Sol Duc Rain Forest & Hurricane Ridge

Saturday, September 243980-solduc10It was an easy drive from Kalaloch up to Forks. Time for some blog uploading, laundry and shopping, and then a hike to Sol Duc Falls in a different part of the Olympic Rain Forest. We had another 40 mile drive into Olympic National Park to get to the trailhead, but it went quicker because most of the distance was on highway 101.3910-solduc1 3912-solduc2There are several ways to get to the falls. We chose to take the lesser used Lovers Lane trail and make a nearly 6 mile loop out of the hike using the more popular and shorter distance trails on the other side of the river. Most people just take the 2 shorter routes out and back. We were on the trail by 10 and saw only a few other hikers pass us by as we lingered over ferns and massive trees. It will be much different when taking the loop back after the falls.
3915-solduc33919-solduc4The trail first moves along the base of the valley, just behind the large hot pools of the Sol Duc Hot Springs development. It is a bit of a strange feeling walking through a primitive rain forest on one side and a modern swimming pool with people lounging around on the other.3932-solduc7The rains from the last couple of days made the trail a little slick. The many roots crossing the trail were very slippery and stumbling was an easy thing to do. We were carrying tripods on this hike, so no hiking poles to help steady footing. They would have been a great help on this one.3927-solduc6At one water crossing, we used a bridge built from whole logs with a leaning rail to photograph from. The rushing stream became a background for ferns growing from the banks. We also found interesting fungi nearby.3941-solduc83968-solduc9We stopped for lunch at a favorite spot along the river. Some nice color in the foliage added to the scene. A nice break and a good place for a few more images.3985-solduc113986-solduc123995-solduc134000-solduc14After a little over 3 miles, we reached Sol Duc Falls. It is a pretty dramatic scene where the falls are split into 3 separate sections as it tumbles into a narrow cavern. A bridge crosses the cavern and is the best place to photograph from. A short trail leads upriver a bit for some different angles.4014-solduc15a4007-solduc154027-solduc164030-solduc17It was quite busy here. The hikers from the parking area 1.7 miles away were here in abundance, so making images was more difficult. The hike in was the real draw for me anyway. We lingered here a while before moving on to the return trip. We managed to get ourselves wedged in between a large group of young kids on an outing. A little noisy for a while, but they soon out paced us and were out of earshot again.4035-solduc18We arrived back at Salt Creek in time for a lovely sunset. Yesterday afternoon after we first got settled, we watched a pod of Orcas hunting just offshore. This evening, we climbed on the LD roof to watch sunset.4036-solduc19 4059-solduc20 4061-solduc21Our last day in the Olympics will be tomorrow when we hike Hurricane Ridge up at 5000 feet. Should be fun!

Olympic National Park – Hurricane Ridge
Tuesday, September, 274072-hurricane1Leaving Forks this morning, we had an interesting encounter. We pulled out of the RV park, headed out of town trailed by another car a little closely. It was one of those occasions where the car just didn’t seem to want to pass, even though there was plenty of room and time to do so. As we reached the outer borders of town, they finally went for it. Just after they passed and were putting distance between us, they went through an intersection. Seconds after they did that, an animal came blasting across the road through intersection. There was still plenty of room between us, so no danger of hitting, but after it passed we looked at each other when we realized it was a llama! No tether, no chasing owner – just out there running around. Now Forks is known for its vampires and werewolves (Twilight), but llamas are something new. By the time we passed the intersection, it was nowhere to be seen.4080-hurricane2We wanted one last hike in Olympic National Park before leaving the area for the Northern Cascades. We chose to drive the 17-mile, 5,000’ rise to Hurricane Ridge for a walk in the clouds. The morning in camp was somewhat foggy at first, but seemed thin. We figured it would burn off in a short while, so we were off.4088-hurricane4 4095-hurricane3We encountered more fog on the way up. We’d drive into thick pockets, then suddenly break open to brilliant sunshine. The road is a steep incline with tremendous views all the way up when not in the fog, and lots of places to pull over. At one point, we again got sandwiched in with 3 identical large white SUV’s full of Chinese tourists. We’d all stop at the same overlook. Another selfie frenzy at each stop. Eventually we got some separation from them and found the parking area for our hike.4120-hurricane7 4130-hurricane8This hike is about 3 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 700’. Normally not too bad, but we’ve been at sea level for weeks and were a bit concerned about acclimating to this altitude. The trail itself is mostly paved – it is a very popular hike in a busy location – starts off at a bit of an incline, but soon decisively angles up. There are a few places where it levels to some degree, before the final set of long steep switchbacks takes you to the top of the ridge. Once up there, it is easy walking along the trails that snake all over the ridge.4153-hurricane9 4161-hurricane10The views were great all the way up as we had hoped. We stopped often to photograph and catch breath. Still lots of fog all around, but not as much as when we started. At the top, looking out toward Vancouver Island only revealed more heavy fog. A little disappointing, but we decided to hang around a while, have some lunch and hope things cleared more. When clouds parted momentarily, we could see Mt. Baker from our lunch spot – our next destination.4165-hurricane11 4116-hurricane6After walking most of the ridge, we started back and were rewarded for our patience with a nice view from the top out over the Straits. The walk down went pretty quickly. Not much need to catch breath now. We both felt great – no altitude problems.4190-hurricane12 4224-hurricane13 4226-hurricane14 4227-hurricane15 4235-hurricane16Back at the car, since it was still pretty early, we hiked another little nature walk near the visitor center. Now properly tired out, we headed home for the day.

Arriving back at Salt Creek Campground, we saw the fog had persisted here. It was a low bank just off the cliff in front of us. There was a kind of strange light on two ends of the bank – kind of looked like an arch if the top had been sliced off. Mary wondered if I wanted to photograph it and I told her, “It’s going to have to look a lot cooler than that before I want to photograph it”. It soon did. A section seemed to almost rise up and arch, but it was sunlight refracting into the fog creating a fogbow.4239-saltcreekrainbowA pretty great reward after a fine stay.

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