Recently some work friends invited me on a weekend trip out to the Olympic Peninsula. While it would have been smarter for me to stay in town and try to find a new place to live (we won’t get into that story here) I chose to hit the westward road (and ferry) for an adventure. The primary reason for the excursion was to look at a potential wedding venue on Lake Crescent, and photos from the site can be found in this recent post. Seeing NatureBridge turned out to be a huge success, and the rest of the trip was a blast as well.
Sea of Clouds
Sunset from the Road
We camped at Deer Park Campground in the national park, high on a ridge at the end of Deer Park Road. The sun was setting as we approached the campground, providing us with great views above the valley cloud layers lit by the low sun angle. Only one walk-in campsite was still available Friday night, so we were extremely lucky we didn’t have to share a site like those campers who arrived later than us. When we awoke Saturday morning the clouds were completely encompassing us, but we had faith they would burn off after noon so we proceeded with our planned hike along Grand Ridge.
At first it looked like it was going to clear for us, but just as quickly we were fully socked in, hardly able to see 50 feet in front of us.
Thick fog on the trail
As with previous hikes in the fog and rain I took the opportunity to get some unique pictures that might have been overlooked otherwise. A lot of these included flora and fauna on the sides of the trail.
Micro landscape from ground level
Pink flower and neon moss
A curious chipmunk
The native checkerspot butterfly
Because of the persistent weather we decided to turn back early, after only four miles in instead of the full seven from Deer Park Campground to the Obstruction Point parking area. Our turn around area was near Maiden Peak so one of my friends and I decided to get to the top and see if it cleared at all.
Clouds swirl around Maiden Peak
We had mild success, with just enough breaks to see larger clouds in the distance, with the occasional shadow of a distant ridge or peak. These made for some amazing shots as well though, so I have no complaints. Sometimes it can be more fun to hike with these changing weather patterns than on a bright sunny day.
Briefly above the clouds
After the eight mile hike we milled around camp for a few hours, enjoying the stress free environment and waiting to see if those pesky clouds would ever evaporate.
Deer Park is appropriately named
The clearing finally begins
It was not until 6 that evening that the clouds slowly started to dissipate, eventually giving way to the breathtaking views we had hoped to see throughout the day’s hike. Just as we had started to give up hope there was suddenly a good chance we would get to see a sunset from the top of Blue Mountain (right above the campground).
Massive shifting cloud layers
We clambered into the car and hurried up to the peak to enjoy the full 360 views of the last wisps of cloud on the mountainsides before the golden hour of sunset.
Oh to be a deer…
Valley and mountain clouds
The last of the clouds rise into nothingness
By this point it was nearly 8pm and the sun was about to dive behind the aptly named Rocky Peak, creating the most amazing golden glow. The lighting was perfect on our secluded peak, and no one else was there to enjoy it. They must have all assumed the low clouds were going to linger later into the evening. Boy did they miss out!
Lit grass before elongating shadows
This glow did not last long, but the ensuing light display in the sky kept us firmly rooted to the peak for another half hour despite the plummeting temperature.
Painting the sky
As the colours faded from view we drove back down to camp for more fire activities. I took the opportunity to do some stargazing and night photography given the extremely lack of clouds and low levels of light pollution (which us Seattle folk don’t get to enjoy very often).
Experimenting with the stars
Camping under the stars
Milky Way on display
After a tonne of shots with the camera pointed up I shifted focus to the coals, where we made ember trails for a while before retiring after a very full day.
The next morning we leisurely got ready for a day at nearby Lake Crescent. As I mentioned before my friends were looking at a wedding venue on the lake, but we had ample time to mill around the beach and jump in the lake before the tour. If you’re interested photos from NatureBridge can be found here.n
Westward view from the Lake Crescent Lodge
Taking the plunge
A Peaceful Valley mural in Port Angeles
Finally the last thing on our trip itinerary was complete and we headed back for the big city, stopping for an attempted dinner in Port Angeles before hopping on the ferry in Kingston. This weekend was jam packed with adventure and a tonne of fun, but it was good to be returning home as there was a lot of important work that needed attending to. I really should not have taken this trip, but luckily it has since all worked out for the best and I’m once again looking forward to my next adventure with some very special people!
Photos taken 16-17 August, 2014 with a Nikon D7100