Back in the lower 48

Well our time in Alaska is up and we’ve been back in the lower 48 for a few days now. With that it means we’re somewhere around our halfway holiday point and are now going to be making our way south back towards LA. But that’s okay, there’s still 6 national parks to visit along the way. Leaving Alaska on Friday we flew to Seattle where we picked up the car and hit the road to Port Angeles. The traffic on the I-5 was a bit of a mess, but we got to the KOA by 6PM so it wasn’t too bad.

We’re spending a bit of time in the Pacific Northwest region, and our first park was Olympic National Park. Olympic is in the north east of Washington and consists of a number of different regions – the coast, mountains, rivers and lakes and forests. As a result there’s about half a dozen different areas of the park and it takes a while to drive between them. So we’ve split our stay into two blocks so that we can avoid having to drive so far – it would take just over 2 hours one way to drive to the rainforest side of the park from where we are now.

The first day we spent in the Hurricane Ridge area. The hillsides look really dry as unfortunately the Pacific Northwest had a really terrible snow season this year. The area got a normal amount of precipitation but as temperatures were warmer than normal it didn’t fall as snow. According to the park newspaper there is usually snow still around on trails this time of year, but in February trails we’re pretty much snow free already. On this day we’d planned to hike out Klahhane Ridge but our hike was to be thwarted close to the end by a mountain goat. Yep you heard right. We got up to the last few switchbacks to be greeted with by a nanny and her kid. Righto let’s back away. So we backed out of sight waited a bit then slowly walked forward to try and see around the corner. Nope goats still there right in the middle of the trail. And ahh crap it knows we’re here, with the mother getting up and oh, walking down the trail. Okay let’s back away again. Hmmm what are you meant to do with goats? Turns out we didn’t know. Bears and cougars yep, know what to do there, but zilch don’t know about goats. So some more waiting another sneak around, and another oh crap. So a scramble up a rock in case it came down the trail and a wait out began. After 5 mins or so, it decided we weren’t harmful and decided to potter on back up the trail where in prompt decided to sit down (again!). Well we’d already known that when animals like goats or bison decided to sit, be prepared to wait a long time. So after a bit we decided we’d just turn around. On the way back we saw that a group did make it pass the area we got stuck in – don’t know if the goat had moved on by then. We possibly could’ve scrambled up the hillside, but after having the goat turn and walk towards us three times we’d had enough.

By the time we’d hiked back to the main Hurricane Ridge area the visitor centre was now open so we went in. Oh look warnings about mountain goats, and what to do when one follows. Apparently stay half a football field away, and be prepared to throw rocks if it starts following you. Hmm good to know after the fact. Had a quick chat to the ranger talking about goats and he’s like “Klahhane Ridge? I think I know which goat you’re talking about, I’ve thrown rocks at it”. Interestingly enough mountain goats are not native to the Olympic Peninsula and the goats here are starting to get a bit habituated which is not a good thing. A Google search soon told me that in 2010 a man was killed by an aggressive goat at Olympic NP on Klahhane Ridge. An interesting thing is that mountain goats crave salt, and the Olympics aren’t known for being particularly rich in salt. But what is? Human pee and the smell of sweat. The parks service here are now recommending people pee at least 50 feet off trail and on a rock so the trails don’t become one big salt lick for the goats. On the upnote, I had my first parks hotdog. Yummy. But damn is it about 3 times more expensive than our first U.S. trip ever.

View from Hurricane Ridge area
View from Hurricane Ridge area

As for today we headed over to the Sol Duc area which has old growth forest and a river running though. Headed off reasonably early as it was a 1 hour drive, The hike was nice, a loop through the forest, and as such it was actually cool to walk. The loop went through the hot springs resort, so when it said hotdog on the menu a hotdog was halved and shared. Then it was another 2 and a bit mile hike back.

Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc region

Animal count for the last 2 days: Many deer, many mountain goats, squirrels and a lone bear.

Tomorrow we’re off to the Forks region. Not because I’m a fan of Twilight, but it’s time to explore the coast and rainforest areas.

Hmm I’ll have to add the other 1 pic from the Sol Duc area later. Internet is very slow this evening (edit: now added).

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