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Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula: National Park/Coastal Beaches/Southwest Washington (Done in a Day)

Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula: National Park/Coastal Beaches/Southwest Washington (Done in a Day) - Craig Romano 2012 HIKESUPDATE: 7/21-22/2011- Hike #105 (Hoh Rainforest)This one took some time to get to, so we actually stayed overnight in nearby Forks, WA of Twilight fame. Actually, the Twilight craze is less apparent there than the last time we passed through, in 2009. Back then, you could see all sorts of vampire-themed images decorating store fronts. Not so much this time.Anyhow... if you stay in Forks, you can get to the nearest entrance to the Hoh Rainforest National Park only about 15 minutes drive away.This is a beautiful national park, where visitors can see part of the world's northernmost rainforest, which extends from Northern California, up through Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and ends in the panhandle of Alaska. This is a unique environment, created by the topology of the land, and its position on the West Coast, where moisture-rich air continually blows in from the Pacific. While it's true all of Washington has the reputation of being rainy, this place is on a completely different level. Seattle gets about 34 inches of rain a year, but the Hoh Rainforest gets 101! The difference is apparent in the vegetation, where almost every surface is covered with thick moss, and mushrooms and hanging grasses thrive. You also see more than the average number of slugs around here. Including a black variety I haven't seen in other parts of Washington. (pictured here with the more common white slug for comparison)We also saw deer, but in most of the pictures, they were either too far off and look too small, or they moved and I didn't get a good picture.There are a lot of cool birds as well, but naturally no good pictures to post. One thing you see a lot of here is young trees growing directly out of decomposing fallen old trees. A lot of the old fallen trees have been sitting around in the humid forest, getting rained on for so long, that if you walk up and press them, they have a spongy consistency. According to the display at the visitor's center, it takes between 100 and 150 years for a fallen tree to completely decompose. In that time, the younger trees grow pretty large, but as the older tree rots away beneath it, the younger trees are left with this broad hollow space at the base, where little animals find shelter, like that kid in My Side of the Mountain. So the longest trail is 17 miles, and the park is nice enough to let people hike it overnight. You just register with the rangers, and head out with your tent and gear. Chizuru wasn't up for that, so we did three of the shorter trails.Most of the trails are dirt and stone, but occasionally, in the really marshy areas, there is a wooden boardwalk, which is nice.Here is Chizuru identifying fungus with her fungus-identifying book, which appears oddly shiny with the flash here.Overall, this was a great hike- well worth the time and energy spent to get here. Because it is a bit out of the way, in fact, the place was not crowded at all. There were probably about 30 other people in the visitors' center, and we rarely saw anybody else on the trails.Five star hike *****2011 HIKES5/1/2011- Hike #20 (Twanoh State Park)This trail is located in Twanoh S.P.,which is situated in a tiny little inlet of Puget Sound. Most of the park is waterfront, with picnic areas, and a place to launch boats. Set back from the road is a campground, which is where the trailhead is found. This is a heavily forested area, and follows a little stream for the first 1/2 mile or so. You know what that means? Yeah... bring mosquito protection, because they're waiting for you! The first mile or so of the trail ascends almost four hundred feet, so you'll get some good exercise out of this one. We stopped frequently to enjoy the scenery and birdlife, so I never felt very exerted. The signage could be better on this trail. You can take a right turn onto a smaller trail, which brings you back to the trailhead for a total of 1.5miles. If you stick with the main trail, it makes a 2.5mile (or so) loop, which is what we did. At one point, you reach a clearing, which was filled with puddles from a recent light rain. Today, these little puddles were filled with snails, out enjoying the puddle water in whatever way snails do. Now the confusing part: after about 2 miles, we reached a sign indicating the end of the trail, which dumped up out on a gravel road. The book had indicated that the trail was a loop (i.e. we should end where we started), but this was obviously not where we had started. We debated going back the way we came, but through the trees, we could see we weren't far from the water. We took a left and followed the road down past an apparent accident scene, where a bunch of construction equipment apparently fell off the back of a truck and rolled down the steep embankment into the forest. After about another 1/2 mile, we did reach the original trailhead we started from. No harm done, but things could have been labelled better. Overall, I think we walked about 3 miles, through about 400 feet of elevation and back, and enjoyed some beautiful Pacific Northwest forest scenery. Three stars ***4/23/2011- Hike #19 (Mary E Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve)Technically, this isn't the first day of Spring, but it was the first warm, sunny Saturday we've had around here this year. I don't think I was alone in thinking that, because we noticed a lot of convertables driving around with their tops down, and a lot more motorcycles on the road (wimps. I've been driving mine to work since the first week of March!) We had a lot of time to see all those things, because we were driving around about twenty minutes