Monday, January 3, 2011

Clear Skies on the Olympic Peninsula

Sunrise view of Mt. Rainier from the ferry
Point of the Arches
Destruction Island Lighthouse from Ruby Beach
Jennie, Natasha, and myself on Hurricane Ridge
A huge mussel at Salt Creek
Western Washington has had five consecutive days of crystal clear weather which is very unusual during the winter. We had the good fortune to be able to spend four of those days on the Olympic Peninsula. Ryan had the time off work and I was able to ignore my dissertation (and the associated guilt for not working on it). Before this trip, we had only been as far as the northern portion of Olympic National Park and Port Angeles. I had been imagining that our time on the Olympic Peninsula would be dark, rainy, and windy and that it would be more of a stay-in-the-car sort of road trip rather than hiking. Instead, we enjoyed crisp, clear weather and even though it was cold and windy, the light and scenery made every chilly minute worthwhile (it wasn't exactly Fairbanks-type cold, afterall).

The beginning of our trip started out beautifully with a sunrise over Mt. Rainier from the ferry. Once we got to the Olympic Peninsula, we drove up to Hurricane Ridge (which neither of us had ever been to before) with some friends.  As we got near the top of the ridge, we entered some clouds which made us worry that the view wouldn't be so great. Just as we turned the corner at the top to the parking lot though, we eerily exited the clouds and popped out into a bright sunny snowscape. We just stayed long enough to walk around and take some photos, but I can't wait to go back and go snowshoeing.

We spent the rest of the day tidepooling at Salt Creek. The size of mussels here on the Washington Coast is unreal. They make the species of mussels that grow in Kodiak look ridiculously tiny.

The next day we set off for Cape Flattery - the northwestern-most tip of the lower 48 states. Ryan has been wanting to visit Cape Flattery for quite a while. Besides being a cool place to go, he spent a month on a ship named the "Cape Flattery" in the Chuckchi Sea a couple of years ago. Cape Flattery - the place - was very impressive. I'll let Ryan write about it another time because I think he especially enjoyed it.

We stopped at several beaches along the Olympic Coast during the rest of our trip. Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches is particularly impressive and well-worth the 1.6 mile walk through mud holes to get there. I would love to go back when it's warmer and have time to just sit on the beach enjoying the view. It was a bit too chilly and windy this time to enjoy sitting on a frozen log for very long. Ruby Beach was another beautiful stop and we happened to be there at sunset when there were some uncharacteristic (for the last three days) clouds above the horizon, making for good lighting. The beach was literally swarming with photographers, all trying to set their tripods in the perfect spot to catch the sunset. I can't wait to go back to some of these places with warmer weather and more daylight, to have more time to just hang out and enjoy the view.


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