Wondering Which Olympic Peninsula Loop to Drive?

Traveling around ‘loops’ seems to appeal to many people these days.

On the Olympic Peninsula, we have three loops to try out!

Olympic Peninsula MapLoop #1. A natural way to explore the Olympic Peninsula is around the Highway 101 Scenic Byway Loop. Start in Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia, circle the OP and arrive back at your starting spot. This loop drive of about 329 miles will take you a minimum of about eight hours – with NO stops for anything! Not sure why anyone would want to do this, but they do! It’s way more pleasant to stop to take some photos, stop to enjoy some Olympic Coast Cuisine (like fresh oysters along Hood Canal), stop to do some geocaching along the way, stop to look for whales, stop to meet some locals or view other wild life! Taking only a few highlight stops along the way will probably make it a 15-hour trip. Why not make it two or three days? You’ll be able to get to places in Olympic National Park like Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach. More information from earlier blog post.

Highway 112 loopLoop #2 is the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway. Take Hwy. 112 from Port Angeles to Neah Bay and back. Yes, this is stretching the loop concept a little, but it’s a glorious drive on Hwy. 112 all the way to Neah Bay. For part of the trip, the road will hug the shore along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, providing you with possibilities to see whales and other marine mammals and birds. LOTS of birds!

Stops along the way would be in Joyce to visit the Joyce General Store and the Joyce Depot Museum. If you’re going through during the Wild Blackberry Festival in August, lucky you! All the blackberry pie you can eat. (August 1, 2015) Once in Neah Bay, the Makah Cultural and Resource Center and Museum is a must. World-class museum at the edge of the earth. You’ll need to retrace a little bit of Hwy. 112 and then return by Hwy. 113 to Hwy. 101 around Lake Crescent and back to Port Angeles. Enjoy the clear blue water of the lake or a hike to Marymere Falls, an hour hike to a lovely falls.

Loop #3. Travel the 31-mile loop around Lake Quinault in the heart of the Quinault Rainforest! Driving around takes about two hours, but it will give you the opportunity to see wildlife – Roosevelt elk, deer, bald eagles, just mention the most common. You might see a fisher, black bear, cougar or bobcat, but these are rare sightings in the area. So feel special if you run across one of these extraordinary animals.

Check out the waterfalls along the way. The Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail web site has detailed information about falls on the Olympic Peninsula. There are four falls mentioned specifically in the Quinault area, Willaby, Bunch Creek, Merriman and Gatton Creek Falls, as well as Enchanted Valley. Enchanted Valley requires a 12.9 mile-mile hike into the valley. The trail head is near Lake Quinault.  At this moment, 5/18/15, Enchanted Valley is closed to camping after reports of bear-human interactions. Check with the Park for updates. 360-565-3130.

Getting Here is Part of the FUN!

Washington State FerryWhether you are coming to the Olympic Peninsula from your home in Washington, continuing from SEATAC airport or driving from another destination, getting to the Olympic Peninsula is half the fun. You can find several Washington State Ferry routes to begin your adventure. Ferry Schedule.

According to the WNPS Olympia News Bureau, Washington’s ferry system is not only the largest in the country, but it’s also the largest vehicle ferry system on EARTH: over 10 million vehicles carried per year. Astounding!

The ferries are Washington’s single largest tourist attraction. Taking a ride on the ferry can get you some gorgeous views of the mountain ranges of the Cascades and Olympic Mountains, as well as individual peaks over 10,00 feet, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker.

Washington’s ferries are the single largest state contributor to carbon emissions, but an eventual conversion from diesel to liquefied natural gas aims to change that.

Washington ferries boast a 99.5 percent reliability rating. Only one in every 200 voyages is delayed or canceled. One of the routes that gets canceled on occasion is Port Townsend / Coupeville, usually for extremely low tides.

The largest vehicles in the fleet can carry up to 2,500 people and 202 vehicles. There are more than 400 Washington ferry departures per day. Have a look and plot your course to take advantage of great boat ride. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/pdf/wsfroutemap.pdf

Washington Ferry

 

Dungeness Wildlife Refuge Turns 100 Years Old

Dungeness SpitCATCH ONE OF THE CELEBRATIONS!

