As heavy rains, strong winds and otherwise nasty conditions blasted the Pacific Northwest, the Quinault River ran high and wild, shifting its banks as it always has. In previous years, the river shifted course 14 miles upriver, threatening to wash away the Enchanted Valley Chalet. In late 2015, the river shifted further downstream, wiping out a huge section of the only road leading to Graves Creek Campground. The Graves Creek Road in Olympic National Park is now closed to ALL vehicle traffic and only accessible to hikers on foot. Anyone heading to this area needs to be cautious while working their way around the washed out section of the road.
After a record low snowpack during the winter of 2014-15, the Olympic Mountains have once again returned to their snowy splendor. The winter of 2015-16 is on record as being a normal year, but compared to the barren peaks of last year, normal seems quite impressive. Across the mountain tops and even down in the low valleys, the snow has not only fallen this year, but is sticking around. As of February 9th, the Olympic Mountains are sitting at 106% of normal snowpack around the four monitoring stations in the Olympic Mountains. The difference between this year and last year is staggering.
Olympic National Park is full of gorgeous scenery as far as the eye can see. Whether you are on the wilderness coast, along the lakes and rivers, up on ridges or deep in the rainforest, it is hard to not see beautiful nature all over. The scenery of the park inspires adventure and wanderlust, and something as simple as a picture can make you fall in love with Olympic. Starting in June of 2016, a new picture used for the annual pass for Olympic National Park will feature a stunning picture of the Queets Basin by Jake Morrison of Quinault, Washington. The image, shown below, was the winner of a Facebook contest sponsored by friend of the Park Discover Your Northwest. Picked from nearly 200 images, the picture of the Queets Basin is inspiring, beautiful and a fantastic representation of the diversity of landscapes in America’s 7th most-visited National Park.
I recently fell in love with Crater Lake, visiting it twice in three months. I spent the rest of the year trying to convince everyone I knew that they needed take a trip to Oregon’s only National Park. I would rant and rave about the stunning scenery, the incredible drive down Oregon from the Dalles to the park, and even tell them they had to get an amazing slice of pie at Beckie’s Cafe while they were down there. Crater Lake had me running around like a smitten adolescent. Even while there I yelled it from Crater Rim, overcome with glee and giddiness. After numerous days explore, I had thought I had seen the ancient volcano from every angle. One picture changed that.
Tucked away in the upper left corner of the contiguous United States, Olympic National Park is one of America’s most popular wilderness destinations. Best known for stunning coastlines, dense rainforests, salmon filled rivers and glaciated summits, the region has brought Nirvana to life twice and forever changed how we view wilderness in America’s public lands. Consistently ranked in the top 10 most-visted National Parks, Olympic has inspired generations to explore this mind-blowlingly stunning part of the world. In 2015 Olympic National Park continued to be one of most-visited Parks, drawing over three million visitors in the wild 12 months. During the year, Olympic saw everything from severe drought burning the rainforest to death in a hot springs. In 2015, Olympic had washouts, wind storms, a winter of no snow and a winter of amazing snow. The exact number of visits to Olympic National in 2015 was 3,262,719, according to park statistics obtained by The Outdoor Society.
For those who don’t already know, 2016 marks the 100th year of the National Park Service. To celebrate the anniversary of America’s Best idea, the National Park Service is offering 16 fee free entry days to our National Parks. While some will complain that our parks should always be free, we here at The Outdoor Society understand budgets and the problems of bureaucracy, and applaud the National Park Service for adding seven more free days than in 2015. The fee free days also extend to National Monuments, National Refuges, Forest Service land and more.
In a year where National Park’s around America saw record numbers of visitors, it should come as no surprise that Yellowstone had an amazing year. According to a press release, issued by YNP officials, 2015 saw 4,097,710 “visits” to Yellowstone National Park. This number is up an incredible up 16.6% from 2014, which was the previous record. While the park faced issues like idiots approaching bison for selfies, the year of 2015 should be remembered as the year even more people fell in love with the majesty and splendor of America’s first National Park. Yellowstone National Park was the third most-visited National Park in America for 2015.
Along the northern end of the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca, the faults are waking up. Mere months after The The New Yorker wrote an article saying residents in the greater Seattle area were doomed, the region has been rocked by thousands of earthquakes. From January 1st, 2016 through January 4th, 2016, there were 2,413 earthquakes in the Salish Sea region of the Pacific Northwest. Even more amazing is that since Christmas Day, nearly 8,000 small quakes have hit Vancouver Island, the Salish Sea and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
While the skiers and snowboarders are dancing on the slopes and the lowlands are covered with snow, most sane people are sit by the fire with a cold or warm beverage. How romantic, right?
As the snow continues to pile up after a well-deserved winter, the sane people relax while the “kinda off” people are scheming in front of laptops, looking for the perfect way to be exhausted. Known as trail runners, the non-sane people are already deep in their adventure planning process for the upcoming years. They are looking at race routes, finding new trail run, and training for something greater than the present can offer. They are twisting to push their body and to be rewarded with amazing views and moments of clarity in the wilderness. Long story short, many of us are looking forward to a year of incredible trail running adventures.
Crater Lake National Park had a really tough winter in 2014-15.
