Inspired by the Olympics: Falling in Love with Wilderness in America’s National Parks

I’ve been told my writing is grandiose. I have gotten emails saying it is overambitious hyperbole. They claim I describe every mountain in the Olympic Mountain Range to be more beautiful and remote than Mount Everest, and that each mile of coast is the most perfect stretch of beach in America. They say that Olympic National Park can’t possibly be as amazing and breathtaking as I constantly write.

Those people haven’t been to Olympic National Park.

Upper Royal Basin, Olympic National Park
Upper Royal Basin, Olympic National Park
Glady's Divide, Olympic National Park
Glady’s Divide, Olympic National Park
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

I admit it, I do tend to get a little carried away when describing the National Park in my backyard. I agree, sometimes I am over the top. But for me, everything I have ever wanted in wilderness is right on the Peninsula, waiting to be explored. I listen as people describe their National Park’s back east, and find myself drifting away, back into real mountains and real rainforests next to real wild coastlines. When they tell me how great and historic their regions are, and how pretty their waterfalls are, my mind flashes to Enchanted Valley in the spring, as avalanches and waterfalls tumble down into a bear filled valley. Your park is gorgeous, but Olympic is wild.

Olympic is wild, but not in that “Holy Sh!t!, I am backpacking through Alaska solo” sort of way. Olympic is wild in that, “You mean I can hike to a waterfall that only a handful of people have stood at the base of?” kind of park. Olympic has remote sections, nearly untouched by humans. Olympic also has incredible lodges, and popular tourist destinations, making it perfect for everyone. That aspect is what let me explore Olympic National Park at my own pace, and to fall in love with wilderness.

When I started hiking as an adult, it wasn’t to get into shape, or to have something to brag about. Instead, it was a place for quiet reflection, meditation, and a realignment of my soul. Hiking in the Olympics helped bring a calmness and an understanding I never knew I had in me, and I feared it was making me a hippy. For an entire summer, I did nothing but hug trees.

No. For an entire summer, I hiked a new trail every day off. Every weekend, finding a new previously unknown to me destination in Olympic National Park made me feel more alive. During the week at work, I found myself staring out the window, longing to be back on a trail, balancing on a peak, or walking near elk along a river. I had become quite fond of the Olympics, and the relationship only got stronger.

Honestly, talking about the Olympics has become part of my personality. In nearly every conversation, I catch myself bring up ridiculous facts, figures or about the park or the wilderness that somehow relate to their topic.  All I do is read about the area and then hike the region. Week in, week out. I don’t do it for a big paycheck, I don’t do it for gear or fame. I do it for me and my sanity. I do it because I need time in nature to be healthy.

The thing about Olympic National Park is it has something for every mood, and every type of weather. Rain, snow, sleet, wind, sun, fog, and mist, I can find a trail that will rekindle my sense of awe and adventure in wilderness. Every hike I can find a view that leaves me speechless. Each day in Olympic, I can find absolute natural perfection, and that is what I love.

Olympic has been here for me my whole life, but the majority of you have yet to truly delve into everything Olympic has to offer. Make a pledge and visit this part as often as you can over the next year. Find a new destination each day, or return to see the seasons in your favorite spot.

Be inspired, explore Olympic National Park.

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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