July 17, 2006

Surf and Turf

Saturday through Tuesday we tooled around the Olympic Penninsula looking for hiking trails, wildlife, tide pools and wine. Found all of it.

We camped at the Salt Creek Recreation Area County Park on a bluff right above the tide pools of Tongue Point. In the mornings we mucked about the tide pools. In the afternoons we hiked in the woods. At night we huddled around the fire to capture the heat. The bluffs are a chilly place to camp.

The first morning we got up to discover that the blustery bluff was a thing of the night. Mornings were always calm and temperate. This giant bald eagle sat in this far off tree for a very long time. It was huge. We were to see more bald eagles around this tree and others when we hit the tide pools. They hung out in a group of trees on the beach and a few people told us that a nest was definitely in a tree up on the bluff.

In the afternoons we explored three different areas on foot. The ride up to Hurrican Ridge takes about 45 minutes so we never invested the time to go up there. Besides, part of the reason to go up is the view. Well, with the exception of the first day there (which wasn't a hiking day at all), the mountains weren't visible. If I look up and don't see the Olympics, there won't be much of a view looking down from the ridge. We've been there in the past so at least we know what it's like at the top.

We bought a new National Parks Pass at the Olympic Pennisula Visitor Center. We had our lunch in the shade as we discussed our trail options.

Heart o' The Hills Forest Trail began in the Heart o' The Hills Campground. The place was practically deserted. It was Monday, after all. We liked the way the campground was laid out and would like to camp there in the future. No showers but we can be dirty for a couple of days. The trailhead sign indicated it was 2 miles to the trail's end. Well, that never happened. The trails doesn't end and there is no indication that you have gone to the "end" of anything. We timed ourselves and walked 1.25 hours out then turned around. That's more than 2 miles one way. At the turning point, J had gone ahead to see what the trail would do. When she began to head back in the direction we came but on the opposite side of a creek we crossed, she figured we were done with this trail. It was a nice way to get the blood pumping but it wasn't terribly exciting visually. And there was little wildlife to be seen or heard besides this moth.

However, on the other two trails we explored we did meet a young male deer up close and personal. At one point we were just a few feet apart. I was waiting for my photo op when something startled him and he made a charge at me. But the second he realized I was there, in his way, he stopped cold. We stared at each other, both of our hearts beating like mad. I was sure he was going to trample me. Deer can be dangerous, especially when frightened. I hadn't frightened him, I was literally just standing there watching him. It's a rush I won't soon forget and don't wish to repeat. I got a good shot of his butt but the shots I took of him after the startling were blurry. Was it from my shaking hands or his shaking head?

We also spotted what appeared to be a ptarmigan or grouse and her little ones.

Since 1989 Tongue Point has been a county marine sanctuary. Sea life is everywhere. At high tide you would barely realize anything existed beyond the bluff. But once that tide rolls out it's a whole new world. We specifically picked July 9, 10, and 11 for the negative low tides. This gave us a chance to explore Zone V for the first time. Tongue Point is the easternmost Pacific Coast-style tide pool in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This means that you get to see coastal tide-pool life even though you are near the eastern end of the Strait, just around the bend of Puget Sound. As a result, we got to see for the first time the following: Pacific Blood Star, sea cucumber, red sea urchin, tons of purple urchins, green sea urchin (which is more of a striped appearance, not solid green like the red and purple are solid plus the color that was apparent wasn't green), sea cucumbers (the ones we saw were bright orange),

For much of the area, you can comfortably walk on top of a carpet of mussels and various types of claims. They attach themselves to the rocks with iron-rich byssal threads. These threads incredibly strong and elastic. They "can stretch out to 160% of their length while still retaining 5 times the strength of our Achille’s tendon."

Then again, the tide pools can be slippery. Before Sunday, I had never fallen at a tide pool. However, the spill I took will not soon be forgotten and I'm contemplating a full suit of Carharts for my next tide pool adventure. You can see some of the wounds suffered here. Bruises too. I went down fast and hard but made not one peep. There were people nearby and they had kids with them. So I decided not to cry or swear but I almost fainted from the pain. Deep breathing, deep breathing, deep breathing and mentally escaping to a far-off place with dry sticky surfaces for walking.

The injuries didn’t stop me from hiking that afternoon and the following two days but the next morning at the tide pools I has a trekking pole with me and I moved like someone’s grandmother. The memory of the fall was was still fresh. At one point, to reach a place J claimed held the elusive Pacific octopus (it didn’t) I just sat my ass down on the floor of mussels and gently scooted my way down the side of this trench. Sure, I was wet and it looked as if I shat myself, but I wasn’t bruised or bleeding. I don’t mind at all getting filthy to have fun but I don’t like getting hurt.

No comments:

Post a Comment