- Insiders' Guide to the Olympic Peninsula
Week Nine, May 14-20
Sunday, May 20, 2001
e covered a lot of ground on this sunny early summer day. Natalie and I packed up this
morning and set out for Hood Canal. Our destination...Mt. Walker, the tree-lined mountain
just south of Quilcene on the Olympic Peninsula to the west of here. We last visited the
mountain and its lookouts on a cloudy day last fall, when we were doing research for the
Insiders' Guide to the Olympic Peninsula
book that is due to hit bookstores next month. This time, rather than looking down on
clouds as we did in the fall, we could see all the way to Seattle, Mt. Rainier and the
Strait of Juan de Fuca and beyond. We spent some time trying to see Tacoma from atop the
mountain, but although we could pick out Vashon Island and one of the bridges in Bremerton,
there are just too many land masses between Mt. Walker and Tacoma to see either the city or
the Narrows Bridge. The photo above looks east from Mt. Walker across Hood Canal and Puget
Sound to Mt. Rainier in the distance. Tacoma is located somewhere in that dark green jumble
of land between Mt. Walker and Mt. Rainier.
Our view of the Olympic Mountains to the west from on top of Mt. Walker was obscured
this afternoon by high clouds. We did have the sun peak out while we were looking north
toward Port Townsend. Natalie even had a close encounter of the gray jay kind while we
sat at a picnic table and ate a snack. A gray jay mistook her hair clip for a piece of
food on top of her head, likely because some brilliant yahoo in the parking area had been
feeding the jays pieces of bread that he would set on top of his hat (much to the delight
of his family, and to our dismay) when we walked past and up to the lookout earlier. The
jay pecked at Natalie's hair clip and grazed her head with its legs, but other than being
surprised, she was fine.
This was our third visit to the top of Mt. Walker, making the four-mile jaunt off of U.S.
Highway 101 up the narrow gravel road by car. We will probably return soon though. The
rhodedendrons along the road and trails up the mountain are just about to burst into
bloom, and in another couple of weeks there will be a lot of color to see.
After leaving Mt. Walker, we continued south along Hood Canal and ventured into a part
of the Peninsula that I had only read about - up the Dosewallips River valley into the
primitive east side of Olympic National Park.
The Dosewallips is not a large river, but it is one of the few rivers on this part of
the Peninsula that runs unimpeded from the mountain tops to Hood Canal. The road up the
river surprised me. Winding up the narrow valley, it quickly turns to a one-and-a-half
lane gravel road through the National Forest Service lands that precede the national park
lands. You have to drive more than 13 miles into the woods from the tiny town of Brinnon
to reach the Olympic National Park boundary, which was how far we drove up the road before
turning around and continuing our day's journey. But before we made our way to the park
boundary, we stopped alongside the Dosewallips River at the Elkhorn campground, where we
sat and had another snack and snapped pictures of the surroundings. The photo above shows
the Dosewallips tumbling through a small rapid in the foreground with the tree laden
mountains in the background.
While sitting there at a picnic table, listening to the river rush by just a few feet
away, we saw small blue butterflies fluttering near the ground in the sunlight. A short
while later I noticed much larger butterflies courting and landing along stones on the
opposite side of the river. I watched them for a while, eventually grabbing the binoculars
in an attempt at identifying them from afar. They were dark with light trim along their
bottom wings, and about the size of a monarch. I have tried to identify them since returning
home, but the best I can do is make a guess that they were mourning cloak butterflies. I also
spent time trying to identify the small blue butterflies that were so abundant wherever the sun
was shining along the roads up the valley. Using the photo I snapped of a blue butterfly resting
along the side of the road that Natalie noticed during a stop on our drive back down toward
Brinnon, it appears that the blue butterflies were the greenish blue butterfly, which is
known to be found in that area.
After leaving the Dosewallips River, we finished our tour around Hood Canal by heading south
through Hoodsport, then up around the bend in the canal through Union and Belfair before returning
to State Route 16 and continuing home across the Narrows Bridge. All in all, we covered more
than 200 miles. What a perfect way to get away from everything for a few hours!
Saturday, May 19, 2001
atalie and I failed to get out of bed in time to head down and work at
Puget Creek today, and neither of us felt that great with headaches and such, so we did work in the
yard later in the afternoon and then, after receiving a phone call about trail damage at the park,
we went for a walk down there in the evening. Apparently, sometime on Friday a worker for the Tacoma
Parks Department took a group of kids up the trail and randomly cut a lot of undergrowth along the
sides of the trail under the pretense that the trail wasn't wide enough to get a vehicle from bottom
to top to do maintenance. As can be seen in today's photo, the cutting crew butchered sections of
the trailside, and it truly didn't make sense how they did things. Everything is cut off three feet
or more from the ground, and in one case I found a tree branch three feet off the side of the trail
that had been cut about six feet above the ground.
Scott Hansen, president of the Puget Creek Restoration Society, plans to talk to the parks department
about what they did, and I can see from this act that we need to keep the parks people more informed
and work with them regarding the habitat restoration down there. There is no use working hard to plant
native bushes and trees just to have some clueless person from the parks department destroy the work
in a couple of hours of random slashing...
Friday, May 18, 2001
his day saved the best for last, with a brilliant sunset that, when I saw
it glowing through the front window of our house, drew me up onto the roof at the back of the house
to snap a few shots of the spectacle as the sun faded behind the Olympic Mountains and a cloud bank
of pinks and reds to the west.
The pink highlights at the bottom of the clouds in tonight's sunset remind me of a morning I woke to
see orange-pink clouds to the southeast one morning 21 years ago. The significance of this? Today is
the 21st anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Originally I had planned on
making a trip down to the recovering landscape around the still-hot volcano today, but a work shift
and what turned out to be a foggy, cloudy day down at the mountain (as seen from the Mt. St. Helens
Web cam) meant that Natalie and I won't return to Mt. St. Helens for another day. The day when I saw
the orange sky early in the morning happened exactly one week after the famous May 18th eruption. On
May 25, 1980 a secondary eruption sent clouds of ash wafting to the northwest of the volcano, and
shortly after I woke to the orange sky, I watched the sun rise and offer a sliver of daylight before
the ash clouds closed in an turned day into night. Then it started to rain mud, and before the day was
over, everything in my childhood home town of Rochester, Washington was coated with about half and
inch of wet, pasty ash...
Back to the present, Natalie and I will return to Puget Creek tomorrow morning for another volunteer
native planting party. Maybe I will find something to take a picture of down there.
Thursday, May 17, 2001
eavy rain has taken its toll on Puget Creek this week. One of the
weirs in the creek washed out at some point during one of the rain storms earlier in the week,
and it was easy to pick out the problem just by the missing sound - as Natalie and I walked down
the trail we couldn't hear the normal gurgling of water spilling over the small logs that make up
Farther up the trail I found the subject of today's single photo, a spiky fern that I knew would
look great in black and white. There is a wide variety of ferns along the 0.7-mile trail through
Puget Gulch. Except for the area that is dominated by the invasive ivy plants that we are trying
to eradicate, ferns are the dominant plants along ground level. Other dominant native plants include
salmonberry, snowberry, and in the damp areas things like skunk cabbage and watercress.
At the end of our visit to the park we were able to confirm what kind of yellow birds we saw down
at the gardens portion of the park last week. Both of us caught a close-up view of the birds across
the road from the entrance to the park, and as I guessed, they are western tanengers. The distinguishing
feature for pinpointing that these were tanengers rather than goldfinches - the western tanenger is
larger than a goldfinch and the male tanenger has redish hues on its head. There is no red on a
Wednesday, May 16, 2001
here are days when it seems that the world unveils itself before my camera
lens. And today, when Natalie and I made another afternoon visit to the Adriana Hess Wetlands Park in
University Place, was one of those days. This was only our second visit to this 2-acre plus park nestled
alongside an ancient bog with an open water pond known as Morris Pond. Obviously from today's photo
above, the pond is big enough to draw ducks in addition to the dozens of red-winged blackbirds calling
out and flitting from one cattail tuft to another. The trio of ducks in the shot above were all in
pursuit of one female duck...
Aside from wildlife shots, I am drawn to the reflections in the lily pad-strewn pond. The shot above
is fun because of the clarity of the lily pads but even more so for the reflection of the fir trees,
whose mirror image create a third fir tree image encompassing the sky. And on a day when the camera
seems to have more to show than my words can convey, the closeup of the lily pad below is the perfect
ending to a quick visit to a slice of urban nature.
Tuesday, May 15, 2001
fter an all-day buildup to tonight's storm, those of us in the Puget
Sound area can rest easy. As usual, the heaviest winds came from the hot air of TV news teams set
on promoting another wind storm that, almost on cue, turned into a respectable blow, but nothing
to worry about. Top winds here in Tacoma pushed to 30 miles an hour, or about half the speed of
the top winds predicted earlier in the day. But I can't discredit the meteorologists, with their
computer models and high tech radar and satelite imagery. It is pretty standard in this area to use
these forecasts as a guide for what could happen, prepare for the worst, then expect that at the
last hour the storm will take a different route over or around the Olympic Mountains and throw off
all of the forecasts.
Because of the bluster and the heavy rains that fell this afternoon, there were some interesting
weather photo opportunities. I slipped outside shortly before the sun fell behind the cloud bank
to snap today's shot, which shows a wisp of gray clouds whisking by in front of the darker clouds
off to the west.
I look forward to venturing down to Puget Creek tomorrow to see how that slice of nature weathered
One quick site update note. I added a number of Nature writing and Resources links to the page
tonight after digging around a bit on the Internet.
Monday, May 14, 2001
his is another spring day marked by heavy rain and now, as I write this late on Monday evening,
talk of a wind storm that may be bound our way tomorrow. The breeze is blowing outside now, but
even though the barometer has dropped to 29.84, this is nothing. It sounds like we could be in
for an interesting day and night tomorrow.
I stole outside briefly this afternoon to snap the pair of photos I include today. The first shot,
of the calla lilies that are along the steps to our front porch, I took from under the cover of the
porch. But the second shot of the sparrow below was taken from inside the house, peering through
the front window as one of the sparrows that has made its home in a bird house alongside our front
door where we can hear baby birds chirping when the parents go out into the yard foraging for food.
Interesting news links for today:
Smaller Bills, More Smog: Bush Plan Costs and Benefits
- The tradeoffs between saving a few dollars and the long term costs of the Bush energy plan, set
to be unveiled this week, are detailed in this story from the Seattle Times. None of this makes
sense to me...in the 1970s our nation realized we needed to cut our reliance on fossil fuels, and
by the end of the 70s we realized that nuclear power wasn't the safest alternative power source,
yet here in 2001 a pair of oil buddies feel we need to forget the lessons of the past because there
is oil to be found, and more nuclear waste to be created... I guess I should play the Bush
Administration game and just be glad for the short term, then let our kids and grandkids pay for
Copyright © 2001 White Rabbit Publishing.
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