The Dungeness Wildlife Refuge will have a year-long, public celebration to help commemorate its 100th anniversary in 2015. Everyone is welcome! A short version of the history of the refuge: On January 20, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed an Executive Order establishing the Dungeness Spit Reservation as “…a refuge, preserve, and breeding ground for native birds.” In 1940 the Reservation’s name changed to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. One hundred years later, celebrations for the Refuge are planned with a series of educational events throughout 2015.

197See the 2015 Schedule of events and join the commemoration of 100 years of working for wildlife. There are several birding walks during the year, a kid’s day on June 20 with hands-on activities, and two geology walks on July 18. We are all waiting for July to learn more about the geology of the Olympic Peninsula and why it’s such a magnet for birds and other animals.

172If you are planning to include a visit to the Refuge on an upcoming trip to the Olympic Peninsula, the Refuge opens at sunrise and closes ½ hour before sunset daily. An entrance fee of $3.00 is required. A minimal amount to take in this wonderful place. Children 15 and younger are free.  And, please, no pets are allowed. We want the ‘locals’ to have run of the place – the local deer, otter, nesting birds and so on!

mapHere’s a kind of fuzzy map, but you can get the general lay of the land. Accordihng to Wikipedia, Dungeness Spit is a 5.5-mile (8.9 km) long sand spit and the longest natural sand spit in the United States. The lighthouse at the end of the spit was once run by United States Coast Guard, but in 1976 an automatic light was installed, and since 1994 it has been staffed and maintained by the volunteer ‘New Dungeness Light Station Association’. If you are interested in being a lighthouse keeper for a week, check out the website. The spit is open to the public year around.

It was first found by Europeans during the Spanish 1790 Quimper expedition. The name ‘Dungeness’ comes from the Dungeness headland in England. The spit was named by explorer George Vancouver in 1792, who wrote: “The low sandy point of land, which from its great resemblance to Dungeness in the British Channel, I called New Dungeness.” We’ll go along with the Wikipedia description of our past and heritage of the spit.

OlympicDiscoveryTrail – Lowland fun during winter

ODT Trailhead

ODT Trailhead

Last time we walked part of the Olympic Discovery Trail, it was a colorful canopy of leaves above and a scattering of color underfoot. Leaves fell like huge, lazy orange snowflakes, except not wet and cold! We’re so lucky to experience the Trail in all seasons. Now, with winter is full 50 degree weather, it’s still the perfect time to get in a good walk (or ride) without having to venture too far from home base.

One of the favorite rides is the 3.3 section from the 18th Street trail head west of Port Angeles to the Elwha River Bridge. Ride onto the lower deck of the bridge to and duck out of a brief rainstorm. Return in the spring to watch salmon returning upstream to the river and its tributaries. Last fall fish were spotted upstream of the upper dam for the first time in 100 years and they still know where to return! Ain’t nature wonderful!

Here’s a video that was done a while ago, but it might give you some ideas of where to take a winter ride or walk between Port Angeles and Sequim. I know there are wildflowers, leafy green trees and sunny meadows in the video, but, hey, we don’t stay indoors because of a little coastal mist.

All the way from Port Townsend to La Push. Pick a spot, any spot, along the way for an outing. Our winter has been so mild (so far) and we’ve been able to play outside most of the season. Aren’t we lucky? Come join us. The Olympic Discovery Trail has places along the way to stop and get warm, dry out and start all over again!

 

 

Mother Nature at Her Best

Glines Canyon

Glines Canyon

Parts of the Elwha River area are OPEN for viewing

The largest dam removal project in US history began on the Elwha River in 2011, removing two, 100-year-old dams. The Restoration part of the project is underway and the Elwha River is flowing freely from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the first time in 100 years. With the dams gone, salmon and other migratory fish are returning to 70 miles of spawning habitat, bringing with them the promise of a restored ecosystem and renewed cultural tradition for the Lower Elwha tribe.

To witness some of Mother Nature’s magic, you now can visit Elwha River Restoration Viewpoints. In the above photo, there are two sections high above the river that remain for visitor use as viewing platforms. The one on the right is accessible now and after additional work, the left viewing area will be open later in 2015 when interpretive signs are installed and the parking lot is complete.

The former Elwha Dam (Lower Dam, as it was called)/Lake Aldwell lake bed and Glines Canyon Dam/Lake Mills lake bed sites, as well as Olympic Hot Springs Road are open to the public. The parking area at the former Glines Canyon Dam site remains closed; and the Elwha River and its tributaries within Olympic National Park are closed to all fishing. Boating is prohibited from Upper Lake Mills Trail to Altair Campground.

