Day 274 – Olympic Loop (Part 4)

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Day 274 – Olympic Loop

I left the mountains and headed for the coast this
morning.  We took a brief drive through
La Push for a view of the harbor before returning to Second Beach, one of many
beaches in the Olympic National Park which seemed to encompass the entire western
peninsula of Washington.  I really can’t
imagine basking in the sun on Second Beach.
It requires a ten to fifteen minute walk along a trail which winds
through the rain forest before visitors can even set foot on the beach.  Aside the trail is a fallen tree with a root
system that has been turned into a shrine.
Rocks, shells, coins, marbles and even a bottle were placed in the tangled
roots to the south of the trail.  At the
end of the trail, beachgoers are greeted with piles of drift wood that must be
climbed.  Given I just impaled myself on
a log, crossing several logs was slightly disconcerting.  At least they were smooth.

Finally, I reached the beach and walked toward the
outcropping of rocks during what seemed to be low tide.  I found several orange and purple starfish
along with a few green anemones clinging to the rocks in the tide pools.  The crab and octopus eluded me on this
adventure, but I did follow a seagull around that did not want me to get to his
piece of seaweed or whatever object he felt was very important.  He hopped along the beach until I got too
close and then lifted into flight to land a hundred feet away only to repeat
the process once more until I snapped a decent photo.

From the beach, we turned southwest to the Hoh Rain Forest,
also part of the Olympic National Park. 
The Hoh is one of the best examples of a temperate-zone rain forest in
the world, and is one of the few coniferous ones in existence.  I took the Hall of Mosses trail that wound
beneath the shade of enormous trees covered in thick, hanging moss.  Ferns as well as a variety of other plants
blanketed the forest floor as woodpeckers poked at rotten trees.  I had hoped to spot the elusive Roosevelt
Elk, though it didn’t seem like an easy feat in the jungle of vegetation. I couldn’t help but think what this forest would look like in a few weeks with some of the leaves changing colors…I bet it is magnificent!

From the forest, we followed the Hoh River back to Highway
101 where we turned south toward Ruby Beach, so named for garnet crystals that
give the sand its pinkish hue.  I walked
north on the beach where a river and the coast meet to find a lot of rock, not
of pinkish color, and no garnets.  This
area of rock formations and drift wood seemed more interesting to me and all
the rest of the beachgoers.  Perhaps the
pinkish sand was to the south.  As the
white capped waves crashed on the shore, it appeared as if the tide was coming
back in, so after a brief visit, I rejoined Petey in VANilla.  Ruby Beach was actually a dog friendly beach,
and I considered taking him, but I presumed someone would fail to abide by the
leash law which would end up with me trying to keep a sometimes mean Petey away
from a bounding dog.  I was right.  As soon as I set foot on the trail to the
beach, I was greeted by a free roving dog.
I must say that is SO irritating, and I like dogs!  I feel sorry for those people that are afraid
of them.

Turning slightly inland, I headed to Queets Valley Rain
Forest.  My book mentioned a three mile
loop hike through the rain forest which starts from a campground located at the
end of a fourteen mile unpaved road.
With less commotion, there would be an easier chance to spot the
shy-natured Roosevelt Elk.  Well, I drove
what seemed like ten miles to find the bridge was closed to motor
vehicles.  I certainly wasn’t hoofing it
with Petey the rest of the way.

We turned around and aimed for a campground at Lake
Quinault.  On the way, we found another
road into Queets Valley Rain Forest, so we explored it for several miles until
it started splitting into a variety of directions.  We retraced our short tour in VANilla and
finally followed the north shore of Lake Quinault to what I had hoped to be a
nearby campground.  The road turned from
paved to dirt and from two lanes to one lane as it squeezed between enormous trees until we finally reached a split:
one direction to a campground and the other to the south side of the lake.  For such a large lake that was supposed to be
one of the most popular recreation spots on the Olympic Peninsula, the
campground seemed very far removed.  I
passed it up to find three of the next four campgrounds on the south shore
closed for the season!  By this time, I
had driven around so much, I thought I may as well drive another hour to
Wal-Mart, so I did!  ETB


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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