Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dancing with the Elk

One noteworthy discovery in Olympic National Park is this sign.

Apparently, they are trying to inform the tourists how to dance with the elk. I didn’t think it was true, but then this elk followed me around and wanted to dance.

Olympic National Park - Pacific

After just barely making the ferry to Port Townsend, we drove across the Olympic Peninsula to Olympic National Park. We drove up to Hurricane Ridge which is a really cool overlook at alpine level above the tree line. You can see several glaciers and Mt. Olympus, the tallest mountain in the Olympic Range (western range in Washington). Olympic NP gets a lot of rain and snow so above the tree line therefore they can get between 450 – 760 inches of snow a year (on the decline of course because of global warming). After the ridge, we drove around the coast to the Western ocean shore of Washington, found a great campground near the beach and headed over to cook dinner. We made a great meal, had a really nice bottle of wine from Yakima and enjoyed our first Pacific sunset of the trip; it was a fantastic evening. The following morning we drove over to Hoh rain forest which is also in Olypmic NP. Since most of the Pacific storm moisture gets trapped there, it dumps a lot of rain (12 feet annually) on the Hoh Rain forest. Because of the high amount of rain and other perfect growing conditions, certain types of trees grow to record widths and heights here, sitka spruce is one type (see the pic of me with largest know sitka in the world). After Hoh, we drove down toward Ruby Beach along the Washington coast and then continued on to Hood River in Oregon.

This weekend we are spending time seeing Oregon and will be mountain biking with Sara’s relative (cousin several times removed?) in the Bend area of the Cascade Range.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

hanging off the back

We took the ferry from Keystone to Port Townsend and just barely made it on this one… literally the last car. A wave almost hit our car on the way over since it was so close to the back of the parking deck.

San Juan Islands

After an early start Sunday morning we drove to Anacortes, Washington and caught the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The car ferries are essentially large multi-decked paved roads with an engine and snack bar attached. It was a blustery but partly sunny day and we were bundled up like it was March. If this is August we would hate to see February here. After about an hour ride we disembarked the ferry and headed to the campground which was a nice little place that was half fancy resort, half campground with a few lakes around it. We spent the afternoon biking the island which was a good workout since the island is quite hilly. We visited little coves and a nice marina in Roche Harbor to marvel at the million dollar boats docked there. San Juan Island is a strange place. In the middle there are a lot of hippies, alpacas, and some vegetable farms, and then on the coast there are million dollar “cabins” (as they referred to here). The “cabins” have some serious star power, Tom Cruise, Jeff Bezos of, and many other business moguls seem to enjoy houses in the San Juans in their portfolio. Tom’s old house needed a different paint combo however, with the red and white colors it looked like a Dairy Queen from a far.

On Monday morning we took a guided kayaking trip to see the orcas (killer whales) which San Juan is famous for. Apparently the salmon runs have been smaller this summer, so the orcas have been coming into the area less frequently, so we didn’t see any of the whales foraging in the sound, but we had a terrific time anyway. We started out with some basic instruction, some emergency techniques, and then were off for about 5 hours on the water. The water here is ice cold, about 50 degress, but quite clear with sea life everywhere. Our group was small, 5 total including our guide. The other couple was from Connecticut so we had an instant East coast bond. Our guide, Jeff (Jason?), was a biologist and very knowledgeable in all aspects of the birds, sea life, geology, etc. We saw all kinds of eagles, falcons, seals, sea urchins, stars, crabs and kelp beds. The weather was warm and sunny and the seas reasonably calm, basically a complete opposite of arrival day so we lucked out. After the trip, we found a nice rooftop deck with a harbor view, sat down and were approached by a college kid. He seemed to bill himself as the greeter in the bar. Turns out his fraternity brother was the bar tender so we got free drinks for a while as he went on about this and that… we enjoyed the evening, life was good.

This morning (Tuesday) we were up early to catch the 8AM ferry back to Anacortes and are catching another ferry across Puget Sound to Port Townsend. From there we are heading to Olympic National Park which is the Western mountain range that borders the Puget Sound area. It is a very clear day here today so Mt. Rainer and both the Cascade range and Olympic range are in full view from the water.