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.
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.
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:
The 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.
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
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.
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:
Bull Elk at Hoh River
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.
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.