Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Backpacking in Olympic National Park, Washington

In early August, about a month after Alaska, I had another photography trip to Olympic National Park, Washington. I always wanted to photograph the mossy forests in the Pacific Northwest, and my good friend Kimberly lives there, so why don't I visit there?

I jumped on a train from San Diego to Tacoma, took about 40 hours one way. That was a pre-adventure! I was excited about having adventures with Kimberly; she is a very active outdoor girl, who used to be my co-worker in Alaska.

Olympic NP is a large diverse park located on the Olympic Peninsula right below the Canadian border. In the large park, there are 3 distinct regions; the Pacific Coastline, the glacial-capped peaks, and moss covered rain forest. In early August, wildflowers carpeted all the alpine meadows.

Our adventures began with the mountain part: 18 miles loop of backpacking in Seven Lakes Basin. The trail started from the beautiful mossy rain forest. The mosses draped down from tall trees, ferns carpeted the floor, and streams ran among mossy rocks... very green! I instantly loved the scenery. The trail slowly climbed up through the woods, and contained through sub-alpine area with small lakes. When I climbed up to the ridge, there were wildflower gardens! Yellow, orange, pink, violet, white.., I especially loved the patches of white lilies. (Avalanche lily) The rugged peaks rose om my right. There are so many places I loved to photograph!
We hiked up for a while, maybe 7 or 8 miles all up hill; it was time to find a camp site. The trail kept going on the ridge; it was hard to find an ideal flat area. Anyhow, we found a site and set up our camp. One thing I didn't like was that there was a pile of bear poop at the area. There wasn't any other options at the ridge, so we stayed there anyway. We tried to cook dinner, but the cooking stove fuel that Kimberly brought was broken... the liquid fuel kept leaking out... so, we could only eat dry food. Clouds moved over the ridge before sunset; the ridge was surrounded in thick fog. This meant there wasn't any sunset photo opportunities.

Luckily, the next morning was beautiful, the sky was clear! The first sunlight lit the peak of Mt. Olympus and turned its glacier to pink. Even the steam from the snow was pink. Before we left camp, we tried to pump water from snow melt. After we filled one bottle, Kimberly's water filter broke! what was happening!? It wasn't a hot day, so we weren't going to need as much water.
We had a wonderful view for the all-morning walk along the ridge; Mt. Olympus was on the right, Seven Lakes Basin was on the left, and colorful flowers were everywhere. I was happily walking the trail. On top of these views, 2 marmots were on the rock near trail!! What a bonus! One of them were posed for me.
The trail went down slowly but it was long... we began seeing several hikers coming up. We hiked down through the sub-alpine area and into deep mossy woods again. It was nice and shady. I began feeling tired a bit. we hiked through the woods for a while and crossed a "scary" foot bridge; at that point my body began aching. I was shocked finding out there was still a 5 mile long stretch left. There wasn't any short cut, I had to hike back. Kimberly seemed to still be energetic, but I was being a walking machine without thinking. My backpack got heavier than ever. She helped carry my tripod, which was nice. I needed to take breaks every mile or so... After the long 5 miles, we finally reached the trail head.

It was challenging, but the dramatic scenery was worth traveling 18 miles with pack.
More Olympic NP photos are coming soon!