Saturday, October 16, 2010

Olympic National Park – Day 7 and 8

We spent a day in Seattle running errands and getting various things done.  That evening, we met up with a couple friends from Yellowstone in Olympic National Park on the Washington peninsula.  

We spent the night beside a river just inside the park (or possibly in the National Forest just outside the park).  We were immediately struck by how different everything was here – it had every shade of green imaginable.   Giant trees hid under moss that clung to just about every surface possible while ferns and mushrooms covered fallen over trees.

There were insects abound – spiders, beetles, and especially slugs.  (Slugs technically are land invertebrates.)  We saw probably 20 to 30 slugs on our hike out through one of the last temperate rainforests along the Hoh River.  

“The immense vertical barrier of the Olympic Range stops enough precipitation coming off the ocean to drop about 12 to 14 feet of rain per year on the forest.”  The trees can be up to 260 feet high and 10 feet in diameter.  The moss made the whole thing that much more fantastical feeling – like you should be seeing fairies floating between the branches of the trees.

We saw a Fly Amanita mushroom.  They are the most poisonous mushrooms.  It was about 5 inches tall and had a bright red top.  We saw tons of mushrooms – one of the coolest looking was called Witch’s Butter.  It was an orange-yellowish color and looked gelatinous with water dripping off its edges.

It was a beautiful fall afternoon and we set up camp with plenty of time to explore, build a fire and eat a fantastic dinner.  The Hoh Rainforest is one of the few homes left for Roosevelt Elk, the largest species of elk.  We kept hearing this bull elk bugling and it didn’t sound to far off.  So we went creeping in that direction while Josiah was doing his best elk bugle to keep him going. 

We stood stooped down in the ferns and watched two bull elk and a harem of females parade by about 30 feet away.  As we were eating dinner, two of the females came by our campsite to get water from the river.  Instead, they stood at the edge of our view eating grass while we enjoyed our fire-cooked ears of corn.

That next morning, we were sitting by the river quietly sipping on coffee and tea when a black bear crossed the river just up from our campsite.  He wasn’t a very large bear – but nonetheless a bear.  We yelled at him to let him know that we were there and he just meandered on down the opposite side of the river.  

We left the rainforest that afternoon to head out to the Pacific Coast.  It was truly a unique experience – and one that I’m thankful to have the joy of witnessing.

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