In February, the Outdoor Society took our inaugural expedition to the region and were shocked at the little amount of snowfall. Usually, by February Crater Lake should see nearly 300 inches of snowfall. In February of 2015, it had nearly 100 inches. It was a pathetic snow year in the Pacific Northwest, and Crater Lake took a serious winter hit. Luckily, 2015 ended on a ridiculously high note for Oregon’s only National Park. In the 31 days to end the year, Crater Lake received nearly 200 inches, nearly double of the entire winter of 2014-15.
Chances are, you visited one of the 59 National Parks that are scattered around the country. America’s National Park’s have never been more popular, with 2015 seeing 300 million visitors to National Park Service lands. Around the country, numerous parks shattered visitation records and gave wilderness experiences to many who had previously not seen the most-beautiful protected lands in America. From the geysers at Yellowstone to the rainforests of Olympic, and everywhere else sea to shining sea, America’s National Parks had an amazing year.
While 2016 is probably going to shatter every record in every National Park due to the 100 year anniversary of the Park Service, #FindyourPark, 2015 should not be overlooked. Despite congress constantly trying to underfund and take away these public lands, Americans came out in droves to see the best wilderness and nature in all of existence. While the official numbers for recreational visitation won’t be released until mid-January of 2016, The Outdoor Society is proud to present the ten most-visited National Parks for 2015.
Most days, Instagram looks like the wild west of Leave No Trace Principles and proper stewardship rules in the wilderness. On nature pages across the app, scenes of rule breaking are shared and loved. Remote areas in the wilderness become shutterbug shrines, luring scores of outdoor enthusiasts. Birds are fed, signs are ignored and laws are broken. Typically, nothing happens to the photographer and/or the company.
Unless you are REI and got lectured publicly by Mount Rainier National Park.
As the year winds down, so do the number of individuals who head outdoors to Olympic National Park. What started as an endless onslaught of wilderness lovers flooding Washington State’s most popular National Park has slowly turned into a trickle. In November of 2015, when large retailers like REI encouraged everyone to #OptOutside, Olympic saw a 37.8% increase in visitation, with 104,297 people exploring and reconnecting with the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. For the year, Olympic National Park has seen over three million people for the third consecutive year and the 17th time in the Park’s 77 history.
After what has felt like a decade’s worth of bad weather hitting us over the past seven days, the effects of the storms are continuing to wreak havoc on travel plans around Washington State and in our National Parks. Across the state, numerous roads are closed, with many more damaged and/or flooded. Rivers are flooding and spilling their banks, while waterfalls blast down like huge firehoses; the weather here has made the power of nature quite impressive. Sadly, while this weekend will be the ideal time to explore the wilderness of the region, sections of the most-popular National Park in the Pacific Northwest will be closed.
Things are looking up for the wolves of Yellowstone National Park!
Despite a handful of local ranchers poaching wolves that they view as dangerous to their way of life, the wolf population is thriving since they were nearly eradicated in the early 1900s until the 1990s. While once extremely rare to see, wolves have returned in full force to Yellowstone, helping boost tourism and awareness of threatened and endangered species for the 4+million visitors to the region each year. In a new study released by Yellowstone scientists, one of the largest numbers of wolves in modern history is currently roaming the hills, prairies and forests of America’s oldest National Park.
For the third straight month, Washington State’s most-visited National Park has seen a decrease in popularity. Despite the drop in visitation through October of 2015, for the year Olympic National Park did break the three million visitor mark for the third consecutive year and the 17th time in park history. While Olympic is a still too far from breaking their all-time record of 3,846,709 set in 1997, 2015 will go down as a slightly above average year popularity.
Understatement Alert: “It has been a wet November here in the Pacific Northwest.”
After last week’s storms, Western Washington is officially out of a drought, snow has returned to the mountains and the Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest has finally been extinguished. While winds brought down trees and knocked power out to thousands, downpours flooded river, washed away roads and even caused landslides all across Washington State. For most locals, November marked a return to normal. The cloudy days, the endless rain and the muddy trails all made us feel at home, once again comfortable being webbed-footed residents of the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, the rain and wind also caused serious damage to access points around Olympic National Park and Peninsula.
“It started on a dark and stormy night… and it ended on a darker and stormier night.”
It seems like this should have happened earlier, but the fire in the Queets River Valley of Olympic National Park has finally been extinguished. After nearly two feet of rain fell in the rainforests of Olympic National Park in just under 10 days, the Paradise Fire has ceased to be.
In late May of 2015, a rare thunderstorm moved above the Queets Rainforest. Sometime in the night, a flash of lighting jolted down, striking the forest floor below. Slowly smoldering the lightning strike say in one of the more desolate locales in Olympic National Park, slowly burning a log it had struck. For over a week, the small fire lay undetected before flaring up and becoming a real forest fire. The fire, known as the Paradise Fire, was spotted by plane during a flight on June 15th, 2015, by Olympic National Forest staff and reported to officials and first reported by Douglas Scott of The Outdoor Society. For over 170 days, the Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest of Olympic National Park burnt, before finally becoming fully extinguished in late November. The fire burnt over four miles of pristine and remote rainforest, and is the largest fire in Olympic National Park history.