About Glines viewpoints — here’s a map of the access for both the Whiskey Bend Road (east) side and the Olympic Hot Springs Road (west) side. Both are open, but viewpoint and lake bed access is only available on the east side. Anticipated opening the western Glines viewpoint and lake bed access from that area is summer 2015.

Elwha_area_closures_mills2014_v7

 

Where to find WILDLIFE. Not in town!

 

Sequim Elk Herd

RUSH HOUR on the Olympic Peninsula! Sequim Elk Herd

Although wild night life isn’t what we do well on the Olympic Peninsula, you are likely to see wild life of another kind. Above is a photo of our definition of “rush hour”. The Olympic Peninsula is separated from other regions of the state by water and lowlands, secluding the area and providing habitat to more than eight plant and 18 animal species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world! You might feel the same way when you are here…secluded, occupying a special place on the planet and definitely not stuck in the usual “rush hour”.

Fisher Release!

Fisher Release!

Olympic National Park is home to the largest un-managed herd of Roosevelt Elk, as well as deer, cougar, marmots, black bear, raccoon, beaver and mink, to name a few of the mammals. You are likely to see elk and deer, but count yourself lucky to see a bear. If you see a fisher, let a Park Ranger know, and count yourself REALLY lucky. 2010 was the last release to re-introduce fishers into the Park. Once abundant in the Park, these are elusive little critters about the size of a house cat. Here’s a video from 2009, from a motion-sensitive camera, capturing images of a mother fisher moving her kits. So cute. Good mama. So far the project seems successful! But, only the very lucky ever see one. Here’s a link to a list of some of the animals you might encounter.

Olympic Marmot on the river bank - Photo by Joy Baisch

Olympic Marmot – Photo by Joy Baisch

Marmots. Another housecat-sized animal, the Olympic Marmot is only found in the Olympic Mountains. It’s a relative to the groundhog and other marmots. Lucky hikers in the high country may see them sunning or hear their distinctive whistle. Early expeditions got their signals crossed when relying on whistles to communicate among the group. Marmot whistles were mistaken for human whistles. You can only imagine the conversations humans had before they figured out that marmots can whistle! Listen carefully, especially in the spring when lupine or glacier lilies are abundant and the marmots are out feasting.

audubon logoBirding.  The peninsula offers exceptional year-round bird watching opportunities.  We mean exceptional! There are more different species of birds following the fly-way over the Olympic Peninsula than any other area of the State of Washington. An informative guide to use to see them is in the Olympic Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail. The Loop shows more than 200 of the 365 bird species in Washington State and is a great tool for year-round birders. Need to add a bird to your Life List? Start here!

The Dungeness River Audubon Center (DRAC) is another resource for answering bird questions about the Peninsula. One activity sponsored by the DRAC is the Wednesday morning bird walk, led by birding experts. Learn something new and enjoy the beautiful scenery. You can participate in the data collected from bird walks to help understand bird population cycles over time. These walks are free and everyone is welcome to attend.

Another blog will talk about all the intriguing critters living in our waters and how to see them!

Driving The Olympic Loop

CaptureOne common question asked by visitors coming to the Olympic Peninsula is:  Can we drive all the way around the Peninsula in one day? The answer is YES! But would you WANT to? It’s about 308 miles around and takes about seven, non-stop driving hours. Since there are three wildly different worlds in one – misty rain forests, snow-capped summits, and rocky shores—wouldn’t you want to experience them all while you are here. For an American locale, the names sound vaguely exotic, distinctly different: Dosewallips, Elwha, Queets, Hoquiam. And how fitting, for the territory they share makes up the moody, remote, and richly varied corner of the continental United States.

Lupine near Hurricane Ridge

The drive is a popular year-round excursion, best road conditions being from April through October. By staying overnight along the Loop, YOU, the visitor can experience the richness the area. If you simply drive the Loop, you would miss Hurricane Ridge, Rialto Beach, the Sol Duc Hot Springs and the Hoh Rainforest. Not to mention the abundance of waterfalls. Check out OlympicPeninsulaWaterfallTrail.com.

Sol Duc Hot Springs mineral pools

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Lodging is available along the Loop and at certain places branching off the Loop. Take a look at all the lodging by clicking here.

