August 16, 2009
We have lucked out on the weather once again. The day was bright, sunny but very comfortable with the temps in the high 60’s to low 70’s. After breakfast our first stop of the day was to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center. The center was nicely done with great exhibits and a short movie that we all enjoyed.
Then it was off to Hurricane Ridge promoted as being one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the Olympics, allowing a panoramic view of the area and Mount Olympus. Since it was a beautiful, crystal clear day we were looking forward to the hike to the ridge. NOT!!!!!! Along the road to the ridge the traffic was backed up to a full stop. There had been a huge landslide along the ridge road so there was no access. After checking in with the park service a couple of times it turned out the road would not be open while we were still in the area. I guess we should have listened to Ron instead of the CG owner and gone to the ridge last evening.
We were all bummed out so we headed into Port Angeles to walk around the pier and regroup. We stopped at the local Dairy Queen to lift our spirits, walked around town and then headed back to Olympic National Park looking for the Olympic Hot Springs Trail.
We took a very circuitous route through the forest and almost turned around when we reached a single lane dirt road. We thought we were heading in the right direction so kept on going, stopping at an overlook directly across from Hurricane Ridge. Although we didn’t get to Hurricane Ridge and enjoy the view from that angle we did get a spectacular view looking across Sol Duc River.
We met a local couple and they recommended we continue up the road to the Olympic Hot Springs area. They reminisced about when the hot springs was a resort and we were all excited to think we might find some remnants of the resort. The trail to the Hot Springs was a 2.5 mile one way trail uphill all the way. Quite different from what the local residents described as a flat trail.
“Several hot springs can be found in Olympic National Park, occurring on or near the Calawah fault zone: This presently inactive zone extends from the southeastern Olympics to the northwest and probably into the Pacific Ocean.
One spring area can be reached by road, others have been reported in remote areas of the backcountry. Indian legend reputedly speaks of the origin of the Sol Duc and Olympic Hot Springs:
Two "dragon-like creatures" (lightning fish) with a mutual hatred for one another engaged in a mighty and desperate baffle. There was no victor as both were evenly matched. Admitting defeat each of the creatures crawled into their separate caves where they still weep hot tears of mortification.
The Olympic Hot Springs consist of 21 seeps located in a bank on Boulder Creek, a tributary of the Elwha River. Several of these have been trapped by human-made rock lined depressions. The depth of these pools is about one foot and water temperatures vary from lukewarm to 138 degrees F (54 degrees C)
A resort existed in the area until 1966, when the lease expired. Heavy winter snows caused many of the old buildings to collapse. They were removed, but seeps remain. The impounded pools frequently fail water quality standards for public bathing. Use at your own risk.” (GORP)
The hike to the hot springs provided a different landscape at every turn. We were subjected to a constant incline an several rivers to cross. Since my balance is in question Patrick was there to help me across the river on the wet rocks and logs. (My hero). He made sure the old lady didn’t fall or get wet. Making it across the first river proved to be a great comic relief for my hiking partners.
Along the route we saw the effects of road wash outs and possibly earthquake activity. There were areas that the road dropped at least two feet wide in front of us and to the left of us no road existed, just a deep ravine. There were small waterfalls along the way and we enjoyed stopping to enjoy them.
Kelly and Megan were the singing duet on the hike and kept us entertained. Ron joined in making up songs as we walked along. For some reason Ron started singing Christmas carols- no sure why though. We had a great hike and lots of laughs and songs.
Once at the hot springs we were surprised to see that they were not very large. They sat in areas against the landscape with man-made stone enclosures. We decided to soak our feet and get some benefit from the “healing waters.” The water was incredibly hot and for reasons unknown Ron, who hates hot water, was able to put his feet in and enjoyed it. Kelly, Patrick and I were barely able to put our toes in.
We saw five of the seven active springs then decided to head back to the car. It was getting late and we hadn’t had lunch. The hike back was much easier, although crossing the river proved to be another hilarious time for the family. Once again Patrick helped me across while Ron video - taped the event, laughing the entire time. NICE GUY!!!! By the time we got back to car it was 4:30 PM and we were starving. We had packed a lunch so devoured our food in short order. Immediately after finishing Megan (our bottomless pit) asked what we were having for dinner. LOL
On the way back to the campground we stopped at the upper Elwha Dam to take some pictures for history, since the dam will be demolished for the salmon population. The river along the dam was quite deep and it would be interesting to come back after the dam is gone to check out how the landscape changes.
Back at the campground we had a great dinner then decided we had to walk to the lower Elwha Dam five minutes away. Of course the walk to the dam was down a steep incline meaning the walk back up would be difficult. About ¾ of the way down the road there was a sign posted regarding the rough terrain and also that if the alarm sounds the spillways would be open making the flow of the river more intense and dangerous. I was not crazy about walking to the dam but finally conceded. We walked over the dam and again were dismayed to think that another structure would also be dismantled for the salmon population. We were all trying to imagine what effect the loss of two dams would have on the area. Two big lakes will be lost in the transition and no one really knows if the salmon will repopulate as expected.
We concluded our day with a nice campfire and viewing of the days’ pictures. Tomorrow we will head to the Hard Rain Café Campground adjacent to the Hoh Rain Forest.
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Being less then agile proved a challenge but Patrick came to my rescue and helped me climb the logs without incident.