23 August 1997

Quinault Rain Forest - Fish Hatcheries

There was a misty rain falling as I was leaving the hotel. I got gas ($1.45/gal) on the corner then headed across the bridge to Washington. I decided that with the rain and such, there wouldn't be much point to doing any kite stuff so I got on Hwy 101, popped in the next Cry of the Kalihari tape and headed north.

I drove through a lot of forested areas in various stages of cutting. Most places had signs that said what growth forest this was (mostly 2nd and 3rd), when it was cut last, when it was due to be harvested again.

I kept seeing signs about the illegality of using compression brakes inside city limits and I'm not sure what that means. I assume it has something to do with logging trucks.

I also saw a lot of triagular green tubes attached to trees. They look like the bug traps Donna used to set for the USDA only hers were orange.

In Aberdeen, I got stopped for speeding...50 in a 30 zone...yowza, was I ever not paying attention. However, he let me off with just a warning because his radar didn't "get a lock" on me. I thanked him kindly! and asked for directions to the fish hatchery. I then decided not to go there because it was quite a ways off of highway 101.

In Hoquim I saw signs for the "Historic Hoquim Castle - 2 Blk!" and thought it might be worth a stop so I went looking for it. Never found it, though.

In Humptulips (who thinks up these names???) I stopped at a salmon hatchery. There were giant open tanks covered with mesh about the size of chain link. I assume it's there to keep birds from picking off the small fish. There was a sign for visitor parking but no info about the facility. I wandered around a little...saw fry about 4-6 inches long leaping toward the spouts pouring water into their tank then went back to the car and had breakfast (more granola and milk). I had some jerky and pop earlier when I stopped for gas so I didn't really get hungry until now.

At the Quinault Rain Forest I stopped at the National Fish Hatchery. It was no more populated than the last one I stopped at but this one had a nice visitor center with information and displays. The rain has stopped for the time being and it's a little brighter here but it's still overcast, cool and windy.

Lake Quinault Lodge is fantastic! It's design is very similar to the Starved Rock Lodge in Ilinois only with some specifically Northwest touches in the stencilling on the beams...not to mention the mountain-backed view of the lake with mist-shrouded peaks. I had lunch in the restaurant, wandered around the grounds and bought some postcards in the gift shop.

I hiked one of the shorter rain forest trails near the lodge. It was weird and wonderful all at the same time. There were all these huge trees draped with moss and lichen and the undergrowth was all lush ferns and mosses. It made me feel very, very small and very young (embyonic young), by comparison.

All the growth deadened sounds and I found myself wanting to tiptoe. My shoes crunching on the gravel sounded blasphemous in the hush. At one point I stood still and held my breath to listen. I could hear a faint rustle of trees in the wind high above in the canopy, an insect of some sort behind me and to my right, and another insect further away to my left. That was it. None of the cacophany of rustlings, chirpings, and creakings I normally associate with wooded environments.

About halfway through, I started to meet other hikers and, about 2/3 through, the quiet mood was pretty well shattered when I got stuck behind a group with a number of small children in dire need of a nap. I eventually got past them and some peace returned but as I got closer to the trailhead, I kept meeting more and more people.

On the way out, I stopped to see "The Big Cedar"... It's basicaly the stump of what had been an enormous cedar tree. The remaining stump is several stories high and rotted out in the center. It was raining a little when I arrived but inside the stump the rain didn't penetrate. There was almost enough space in there to set up a tent. The unusual thing about the stump was that many other trees and ferns and mosses were growing out of it...using it as a "nursery log" as the sign said.

Shortly after the Quinault rain forest, highway 101 takes a turn and starts hugging the shore. I stopped at Ruby Beach (recommended by the policeman who stopped me for speeding....). It was gray and misty and threatening rain at any second so I grabbed my poncho and headed down to the beach. There was the usual jumble of driftlogs tossed on the shore like careless giant-child being messy with his Tinker-Toys. There were also sea stacks off to the right where columns of stone had been carved by wave and water action. I started to head that way but the tide looked to be coming in and not knowing how fast or high, I thought I might get cut off so I turned back and just looked from where I was.

The whole beach was in contrast to the beach at Leadbetter Point. The surf here pounded the shore with crashing waves and there was very little (if any) sand here. The shore was made up of smoothly rounded rocks that gradually decreased in size as you approached the water. If I looked closely enough at the sand grains, I suspect they'd have been smoothly rounded as well. It was as if the beach was a fractal design where every piece looks just like every other piece if blow up or reduce them up to the comparable size.

After 101 turned back east, landscape began to change. The road became windy and the water along the road calmer with no more pounding waves. At some point it was as if I'd crossed an invisible line and the rain and mist and clouds I'd been moving through all day gave way to clear sky, sunshine and dry pavement.

In Port Angeles, I stopped at a grocery store for bagels and grapes. Then I followed signs to Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge and Heart o' the Hills campground.

At the park entrance, I looked at the sign noting the entrance and camping fees then got in line to enter. When I got to the toll booth, I saw the sign that said "Campground Full" and started to explain to the ranger that I only wanted a campsite and just saw the sign so I wanted to pull a U-ey. He told me that there were actually a few sites left and it happened to be a "free access" day so I didn't have to pay the entrance fee either.

Teela Brown strikes again....

I found a nice camp spot, pitched my tent and made some supper. It's a wonderful campground! I could see setting up a base camp here and do day-trip hikes in the park.