Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day One Olympic National Park

May 29, 2014
A lazy morning with room service.  After a good breakfast Ben left to walk about a block to the rental car office/bus station.  Jane stayed to pack away all our nice clean clothes.

"Our" Toyota for the next few days
 The car pick up went as planned and Ben discussed changing our bus reservation and hotel reservations based on what we could work out about our train back east.  After spending some time on the phone we discovered there had been a mudslide covering the tracks somewhere and trains had to be canceled for several days to clear the track.  We will just extend our trip 2 days and return on the same train 2 days later. We have something called a family room which is a little bigger but has bathroom next door. We can make it work,,, so we changed the reservations for the bus to Seattle, extended the rental car, and arranged for a room at the Red Lion on our return to Port Angeles.  We have 2 nights with no reservations and will just see where we end up!  It is not the peak tourist season yet so everyone says it will not be a problem.

Hurricane Ridge was the first part of Olympic National Park to visit.  This is a very diverse park with high alpine meadows, rain forests, hot springs, and pacific coastline.  Don’t think we will have any problem filling two extra days. As we climbed to Hurricane Ridge we were soon driving in the clouds.  We went in and out of the clouds, through 3 short tunnels, and noticed changes in the vegetation.

 There were several familiar wildflowers we recognized from our trip to Alaska.  Lupine, Indian Paintbrush and several others. Amazing to see them blooming and snow still on the ground here and there.  At the top 5,000 + feet we came out of the clouds and were able to see across the way to the long range of the Olympic Mountains - All still with snow on the peaks – heights ranging from 5,000 – 6,500 feet.

At Hurricane Ridge with us was a large class of elementary children all bundled up with gloves, jackets, and hats getting ready for a hike in the snow.  The temperature was 43 with a stiff wind.  We were not outside long and with all the layers on that we have with us we were fine but I would not want to take a long hike.
As we began our decent we saw a group  of 3 young deer. They were just beginning to grow their antlers.  Fifteen miles back down in Port Angeles we had a bowl of chili at a Wendy’s before we ventured west into another part of Olympic Park.

Several miles west of Port Angeles was an interesting project.  In the early 1900’s two dams were built on the Elwah river to produce power for a mill in Port Angeles. The Elwah was one of the most productive Salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest. The spawning runs were reduced from 400,000 to 3,000 when the dams were built.  In 1992 the US Congress passed the Elwah River Restoration Act . The first dam was removed in 2011 and the second was to have been completely removed in 2014. It is still being removed.  I can only imagine the political battles that must have raged in this area.

We stopped for a short hike to Madison Falls. There was a bus from an Assisted Living/retirement Home in Port Angles parked there and two ladies with walkers came rolling down the trail.  They told us the driver had gone back down the trail to help another person who could not make it alone.  Soon we met a gentleman sitting on his walker seat being pulled along by the van driver and followed by a 4th individual with their walker.  Got to hand it to these folks for getting out in this beautiful park and to their facility for bringing them.  It was a blacktopped walkway of probably 200 yards to the falls – it was uphill so I am sure it was a workout for them. The falls were beautiful!

Madison Falls

Continuing on down US 101 we passed Crescent Lake which includes two large resort areas of Olympic Park.  We had chosen to spend the night at Sul Doc Hot Springs Resort. It is located 17 miles into the park from US 101. US 101 circles the Olympic Peninsula and spur roads go to various parts of the park. We passed a salmon cascade in the Sul Doc river where in the fall salmon swim up stream.  We also passed through ancient Hemlock and Douglas Fir forest.  The forest is beautiful with undergrowth of ferns and other plants.  The ferns are huge.

Eventually we arrived at the Sul Doc Resort which includes the hot springs, numerous cabins, a restaurant , gift shop,  a campground, 3 mineral pools at various temperatures, and a fresh water lap pool.  We have a very nice cabin with two beds, a table and chairs, a sofa and nice bathroom. Missing are phone, TV, and internet.  There is no cell service here either so perfectly peaceful. 
Our Cabin at Sul Doc 
Nice Roomy Cabin

We visited the pools for about an hour and will go back tomorrow morning when the pools are open for those of us in the cabins for an hour before the public is allowed in.  It was not at all crowded but I imagine will become so as the weather warms.  Temperature is in the 50’s and pleasant with a long sleeve shirt.  The pools range in temperature from 107 to 98. 

The 3 hot pools - each a different temperature
Large Freshwater Pool

 We enjoyed the 102 degree pool most of the time.  It was certainly relaxing!  Ben went to try swimming laps in the fresh water pool but came right back! Too cold!

Appropriately one of the offerings on the dinner menu was salmon so that was what we both ate – it was excellent! 

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