Saturday, May 24, 2014

Port Angeles, WA - On Top of the World

Sometimes serendipity hits you in the face - grab it, it may not come again. Today we had a bit of serendipity and the results - WOW.

We arrived at our next campsite in Port Angeles (chosen because it was close to the Olympic National Park), hooked up and went off to visit the VC. We just wanted to find out about trails and when - in the next 3 days - might be the best day to take Hurricane Ridge Road to the VC at the top. Here there is supposed to be a glorious view of the highest peaks in the Olympics with their snow caps and glaciers.

Let me first set the scene: it is terribly overcast here in the Pacific Northwest and we haven’t seen the sun all day. We can look up into the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. and see the cloud cover starting about 2000’. The forecast is for cloudy, rainy weather for the next few days. Doesn’t look too good for viewing the mountains but we’d like to try. We waited in line, our turn came and after a bit of small talk, I asked when we might be able to get a great view. The Ranger looked over his shoulder and said, ‘Right now.’ Huh? ‘Yeah, look at the ‘Ridge Cam’ - see, it shows that it’s clear up there.’ Sure enough, they have a camera at the Ridge which shows what can be seen up there. And, it’s sunny, a beautiful cloud-free day. And, the view of the snow-capped mountains and glaciers - WOW!!! He told us that it often happens that it’s clear at the top but cloudy down here. ‘You can start now and in 40 minutes you’ll be up there. And, you’ll have until sunset to view the mountains.’

We scooted to the car and started up. 19 miles - what’s going to take us 40 minutes? Oh, yeah - all the curves. No railings - but, at least we were on the inside of the curves. Beautiful drive until - we entered the cloud bank. We must be at 2000’ since that’s where it started. Were we ever in the cloud bank. Both Gary and I were trying to see the road - as a passenger I was watching the white line on the outside and Gary was watching the yellow line down the center. We have never driven through fog or clouds this thick. Sometimes it was thicker than this but I was so busy watching my white line that I didn’t have time to take a picture.
But if we thought that was bad, we were in for a shock when we hit the 3 tunnels. Have you ever drive through tunnels in the fog? Eerie. There is fog even in the tunnels. You enter and can’t see a thing until you finally see a light round arch ahead of you - the end of the tunnel.

Every now and then we’d see headlights emerging from the clouds. Someone going down. We wanted to ask if the view was great up there but they were going one way and we the other. Trees loomed up ahead of us in the gloom. We could see the white line but not much of the trees and cliff banks on the side. Then - it got brighter - oh, good - we’re coming out of the clouds. Nope, then it got darker again. Finally, about mile 17, it got brighter, the clouds wafted away and we could see the mountains around us. WOW, what a marvelous sight.

Here’s what we saw at the top.
Here’s another view.
180 degrees of snow-capped mountains with glaciers tucked into the crevices.
Beautiful lush evergreens under this all and a herd of deer grazing on the meadow. I’m thinking we’re in the Alps. Thank you, Ranger Dan.
I felt as if I were at the top of the world.
These guys were grazing but I’m sure that they have been fed by tourists before. It’s fun to see them up so close but sad also since they are not really ‘wild’ now. We could also see more grazing on the side.
Finally we headed back down the hill. We drove for a long ways before we hit the low clouds, the white stuff on the other side of the trees in this picture.
They seemed to be higher than 2000’ when we got down. We had only gone into the Rangers to ask when - in the next 3 days - the weather might be good for seeing the mountains. We hadn’t expected it to be today. What serendipity. Were we ever lucky.

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