Saturday, September 8, 2012

Olympic Peninsula - Part 2

Strait of Juan De Fuca and Dungeness Spit
as seen from Hurricane Ridge Road
My last post talked about the first day of the mini-vacation my wife and I took a few weeks ago to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  We stayed at a small bed and breakfast that was right on the water of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was a lovely little place with a pond and waterfall near the front door and a wide backyard that overlooked the strait from about 30-40 feet up.  While there was a small gravel beach at the bottom of the cliff, there seemed no way down to it.  From our room we could see the water, Victoria, British Columbia and the Olympic Mountains.  On our final day, one of the other guests pointed out a tall, snow-capped mountain in the distance that we learned was Mt. Baker over on the mainland.

I was intrigued to learn that Juan de Fuca was Greek.  On our way into town the first day we stopped at an overlook that had some informational signs. Ioánnis Fokás sailed for the Spanish King and is therefore referred to by the Spanish transcription of his name. Reading a little more on Wikipedia, I learned that his reports of finding the strait bearing his name are somewhat dubious and it is unclear if he really discovered it or not.  But now knowing Juan De Fuca was Greek, I assumed he was the one that named Mt. Olympus and the Olympic Mountains and that Mt. Olympus had a strong resemblance to Mt. Olympus in Greece.  Well, we all know what assuming does to us.  Mt. Olympus was named by John Meares nearly 175 years after Juan De Fuca sailed the area.  And according to Seattle Magazine, Meares named it Mt. Olympus not in direct reference to the Greek mountain but because it looked like a god-like paradise. Interesting stuff.  And as far as I can tell, we never got close enough to actually see Mt. Olympus.
Olympic Mountains seen  from B&B
On our second morning I had arranged for a kayak trip.  We frequently kayak at home in the calm, warm waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The colder and more exposed waters of the Pacific coast drove us to go with a tour instead of just try and rent boats on our own.  We were outfitted with full dry suits and paddling jackets before being driven about 20 minutes out to Freshwater Bay.  We were lucky that the winds had died over night and it was a calm day with calm seas.  The day before there had been a gale-force wind advisory and the kayak trip was moved to a nearby lake.  It had definitely felt windy in the mountains and the night before the kayak trip the B&B was pounded by winds.  But I had assumed it was just part of living on the coast there.
Waking with the mountains
We paddled out of a protected bay and along the coast of the strait towards the west.  There was a large rock at the mouth of the bay that had some shallows coming out from the coast line. The tide was about low enough that there was exposed rocks and we saw a handful of Black Oystercatchers, Heermann's Gulls and Black-belied Plovers.  Only the plovers do we see on the East Coast.  The paddling was nice but there wasn't as much wildlife as we, or the guide, expected.  We saw some Pigeon Guillemots on the water and a few Bald Eagles overhead, but that was it for most of the trip.  A few other paddlers saw a seal but we missed it.  They are a common sighting on these trips but the guide thought the shifting weather may have sent them either further along shore our out into the water to feed. There were a few small indentations in the coast that we explored but the winds from the previous day had stirred up too much debris in the water and we seldom could see more than 5 - 10 feet down.  As we returned from about three hours on the water we came across four River Otters playing on the edge right next to our starting bay.  So we settled in to watch them for about 10 minutes as they rolled and tumbled over each other and took the occasional swim.  They are like rambunctious kids at play.

After the paddling we headed to a soup restaurant our B&B hosts had recommended.  It had sounded great that morning was we were expecting to be cold after being out on the water.  But between the exertion of paddling and being in the dry suits, we were in no need of soup.  But they also had some great sandwiches and wonderful outdoor seating.

Madison Falls
Elwha River
After lunch we headed back to Olympic National Park, but this time we headed in along the Elwha River to photograph Madison Falls.  The Elwha River is undergoing a massive dam removal process with two large dams being destroyed.  One has already been removed and according to our kayak guide, the salmon are already returning. The falls are just a short walk from the road.  It is a very pretty fall dropping probably 40-50 feet before a short run to join the river.  There is also access to the river right across from the parking lot.

I'm sharing again this week at Our World Tuesday. Be sure to stop by there and read some o fthe other people's story of the world they live in. Come back soon to read about our visit to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens and my day exploring Seattle.


  1. Very interesting account of your trip! The falls are gorgeous!

  2. Wonderful trip and love naturalist photography ~ (A Creative Harbor)

  3. Beautiful series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.