.

During my wife's late-summer birthday, we've hiked through Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite, and Sequoia and King's Canyon national parks.

That's not even mentioning the many state parks we've either camped in or visited on day trips.

In short, we've seen much of California's parklands, and quite a bit of Nevada's as well. It was time to expand.

And, yes, it was time to find some cool summer greenery. While we love our state, we figured it would be nice to get to a place that is not only cooler, but is still green in the summer rather than be all yellow and dried out.

097_Olympic NP_073013_Mossy Trees at Hoh Rain Forest
Mossy Trees in the Hoh Rain Forest

It's a long drive from the SF Bay Area, so we had to stay overnight in Oregon both coming and going. But the drive, up Interstate 5, and then Highway 101 from Olympia, WA, becomes more beautiful by the mile. We were originally going to camp at the park's Kalaloch campground, because it takes reservations, but we changed our minds and ended up with a hotel in Sequim, WA. I think that was actually a pretty wise decision, as we would have spent a week on the coast being damp and cold.

With a week, we were able to get to the major areas of the park and not feel rushed. These places included:

Madison Falls:
020_Olympic NP_072913_Madison Falls
Madison Falls

060_Olympic NP_072913_Marymere Falls hike
Trail to Madison Falls

The Elwah River:
027_Olympic NP_072913_Elwah River
Elwah River
The Elwah River is undergoing one of the most extensive dam removal and restoration projects in the U.S., in hopes of restoring the river to its natural state and bringing back larger runs of salmon. This photo is far upstream of the dam project.

029_Olympic NP_072913_Elwah River
Big Leaf Maple Overlooking Elwah River

Marymere Falls:
064_Olympic NP_072913_Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls

Lake Crescent:
090_Olympic NP_072913_Swimming Pier at Lake Crescent
Jumping off the pier at Lake Crescent Lodge

093_Olympic NP_072913_Canoes at Lake Crescent Lodge
Kayaks and Canoes on Beach at Lake Crescent Lodge

Hoh Rain Forest, one of the wettest spots in the Lower 48:
109_Olympic NP_073013_Nursery Log at Hoh Rain Forest
Nursery Log at Hoh Rain Forest

107_Olympic NP_073013_Ferns at Hoh Rain Forest
Ferns at Hoh Rain Forest

The coast at Kalaloch:
151_Olympic NP_073113_Kalaloch Beach Panorama
Beach at Kalaloch

After eating a great birthday dinner at Kalaloch Lodge, being birders, our eyes were drawn to this bit of interest above the sidewalk near the front door:
Barn Swallow Chicks
Barn Swallow Chicks

It never ceases to amaze that we can be standing in a place with camera, or binoculars, and clearly looking at something interesting, and person after person after person just walks by without even looking up. We did point out the baby Barn Swallows to some kids and their Mom, and they were thrilled to see a parent bird fly in to feed the chicks.

157_Olympic NP_073113_Driftwood at Kalaloch Beach
Driftwood on Ruby Beach, North of Kalaloch

Hurricane Ridge:
163_Olympic NP_080113_Lupine on Hurricane Ridge
Lupines at Hurricane Ridge

Quinault Rain Forest:
179_Olympic NP_080213_Fungus on Log at Quinault Rain Forest
Fungus on Log at Quinault Rain Forest

All of these places were spectacular, each special in its own way. But it was not all rocks and trees and mountains. We did see some critters!

When we hiked up the Hoh River Trail, this guy was nice enough to browse the bushes across the river. I kept waiting for this bull elk to move out of the bush and get a nice drink of water, but he never did:
118_Olympic NP_073013_Bull Elk Browsing at Hoh River
Bull Elk at Hoh River

We did see two new birds, both of which are fairly common in this part of the state. We got nice looks at Black-capped Chickadees, and these Gray Jays near the Lake Crescent Visitor Center:
043_Olympic NP_072913_Gray Jay
Gray Jay

On our trip down to the Quinault River, we came across a fleet of Common Mergansers:
210_Olympic NP_080213_Common Mergansers on Quinault River
Common Mergansers

I was standing on a bridge as they swam under me, and I guess they didn't like that too much:
228_Olympic NP_080213_Common Mergansers Take Flight on Quinault River
Common Mergansers Taking Off

Though we spent most of our time at the national park, we did make time one afternoon to go visit the Dungeness River Audubon Center in Sequim. What a great facility they have, with tons of information and exhibits, and dozens of mounted specimens. The center is run in conjunction with Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, so this is the go-to location to learn about area birding if you visit.

The center is adjacent to Railroad Bridge Park, with a beautiful hiking and biking trail through the woods and fields.
Railroad Bridge Park Trail
Railroad Bridge

The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. If you are there at the right time, as we were, you might be lucky enough to see salmon pooling in the river, resting for their journey upstream.

There's only so much room for pics in a diary, so if you want to see the other hundreds of photos from the trip that were good enough to upload, feel free to check out the set on Flickr.

Originally posted to Senor Unoball on Sun Aug 25, 2013 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Birds and Birdwatching, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, and Public Lands.

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