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06/19/17 - Hurricane Hill - Critters

We've been getting up to Hurricane Hill to watch the snow melt, enjoy the views, gawk at the flowers and do some wildlife spotting. Hurricane Hill is great place for seeing all sorts of animals: marmots, bears, hares, deer and even mountain goats. Well, we didn't see any mountain goats this time, but we saw just about everything else.

The scene

A black bear ...

... from a safe distance

One of the marmots, not Marmot Rock

Melting snow

More snow on the north face

Another marmot

Yet another marmot

A snowshoe hare

Phlox

The lupines are back; we missed them last year.

Keywords: animals, flowers, hurricane hill, marmots


07/13/16 - The Mountain Goats of Klahane Ridge

We hadn’t planned on climbing Klahane Ridge. We were just going to climb a few hundred feet to convince ourselves that it wasn’t impossible. Instead, we pushed on, repeatedly promising ourselves that if we climbed just another hundred or two hundred feet we could turn around. Of course, by the time we turned at the 1300’ hair pin, we had no choice but to climb the remained 150’ or so.

The sky had been cloudy, and more clouds were moving in as we approached the top. We could tell that there was no view to the north and the view to the south would be closed in soon. Luckily, a band of traveling players was on its way to provide for our entertainment. We were not the only ones on Klahane Ridge, for along with the other humans were at least a dozen mountain goats including a good number of kids.

These animals can be quite dangerous. Check out those horns. Luckily, they seemed to be calm enough, primarily focused on eating, so not all that much different from ourselves. Needless to say, we did not try to get a good pose with their kids. Instead, we started heading down the ridge. To our surprise, the goats joined us. Maybe they recognized kindred souls, for much as we awaited our dinner down below, they considered the larkspur, lupine and other foliage their open buffet.

Since they were more agile than we and less inclined to follow park rules, they would often take a shortcut and settle in for a course on the trail ahead of us. We humans stopped to watch not wanting to hurry their meal. The nannies would move ahead. The kids would bleat in protest, but eventually follow. We would slink by, hoping our desire to continue on the trail would not be mistaken for a desire for roast cabrito.

The goats left us at the trail junction. They decided to follow a group from Seattle, perhaps recognizing the world class food on offer in the big city. We made our way back to the Switchback Trail parking lot, our appetite sharpened by the exertion of the climb and watching all those goats chowing down heartily.


The Olympic Range appears above Sunrise Peak after 1000’ of climbing.

Pretty mountain country, rising clouds

Mountain goats heading down to join us

Nanny and two kids

Clouds coming in

More kids

Following us down the trail

Further down the trail

Even further down

Flowers too, larkspur and turks cap lily

This was not a good year for the lupines, but the larkspur have taken up the challenge.

Keywords: animals, klahane ridge, mountain goats


07/01/14 - Klahane Ridge Again

We panted and wheezed, but we made it up to Klahane Ridge again. The phlox and glaicer lilies are passing, but the next round of flowers is just coming out. Our theme this post is critters. It wasn't as busy as Hurricane Hill, but there were four, or perhaps five, mountain goats on the crags above us, and at least one marmot about on the ridge itself. The young stag we saw on our last climb was still enjoying the local vegetation, but the real surprise was the black bear we saw. We only saw it because a fellow climber pointed it out, just a black dot below us on the hillside. This is the kind of luck we plan for, so we had or binoculars and modestly priced ultrazoom point and shoot camera handy.

Mountain goats on a misty ridge

The land is green.

Mist at the ridge

But, great visibility - That's Mount Baker.

Looking down to the north

Our marmot friend

Looking up

The young stag

The violets are brilliant this year.

A black bear at a safe distance

Toad lilies

Keywords: flowers, animals, klahane ridge, mountain goats


06/26/14 - The Critters of Hurricane Hill

The flowers are near their peak on Hurricane Hill. The phlox may even be a touch past its peak, though its scent lingers. The lupines are blooming, as are the western wallflowers, glacier lilies, rock larkspur, avalanche lilies and yarrows. The marmots are out and active, as are the deer. There was also a mountain goat wandering about. The park service seems to have fitted this one with a collar. These can be dangerous animals, so we kept our distance.

