Chasing Wilderness #4: Exploring Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park, Washington
Mighty trees of the Enchanted Valley
In September of 2017, my friend and I went on a road-trip through Montana, Washington, and Oregon. We had just finished working as dining room servers in Glacier National Park and had no immediate plans except to travel. After a brief visit in Missoula, MT, we made our way west towards Seattle. We explored the city for a day and saw a Mariners game. That night, it was decided that we would drive towards Olympic National Forest, find somewhere to camp, and check out the park the next morning.
The view from Hurricane Ridge.
After camping that night in Olympic National Forest, we made our way to the park itself. Our first stop was the famous Hurricane Ridge. It became immediately clear that there was simply too much to see and do in this wondrous place. We were surrounded by a vast expanse of mountains and valleys. It would take many months of dedicated exploration to truly get a sense of this landscape. But we were happy that we made it here at all! Olympic is a place that I'd wanted to experience for years. Excitedly, we walked around the touristy paved trail and took in the sights. We didn't stay for long though; our primary goal was to backpack out to the mythical Enchanted Valley.
Hiking around Hurricane Ridge.
Continuing on, we made a brief stop at the historic Lake Crescent Lodge. There was just enough daylight left to explore the immediate area.
Lake Crescent pier at dusk.
We drove on into the night, eventually finding the campground we wanted. There was hardly anyone else around. We made camp, ate a quick meal, and headed to bed. The next day was going to be a long one. There were approximately 13.5 miles (21.7 km) between us and the Enchanted Valley. The next day, we began our journey into the most beautiful rainforest I have ever seen.
Rainforest scenery along the trail.
Now, I'd seen green places before. Having lived in Oregon for a couple years, I was familiar with the Pacific Northwest and its reputation for lush, vibrant wilderness. But man, nothing had prepared me for this place. The entire ground was a carpet of moss, ferns grew everywhere, and lichen clung to virtually every tree. The place was absolutely bursting with life. It was green everywhere. I felt as though I had entered a fairy tale. It was just too incredible to be real.
The river that paralleled the trail.
The trail gently curved through the forest, following a tranquil river. We took our time, admiring the natural wonders around us. Occasionally, the bugle of an elk could be heard somewhere far off in the mountains. It was a mystical place to be. We decided to camp that night about 8 miles in along the river. The next morning we would make the final 5 mile push to the Enchanted Valley itself.
This is approximately where we camped that night. Not bad, eh?
The next morning we were blessed with perfect hiking weather: sunny and about 60 °F (15.5 °C) . We packed up our gear and set out for our destination. The Enchanted Valley was waiting for us.
Dappled sunlight through the trees.
When we finally arrived, we were awestruck. The valley opened up and revealed towering cliffs thousands of feet high on either side of us. Massive trees loomed overhead as we hiked further into the mouth of the valley. It felt like entering a holy place. Clearly this place wasn't called "enchanted" for nothing!
The forest inside the Enchanted Valley.
We relaxed and cooked lunch next to the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet. Constructed in 1931, the structure is now a backcountry Ranger Station and is unfortunately closed off to curious hikers like ourselves. Still, we admired the rustic architecture and the surrounding wilderness while we ate. It felt so surreal being here!
The Enchanted Valley Chalet
We both hated having to leave, but we had plans to meet up with a friend in Mt. Rainier the very next day. So we explored the valley for another hour or so, turned around, and hiked 13.5 miles (21.7 km) back to our car.
A world of green.
For the next couple of days after leaving, I felt a sort of elation and warmth reverberating from my body. Olympic really put a spell on me! I cannot recommend this place enough to those who crave unforgettable adventures.
Scenes like this always make me want to know what's around the next bend :)
My friend noticed me lining up a shot and just couldn't help himself!
*All photography featured here was taken by me.