longer than we needed to... that's right, the weak point of this book remains DIRECTIONS. Every hike we've done from this book has been an abosolute joy- once we found the Goddamn place. The trailhead for this hike is on State Highway 3, and the nature preserve even has a little information center, with a street address (sorry, I forgot to write it down), which the book fails to list. That's too bad, because the GPS would have had no problem with a street address. Unfortunately, the GPS has never heard of Mary Theler or her nature preserve, and the book's directions didn't had us driving by the place twice before we figured out what we were supposed to look for (a long yellow building with a sign designating it as a "Community Center" contains the administrative office for the nature preserve. The trailhead is back behind the building.But let's focus on the positive, becuase this is a beautiful trail- partly paved, partly gravel, which winds through estuarial wetlands filled with birdlife. Red winged blackbirds were out in full force, but none of the pictures I took did them justice. Same for White throated Swifts, which are a hoot to watch, because they dart around very playfully, chasing one another and make frequent quick mid-air turns, almost like bats. Canadian geese, seagulls, some sort of Tern, and Canadian loons were also seen. The only good picture I got was of this Great Blue Heron.The trail is only 3.5 miles, and is mostly flat, so this isn't a hike you'd take if you want to get some vigorous exercise in; it's more for the birdwatching. That's nice too, and a lot of people were making use of it today, including some more elderly people who probably appreciated that not every trail needs to be 12 miles long, or go through 700 feet of elevation. There are a lot of benches to stop at along the way. My wife was camera shy, but she wore this tight pink sweater that was totally hot.Four stars ****ARCHIVE OF 2010 HIKES FROM THIS BOOK6/27/2010- Hike #72 (Anderson Lake Trail) The book's description is okay, but doesn't do the trail justice. Most of the way is through the forest; you don't really see the lake, which is fine. The estimated trail length is 2.4miles, but actually there are multiple routes you can take. We did the a combination, starting at the "B" trailhead, then switching over to the "F" trail where they intersect. Total distance was 3.6miles, according to my pedometer (some of this being vertical distance).Three stars ***7/3/2010- Hike #125 (Cape Flattery) It was BEAUTIFUL! The walk is a mild grade downhill most of the way (and uphill most of the way back). The rock formations just off the coast are visually interesting, if you are inclined to sketch or paint them. See for yourself, along with a nice view of the back of my lovely wife's head:Five stars *****7/5/2010- Hike #113 (Kalalach Beach) This is a beautiful stretch of beach, with convenient and clean day parking (not overnight!) just off the campground. This is a remote area of Washington State, so if you're making a day trip and hoping for a restaurant along the way, you won't have too many choices. Your best luck will be up north in Forks, or south in Oceanside. On the plus side, there is no light pollution, so if you are camping here, you will see a bizillion (~10^?) stars at night.Four stars ****7/24/2010- Hike #64 (Upper Dungeness River) This is a way-remote place, and you'll be driving the last ten miles or so on a one-lane winding gravel road. When opposing traffic comes, you'll have to find a place where the road is wide enough for one of you to pass and one to wait. The book doesn't tell you this, but you'll have to have five dollars cash on you, to buy a recreation pass (you are in Olympic National Park at this point) to park your car at the trailhead. The trail itself is BEAUTIFUL. The forest here is very dense. It looks a lot like that forest planet in Return of the Jedi. I know, I know, most of the Pacific Northwest looks like that, but this place in particular. Added bonus: you get to cross the river multiple times on these rustic log bridges, which is fun.Five stars *****10/17/2010- Hike #54 (Fallsview Canyon) First inaccuracy I've found in this book! The trail guide describes a fork on the trail, and advises that if you take the left trail, it will lead to a 1.5mile loop. I don't know whether it is a loop, but if it is, it's a lot longer than 1.5miles. We walked about 1.5 miles and then turned around. Still, it was a beautiful trail, with the rapids and the canyon- no hard feelings towards the book!Three stars ***The Actual ReviewThis is a reference book, so I won't say I've read it cover to cover. It contains a nice range of day hikes in western Washington State's Olympic Peninsula. The hikes range from 1 mile (seems short, but maybe okay if you're pressed for time) to 14 miles. All the trails are public access. At this point, I've done 9 of the 125 featured hikes, and so far what I like about this book is:1) the directions for getting to the trailheads have been very accurate. It can be very frustrating to set out for a hike, only to waste half the afternoon trying to find some obscure location with poor directions. 2) The descriptions of the trails (changes in elevation, potential for flooding, overgrowth) have been very accurate. 3) The notes about local flora and fauna are copious and have been accurate. We did the South Indian Island hike (pp.222-225), because this book recommended it for the variety of birds that like to congregate there. To our delight, the description was spot-on, and we did see a lot of birds, including American bald eagle, heron, and Steller's Jays. 4) there are a lot of good pictures (most black-and-white, but a few in color) showing views from the trails, which can be a big help in deciding which hike to select. You might think photos of the trails would be a pretty common feature of books like this, yet surprisingly it doesn't seem to be.