While we were exploring, clouds and mist were rising in the north, and by the time we were heading back, they had engulfed the top of Hurricane Hill. Through the mists we could see a blue lake forming from the melted snow and a golden marmot cooling him or herself on the snow.

This was a great day for the flowers and for critter spotting on Hurricane Hill, but our real surprise was on the drive out. Driving through the parking lot, we saw a mother bear with two cubs scampering along Sunrise Ridge. We didn't have time to take a photograph, but those were the first bears of the season.


The scenery

One of the many golden marmots

Western Wallflower and some phlox

Phlox and the mists

Marmot of the mist

Clouds from the north

Another view

A mountain goat

Even closer

Glacier lilies

Larkspur and paintbrush

Keywords: animals, flowers, hurricane hill, marmots


06/19/12 - Hurricane Hill

Despite the cool spring this year, we made it up to the top of Hurricane Hill before the solstice. We took advantage of one of those great sunny, un-June like days we've been having and drove up to Hurricane Ridge. The Hurricane Hill access road was open and most of the parking lot cleared. There was some snow on the trail, but we had our trusty YakTrax and hiking sticks, so we had extra traction on the trickier stretches.

The hard part was really that we weren't used to the altitude, but the blue sky and amazing vista pulled us upwards. Marmot Rock, a rock that looks like a marmot, had survived the winter, but we also saw a real marmot chittering and playing sentinel now that we humans have returned to the high country. There was some phlox in bloom along with a bit of Indian paintbrush, some yarrow and a lupine or two, but otherwise the landscape had just melted. It took us a fair bit longer than usual, but we made our way up to the summit and admired the views of the Olympic Mountains, the San Juans, Vancouver Island and the great white meringue of Mt. Baker.


One of the views

Last summer's grasslands, now faded

This is sort of what the trails look like, but the snow is melting rapidly.

Another view, this one from the summit

Blue sky

The view east from the summit

Phlox

Indian paintbrush

Another view

Yet another view

Keywords: high country, hurricane hill, spring, animals, flowers


06/11/12 - Wolf Haven

Wolf Haven is a rehabilitation and retirement center for wolves. They take in wolves who cannot live in the wild due to injuries or having been raised as pets. It's a quiet (usually), healing sort of place which is just as well given that wolves are wild animals and powerful predators. At Wolf Haven, located a bit south of Olympia, they live two to an enclosure with grass, quiet, and fresh air.

Wolf Haven gives regular tours, so we were able to see some of these fantastic animals, mostly those who will be spending the rest of their lives there. The wolves being prepared to return to the wild are kept away from most human contact, so they are kept in another part of the haven.

Some of the wolves were front and center curious about us. Some were pacers and explorers. Others just slept or stayed hidden during our visit, but most of the wolves made an appearance. They also howled. This was the high point of our visit, and actually rather unusual at Wolf Haven. We were watching one pair of wolves when we heard a distant, rising howl, and soon the wolves in the next enclosure joined in, and then the ones we were watching. We recorded some of the long howl as a video.


The howl of the wolf - Click here for a howling movie.

A friendly face with killer jaws

Just pacing

Friends

A real cutie

Keywords: animals, washington state


05/10/12 - A Local River Otter

We were taking an easy stroll along the Olympic Discovery Trail west of Morse Creek. A bit past the dike we saw a river otter, first crossing the road, then on the rocks offshore. This looks like a lucky otter, chowing down.,

A river otter

Keywords: morse creek, animals


08/10/10 - Hurricane Hill in the Clouds

Hurricane Hill is a spectacular hike on a sunny day. The trail follows the ridge and offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains as well as the strait. On cloudy days, the clouds play with the mountains. They course through the valleys and play hide and seek. On sunny days, the mountains look unreal. It is impossible to understand how far away they are and how big they are. Clouds, hanging in the valleys, give some perspective, a sense of scale.

Two trouble makers - We're sure.

Clouds

Lupines


More clouds

Keywords: hurricane hill, animals


07/24/10 - Hurricane Hill Revisited

The bear is still in the valley. He, or she, has not gone over the mountain yet. The first corn lilies are in bloom. Also, there were a few wild roses in bloom.

