A16 National Park Road Team--September 5, 2016Posted by Adventure 16 | 09.09.2016
Fog-Cloaked Beaches to Snow Covered Fields
by Jordan Gardner, A16 San Diego store Assistant Manager
Traveling through Washington has afforded the road team to see one of the most beautiful color filled sunsets to one of the highest mountains in North America. Inside of Washington there are three different National Parks one can visit, Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, and North Cascades National Park. All three are vastly different but each protecting a unique part of America. The road team got to stop at two of the three national parks, and also visit the MSR Cascade designs factory in Seattle. Look for that separate post on the blog.
So let's begin with that sunset before we dive into our exploration of Olympic and Mt. Rainier.
The Olympic National Park is gigantic. It can take you three hours to just drive around it without stopping. Just like Pinnacles National Park you aren’t able to drive through the park but can hike through it. There are tons of places to camp inside of the park boundaries if you plan a through hike and the park rangers have a whole area set up at the main visitor center in Port Angeles to not only help you plan an overnight but also rent you bear canisters if you are traveling and don't want to carry it on the airplane. There are other visitor centers on the edges of the park where you can also apply for a permit and get trip suggestions. We opted to stay on the West side of the peninsula near second beach allowing us a good base to explore the Hoh rain forest and for us to say goodbye to the Pacific ocean. Both mornings, the team awoke to wet clothes and chairs so when traveling through the area I highly recommend using the vestibule or putting items inside the car if that's more your style but you can get lucky and catch a rainbow like below.
With a shortened window for Olympic National park a through-hike could not be planned but as I mentioned earlier, the rangers located at the visitor centers are full of knowledge and will gladly help you plan a hike and provide great alternatives if your first choice isn’t available.
The Road Team's primary goal was always to explore the rainforest and see what comes from the large amount of rainfall that occurs so we were off to the only area where rainforests exists in all of North America, specifically the “Hoh Rainforest.”
It is certainly one of the more popular attractions and trail heads because of it having a permitting location and also many short day hikes through the nearby rainforest. To be able to see as much as we could in the day we looped together a couple of smaller day hikes near the visitor center. There is a short loop called the “Hall of Mosses” that teaches you about the local fauna and how the rainforest sustains itself.
After visiting Olympic national park, and seeing the Pacific ocean for the last time for a couple of months, we turned eastward towards Seattle and finished driving around the peninsula. It was very neat taking the ferry across the bay and into Seattle for a tour of the MSR factory, that will be a separate post.
While in Seattle, it was a perfect time to see Mt. Rainier up close and see the glacier fields that surround it. After visiting Olympic and seeing the amount of land it covers, it was a relief to visit the much smaller but taller Mt. Rainier. Mt. Rainier was quite different than Olympic since it offers a road cutting along the base of Mt. Rainier taking you by many of the sights but also nearly all the way to the base of the glaciers.
There are more waterfalls from the glacier melt coming from the peak and also hikes that will take you to the base of the glaciers and up into the high meadows. Above is a group of through hikers taking what is known as the “wonderland trail” taking a break at Narada falls.
Often the peak is surrounded by clouds and difficult to see which was the case that morning so we weren’t able to capture many pictures but as we stuck around the park exploring the road winding through it, the sun burned off the clouds and provided spectacular views of the entire peak. It's a short drive from one side of the park to other along the park road and is definitely worth it. When the sun broke and burned off the clouds we drove to the Sunrise visitor center to capture these photos of the peak. It was interesting to learn that once at the top, the inside of the crater has little snow due to the heat being released by the hot vents.
Departing Seattle we set in for a long drive to Bozeman, MT before picking up an additional friend for the next few days to travel Glacier national park with! Before I leave you we captured this amazing photo of the moon still in the sky high above Mt. Rainier.?