Fresh Shelled Oysters

Fresh Shelled Oysters

And, of course, while you are traveling around the Loop, you’ll need/want to eat. Dine on scrumptious Olympic Coast Cuisine. From Dungeness crab and clams to wild salmon or halibut, to local cheeses, ciders, chocolates and farm fresh produce, you will find fresh and fabulous along the Olympic Peninsula Culinary Loop. Check here for members of the Culinary Loop.

Words to the wise: Bring adequate rain gear when hiking and camping. You never know about the weather here. And, dress in layers. It could go
from drizzle to warm and sunny back to rain in no time! Don’t forget to take the 10 Essentials in your backpack when you are on the trails. And, when you go beach walking, consult a tide table.

For further information: Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362; tel. 360-565-3130;  www.nps.gov/olym/.  Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, 360-452-8552, 800-942-4042, www.OlympicPeninsula.org

Outdoor Art – Live! Paint the Peninsula

D. A. Davidson “Paint the Peninsula” Juried Plein Air Competition
Draws Artists from Across U.S. and British Columbia

Plein-air poster artFor the second year, the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center is inviting artist, art collectors, tourists, families, and friends to this extraordinary event!

September 7 through 14, 2014.

What’s Plein Air, you ask?
It is painting that’s experiencing a renaissance around the country, with artists painting outdoors using the natural light, working quickly, and producing a painting that often look impressionistic. You’ve heard of Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet or John Singer Sargent? They were all painters who painted outside.
Paint the Peninsula is a juried plein air competition on the Olympic Peninsula, with several events. Artist will submit three images of their best recent plein air art to be juried by a professional artist. The 30 best artists chosen will be invited to come and ‘Paint the Peninsula’ from Cape Flattery to Sequim. These 30 artists will produce a total of 150 original paintings of the Olympic Peninsula.
Jim Lamb painting outside

Jim Lamb painting outside

This is the only event of this kind and caliber in the State of Washington.

The artists will paint for four and a half days. Each day’s art will hang on the walls of the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center (1203 E Lauridsen Blvd) for sale.
On the 5th day, paintings will be judged by noted professional artist, Jim Lamb, and ribbons awarded.  The judging will be followed by a sponsors’ reception.
On September 13, the gallery will be open for viewing and purchasing art.  In the evening, an artists, collectors, and community reception will be held.
Sunday September 14, is the final day of the event and all are welcome to Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. On September 15, 16, and 17, Judge Lamb will conduct a workshop on plain air painting for a dozen participants!  Come and enjoy this unique experience along with the artists!
Follow our facebook page – Olympic Peninsula. We will try to keep you updated on locations where artists will be painting. We will also try to Tweet any news we have about locations. Follow us on Twitter at @Visit Olympics, #oppleinair.

Hey! Bikers? Looking for a bicycle group near Sequim?

Are you looking for a group to join for your bicycling adventures? We know of a few in the Sequim neighborhood. And since we have the Olympic Discovery Trail, what are you waiting for?

There are several groups holding regular rides in the Sequim area. All rides are approximately 20-25 miles, and all ages and abilities are welcome.

    • The Easy Riders promise leisurely weekly rides. They meet at 9:30 at Railroad Bridge Park on Mondays and Fridays and at the elk monument, east of Sequim, on Wednesdays. Contact Durk Bryant, 683-2666, for more details.
    • Sunday Morning Riders meet at 9:00am at the entrance to the Dungeness Recreation Area. For more information contact Randy, 360-477-4156. For info and map, CLICK HERE.
    • The Monday, Wednesday, Friday Spoke Folk meet at 9:30am at the Sequim Community Church, 950 N. 5th Ave. Contact Tom for details, 360-681-7053. For pdf map of routes, CLICK HERE.
  • Women on Wheels meet on Tuesdays at 9:30am for challenging hill rides and on Fridays at 11:00am for a more social pace. Both rides begin at Railroad Bridge Park, 2151 W. Hendrickson Rd, Sequim. For more information call Darlene, 360-681-3375.

Have fun, stay safe, and check out the Olympic Discovery Trail website for more information about the Trail. You’ll find maps and details, along with with lots of photos of happy people on the site. Happy Trails!

Four Hikes Around Highway 101. Get out there!

With summer coming to an end and fall upon us, there’s still time to get in a few good hikes to enjoy the spectacular weather on the Olympic Peninsula this year. Here are four hikes with different rewards waiting for your exploration.