Corn lilies

Some lupines in a perfectly Heidi set up

Our friend, the bear

One of the first roses

People: Where do they all come from?

Keywords: hurricane hill, animals


07/20/10 - Hurricane Hill

The Hurricane Hill trail is one of our favorite trails. It offers the high country, amazing views and great accessibility. This year, the flowers have been spectacular. The corn lilies are not quite out yet, but they're getting there.

The big excitement this year, was that there is a bear down in one of the valleys visible from the trail. Usually, when we spot a bear in the high country, all we see is a large dark dot moving against the green below. This bear was close enough to positively identify it as such. To be honest, that's about close enough a sighting for us.


Definitely a bear, not a marmot and weird atmospheric effects

The bear is down there.

A snow crescent on the north face.

From the corn lily side spur

Corn lilies

Sometimes it's the grasses.

A floral spectacular

Avalanche lilies

Lupines

Keywords: flowers, high country, hurricane hill, trails, animals


07/13/10 - Klahane Ridge

It took us a bit of doing, but we managed to climb up the Switchback Trail to Klahane Ridge. We had been putting it off for all the usual reasons which generally come down to laziness and possibly cowardice. We hadn't really intended to get all the way up to the ridge. In fact, our goal was the junction with the trail to the lodge, around 630' above the parking lot. Somehow, we pushed on, climbing another 850' or so.

We were well rewarded. The snows have melted, save for a few patches by the side of the trail. The flowers are in serious bloom, and we even managed to catch a few avalanche lilies along with the usual glacier lilies, violets, phlox, indian paintbrush, cow parsnip, and a host of others. But, the big reward was at the ridge itself. No, there wasn't much of a view of Port Angeles. The bowl in the mountains was full of cloud, but right on the trail was a male mountain goat in a clearly mellow mood. He posed for the camera, munched on the foliage, gave himself a dust bath and sauntered on.

There was another reward waiting for us near our trailhead. All along the trail the air was full of phlox, a deep sweet scent, but there was a different scent, a familiar one. The bog orchids in the streams by the parking lot were coming into bloom. All told, it was a most rewarding hike.

P.S. Did we mention the views? Yes, there were spectacular views.


Our ascent into the clouds

The hanging gardens

The view from above

A surprisingly mellow mountain goat

Posing for the camera

He's so cute.

Another view

Violets

Phlox

This is a great year for larkspur.

Bog orchids

Keywords: flowers, klahane ridge, port angeles, animals


07/12/10 - Elwha Out Of Whiskey Bend

Whiskey Bend has been busy lately, so the winding one and a half lane road leading up there has been a bit more of a driving challenge. Still, we had to go, if only to see how the river was doing. Well, the river is doing just fine. The wild roses are out, as are the turk's cap lilies. The thistles though seem to be dying. If nothing else, they are kind of twisted. Our big treat was seeing two fawns. One was on the trail and scampered into the woods where we couldn't get a good photograph. The other was right on the road. We had to stop, so we took a few pictures while we shared the road.

The forest floor

The field near Hume's Ranch

The Elwha River

Wild roses

A dying thistle

Turk's cap lilies

Mother and baby

Keywords: elwha, flowers, summer, animals


05/06/10 - Elwha Adventure

Our big excitement was a bear we saw along the road to Whiskey Bend. The folks in the car ahead of ours got a better view, but this fellow, poorly photographed, was retreating into the woods as we passed by. It is just as well we were in the car. That's an awful lot of bear. (We'll use this as an excuse to post another couple of pictures from our hike.)

Terrible photo of a bear - or is it Sasquatch?

Mountain view

Yes, we post this shot too often, but it is an Elwha River classic.

Keywords: elwha, animals


07/12/09 - Obstruction Point 2 - Flowers and Animals

The trails leading from Obstruction Point have a lot to offer besides spectacular scenery. If you can take your eyes off the mountains for a moment, you'll notice that you are surrounded by dozens of different kinds of plants, and right now it seems that most of them are in bloom. There are lupines, asters, glacier lilies and paintbrush in red, orange and pink. If you are lucky, you might see one of the local golden marmots, or a blue sage grouse, a chipmunk or deer. So, don't let the drive daunt you. This may be your chance to see Obstruction Point at its most varied best.

These look like miniature lupines with silvery leaves.

Our friend, the marmot

Pink paintbrush

Lupines and friends

This reminds of the silverswords at Haleakala on Maui

More blooms

More paintbrush, but another shade

A young deer

A blue sage grouse taking a sand bath

Keywords: obstruction point, trails, high country, flowers, animals, marmots, grouse


06/24/09 - The Hall of the Mountain Goat

Our most recent journey up the Switchback Trail was more menacing than usual. True, the ridge was no higher than ever, and the trail no steeper. True, the light clouds portended no stormy disaster. It was only the hastily posted mountain goat warning stapled to the trailhead sign that gave us a clue as to what awaited us.

We had further warnings on our ascent. One hiker had turned back in defeat. Tales were told of a jogger who had been followed by the angry beast. Still, our experiences with mountain goats had generally been uneventful, save for the loud clicking and whirring of our digital camera. This time, however, was different.

We met the goat after climbing a full thousand feet. Mount Olympus now loomed over Sunrise Point. The goat was on the trail above us and proved to be a cool customer. He took note of us, nibbled some greens, then made his way down the trail towards us. Nimbly, he took the switchback. Viciously, he nibbled the vegetation. We tried moving forward, then forward again. The goat hissed in warning. We had gone too far.

The goat would not be moved. He, for the goat was a billy, would not let us pass. We retreated and contemplated our failure. Cabrito, we have savored, but this fellow was beyond our limited capacity. We started our retreat, but then fate intervened in the form of another pair of hikers, better adapted to the rigors of the trail than we. We pointed out our nemesis.

They took our intelligence calmly. "The slingshot," said the woman. "The slingshot," replied the man extracting said weapon from his backpack. Armed, our party advanced. He chose a few pebbles from the trail, each no larger than a quarter for the most part. His first shot fell short. The second connected. The goat stopped his nibbling and looked about. A second pebble followed. The goat moved on down the mountainside, abandoning the contested stretched of trail.

The goat had abandoned the trail proper, but was still close by, threatening. We advanced. We consolidated our victory with one or two pebbles more. The goat wanted no more of us, and sauntered a few yards farther from the trail. The way was clear! Our victory was the ridge itself, and the view had never been better for having been earned in adversity.


Our nemesis, almost

Ominously nibbling beside the trail

Vanquished

The view

North face and south face

The bonsai garden

Phlox - the scent of victory

A fuzzy picture of a marmot

The marmot in context

The hillside is in bloom.

Bog orchids are in bloom by the roadside. We had to follow our noses.

Keywords: klahane ridge, animals, marmots, flowers, mountain goats



03/03/09 - First Salamander of the Season

Salamander season has officially stared out at Lake Crescent. We stepped over this little fellow towards the east end of the Spruce Railroad Trail.

Keywords: lake crescent, spruce railroad, animals, salamander


10/29/08 - Here Too Are Salamanders

It pays to keep one's eyes on the ground, even on the Dungeness Dike Trail. While enjoying the fall foliage we found this little fellow, an Olympic torrent salamander.



Keywords: dungeness dike trail, animals, salamander


10/11/08 - Some of the Otters

There were some river otters swimming off the Morse Creek Trail today. This isn't a very good picture. They kept diving for fish, so it was hard to get a good shot.

There were five otters off the Morse Creek Trail today.

Keywords: morse creek, animals, otters


03/25/08 - Llamas By The Sea

You never know what you'll see when you are walking along the waterfront trail between downtown Port Angeles and Morse Creek. We happened across a pair of llama powered carts. The riders were from the Port Townsend area and out slumming in Port Angeles, at least according to the Peninsula Daily News.

Lllama power has its advantages, but we also met them on their return trip, and only one rider was riding. Apparently, llama carts can get flat tires, and one can only push a llama so far.


Keywords: animals, morse creek, port angeles


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