Enchanted Tranquility: Scenes from Olympic National Park

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George Payne. All photos provided by George

George Cassidy Payne recently returned from a four day trip to Olympic National Park and Seattle, Washington.  See The Severing, Why the Sasquatch Myth Will Never Die and Dispatch from Emerald City and TO THE PENINSULA 

While planning my trip to Olympic National Park in Washington, I came across a National Park Service brochure that captures the exquisite diversity of this national treasure. The pamphlet reads:

Are you here for a day? A week? Maybe you’ve come to this wilderness to stroll the rain forest with its massive trees, lush vegetation, and Roosevelt elk. Maybe you plan to hike in the mountains amid Olympic marmots and magenta paintbrush. Perhaps you are headed for the ocean to see tidepools with intriguing creatures, marvel at arches and sea stacks, and explore the beaches.

As I was soon to discover for myself, Olympic National Park was this and more.

Wilderness centerpiece of the peninsula, Olympic National Park is traversed by 600 miles of hiking trails. The interior is accessible primarily by foot. Set aside in 1938 by Congress, the 900,000-acre park includes a 50-mile-long stretch of wild and scenic coastline acquired in 1953. Nine Indian reservations control an additional 162,000 acres. — Taken from the May 1984 edition of National Geographic.

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One guide explained how the mountains intercept moisture-rich air masses that move in from the Pacific Ocean. As this air is forced over the mountain, it cools and releases moisture in the form of rain and snow. Hurricane Ridge pictured here is one of the most dramatic landscapes you will ever see. It gets its name for the hurricane like winds that rip through here. The snow drifts get so high they do not fully melt until mid summer. As my guide pointed out, for eons, wind and rain washed sediment from the land into the ocean. Powerful forces fractured, folded, and overturned rock formations, which explain the jumbled appearance of the Olympics.


Sunbeam shining through the Hoh Rain Forest. It is an enchanted world of snow-fed streams, emerald mosses, dripping wet sword ferns, subalpine firs, secretive bogs, and the electrifying scent of pure air.  “It is so lush,” commented naturalist-illustrator Roger Tory Peterson, “that it may contain the greatest weight of living matter, per acre, in the world.”


Bald eagle fishing near the Kalaloch Rocks on a beach of the Pacific Ocean.

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This tree has its own pullover stop on US 101 and is called Big Cedar; it is one of the oldest and tallest cedar trees in the world. Valley of the giants, there are trees in this region that are well over 1,000 years old.

7 8Roosevelt elk grazing next to a barn on the Upper Hoh Road. Perhaps no land creature is as symbolic of the grace and beauty of the Olympics than the bountiful herds of Roosevelt elk. Native to this territory, these animals are accustomed to gawking humans, but are also known to regularly charge people if they get too close. 9

Lake Crescent at dusk. No filter needed.  10


The Severing

Why the Sasquatch Myth Will Never Die

Dispatch from Emerald City