Hurricane Ridge Area – High above the clouds

Ridge Trail near Hurricane Ridge

Ridge Trail near Hurricane Ridge

Towering 18 miles above Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge is one of the most popular destinations in Olympic National Park. Magnificent vistas stretch far into the interior of Olympic Mountains and north into Canada and the San Juan Islands. There are many hikes in this area that you can customize to your activity level and suit your adventurous spirit.

  • Klahane Ridge is a 3.8-mile, one-way hike that gains 250 feet in the first 2.8 miles. The first 2.8 miles of this trail is on a ridge to a junction with the Klahhane Switchback trail. An additional mile climbs 800 feet on the Switchback trail to Klahhane Ridge.
  • The Hurricane Hill hike is a 1.6 mile one-way hike on a paved trail that climbs to a panoramic view of mountains and saltwater. The trail begins at the end of the Hurricane ridge Road. The first 0.25 miles is wheelchair accessible with assistance. To make it a longer hike, continue from Hurricane Hill through meadows and steep forested switchbacks to the start of the Whiskey Bend Road.

Sol Duc Area – Commune with Nature

Sol Duc Hot Springs mineral pools

Sol Duc Hot Springs mineral pools Sol Duc Area

The Sol Duc Valley offers outstanding beauty and recreation. If you are looking for a walk through the giants of the forest to a pounding waterfall and finishing the day with a rewarding soak in some mineral pools, bring your towel. You’ve found your bliss!

Sol Duc Falls is one of the largest and most beautiful in Olympic National Park, with trail and bridge access. It is the only falls with viewing from above and it is one of the falls on the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail. The Sol Duc Road passes through old-growth forest and parallels the river on its way to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and trail head to start hikers headed into the Olympic Mountains.

Sol Duc Falls sign

Which way do YOU want to go?

The Lover’s Lane trail is a 6.0-mile loop through old growth forest that links the Sol Duc Resort to Sol Duc Falls.

For a shorter hike, 0.8 miles one way, to the falls begin at the trailhead. For a 2.6 mile hike one way, climb 1,500 feet through dense forest to the sparkling Mink Lake.
Further into the interior 3.8 miles one way, is Deer Lake with an elevation gain of 1,700 feet.

After any of these hikes, soak in the mineral pools or get a massage! Relax!

Dungeness Spit – Bring your binoculars!

Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit

At 5.5 miles in length, the Dungeness Spit is the world’s longest naturally occurring sandspit and home to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Its trails and picnic areas offer breathtaking views of the beaches, Dungeness Harbor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If you’re up for the hike to the end of the spit, you’ll find the old New Dungeness Lighthouse, built in 1857 and now on the National Register of Historic Places. Access to the Light Station is limited to hikers at low tide and small boats in calm seas. The Dungeness NWR provides habitat for many different species. More than 250 species of birds, 41 species of land mammals, and eight species of marine mammals have been recorded in the refuge. It provides critical habitat for a number of species, some of them threatened or endangered, and is an important stop for many birds during migration.

 

Jupiter Ridge Trail – Ready for adventure?

Mt Jupiter Hiker

Mt Jupiter Trail and Vista

Trailhead is 22 miles north of Hoodsport. Enter off Highway 101 at Black Point (west Mt. Jupiter Rd –FS rd#2610-10).  Follow for 2.5 mi. to #2610-11-left fork.

From the trailhead, you rise 500 ft. over 47 switchbacks!  Don’t let that discourage you.  You crest the top of the Jupiter Ridge and hike along its back through Olympic National Forest and The Brothers Wilderness area immediately.  Along the way, several spots give breathtaking views on both sides of the trail into the Dosewallips and Duckabush River valleys. The full hike takes you around one of the two false peaks back to the main Jupiter Peak. The trail is very narrow in spots so the 360° view No. & So. is of the valleys, E. to Seattle area, and W. into the Olympics and Mt. Anderson. Roundtrip is 15 miles. 3-5hrs. (with lunch time on top) Moderate climb most of the way. Wild flowers are spectacular. BRING WATER A MUST! We stash ½ gals. along the ridge after we crest the switchbacks. Great to have on the way down and a small amount for the summit. Refresh yourselves at Rocky Brook Falls on the Dosewallips Rd (3mi.) after the hike. It’s one of the falls on the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail.