National Parks in Washington

Our last few days in the beautiful National Parks of the North Cascades and the Olympic Peninsular.

On our way up to Canada, we didn't have time to visit some of the National Parks in Washington, so we headed back to the North Cascades, where we took a walk up Thunder Knob (as described in one of David's blogs), and then to the Olumpic Peninsular. We'd been recommended to take a ferry and were lucky enough to see a sealion through the mists.

The Olympic Peninsular is a particularly special National Park, since it consists of three different environments – mountain, temperate rainforest and beach. We headed up the Hurricane Ridge where we saw the sun set while we cooked our tea. A young stag wandered down the path and stopped to smell the flowers – something we should all take heed of – then carried on along seemingly without a care in the world. Our first walk took us along from Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the-Rock. The views were amazing across the sea, and we got to see the tide pools with lots of colourful star fish. There was lots of drift wood along the beach, and a small stream that we had to jump over to cross. The smell of the sea and the sounds of the waves crashing are always striking about the beach and with the peace and quiet of the area, there was no exception here.

We headed to the Hoh rainforest, where we took a Park Ranger led walk that was simply excellent – the ranger was so entertaining and yet we learned so much about the way the forest works and the links in the ecosystems here, I was quite in awe. This should definitely be the way people learn about the environment! It was so inspiring, we made the decision to head out to the Wilderness overnight, which we'd been toying with for a while.

The Olympic Peninsular contains more wilderness than any other national park in the lower 48 states, and so this seemed the perfect place to go enjoy that. We went to get our backcountry permits and were recommended a 20mile route that sounded incredible, which climbed quite a height, but where there was a high chance we may get to see our elusive bear.

Our start the next day was a little delayed due to Macy needing fuel and the road atlas being a little vague, but we eventually got off on our walk through the forest. The gradient soon increased and the path got rougher, however this was easy compared to what was coming! Along the way we saw snakes basking in the sunshine, crossed over a river and then headed up a tougher incline. As the day pressed on, exhaustion threatened to take over – this was the toughest walk I've done before! We nearly stopped at the campsite before the one we'd planned, but pressed on to Heart Lake and were rewarded with some simply stunning views. Heart Lake is named because that is exactly what th elake looks like. After dinner and cleaning teeth, we made sure all the smelly things we had with us were placed in dry bags which we then attached to the bear wires to ensure we didn't have any unwelcome visitors during the night! Education to the treatment of bears is a key issue over here – trying to make sure the bears don't get used to humans and food being related, helps prevent bears causing problems in their search for their food and having to be shot – a fed bear is a dead bear, as they say over here. However as we headed back to the tent, we saw Roosevelt Elk running across the hill.

It was incredibly windy overnight, and our delaminating Thermarests didn't help ensure a good night's sleep, but it was all good in the end. With porridge for breakfast, we broke camp and set out on to what was another climb leading to a ridge with awesome views, but not before seeing a chipmunk at the campsite. Some of the highlights included the view of Olympus Moutain, which seemd to sprong up on us, and clearly showed two of the glaciers. The ridge led to a surprisingly tough peak (we were at around 5000ft now) which we had our lunch nearby. The walk continued downwards from here, with many beautiful alpine flowers and views to take your breath away. I kept my eyes open in the hope to see a bear but we figured they must have headed down to the rivers to feed on the returning salmon, before hibernation. Then at one point, I smelled an animally scent (or so I thought) and was turning to mention this to David, when I realised the big black thing sat on the path a little way ahead was our elusive bear. He obviously heard us as he stopped picking the berries and ran off. We later heard a woman from Seattle describe the Washington bears as “polite” which did seem to be pretty accurate!

The walk took us past lakes and more stunning scenery, and was still tough as we headed down – we met several people who were doing the walk in one day – one couple certainly put us to shame with their age and fitness! However we also met others who were doing it over 4/5 days which seemed a lovely way to make the most of it.

The trek ended by a waterfall and impressive canyon, with a curious chipmunk sat on the bridge. It had been very tiring but completely amazing – if anyone is in the area, I'd definitely recommend heading out the the beautiful wilderness and appreciating the fact it has been protected. The feeling of achievement was comparable to little, it has been one of the highlights of my trip so far. Definitely something we'll be planning more of!

Photos will be up soon, for those who can't just step out there and appreciate it right now!

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