In Olympic National Park, bridges serve many functions. They obviously help us cross rivers, keep out feet dry and get us from Point A to Point B, but they also do so much more. They act as gateways; serving as portals to wilderness and adventure over deep ravines and stunning box canyons. The bridges of Olympic National Park are as unique as the destinations they lead to, each with as much personality and beauty as the rivers themselves. Those of us who hike here often have our favorites and we all keep striving to find more and more of them, hoping to further being inspired to hike further and reach deeper into America’s favorite wilderness. For beginners and those visiting Olympic, the bridges act as catalysts, encouraging longer hikes and a deeper connection with the nature of the area.
Closed during the snowy, winter months, the Sol Duc region of Olympic reopens during the spring months, allowing the masses to rediscover the beauty found along this majestic river. On March 23rd, 2019, Sol Duc Hot Springs Road reopened to vehicles, giving every access to this incredible region. While many trails still have snow, you can once again hike the falls and explore this pretty corner of Olympic National Park.
Some summits don’t need to be extreme to be breathtaking. While many of the world’s most stunning peaks stand alone, easily reaching heights of well over 12,000 feet above sea level, the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula are comparatively low-key and mellow. One of the classic mountains to climb, offering unrivaled views of the Puget Sound, Salish Sea and the Olympic Interior is the ever-popular, always beautiful, Mount Townsend.
Often, visitors who explore our National Parks and other public lands are hurried and rushed. The sheer size and scale of the gorgeous stretches of wilderness are too much to see in a day, weekend or even a week. That is why, whenever I have an extra afternoon, I try to find a peak to summit or a trail that leads to a lesser known viewpoint. One of those places in Olympic National Park and Forest is the rugged, wild and wonderful summit of Colonel Bob peak, high above the Quinault Rainforest.
There are places on America’s public lands that are often overlooked, skipped over for the more popular and well-known destinations. Each year, as millions explore the must-see spots around our National Parks, a handful of adventurers find themselves satiating their wanderlust on trails that are off the beaten path. For me, one of those favorite, underrated regions is the Bogachiel Rainforest region of the Olympic Peninsula. Here, where dense forests meet stunning river scenes, the wildness of the Olympics is impossible to ignore. While many overlooked areas are far from cities or roads, the Bogachiel is right off of Highway 101 by Forks, making it a perfect “secret” spot to explore for all who pass through the region.
The first hint of warm weather after the rainy season is enough to drive someone mad with glee. After a long winter, full of wind and rain and what always feels like an oppressing gray cloud both in the sky and in the mind, the first sunny day of spring stirs up long lost emotions. Maybe it is the first hit of Vitamin D, or maybe it is the anticipation of what is to come, but that first sunny day after a long winter has me grinning from ear to ear.
I have said it before and know I will say it again- America’s Public Lands are multi-sensory experiences.
As our eyes gaze out into the wilderness, our noses smell the scents of the terrain, while our mouths taste the pure, clean air. We wander through trails, touching the ground with our feet and occasionally reaching out to feel the bark of an ancient tree. While all of these are amazing experiences, the sounds found on our public lands are the things that I feel are most underrated and under-appreciated.
The majority of visitors to National Parks enter it the same way. Passing through a guard station, we pay our entry fee or show our America the Beautiful Pass and then drive into the beautiful landscapes that rekindle our wanderlust. In Yellowstone, you can drive under the Roosevelt Arch when entering from the north entrance, while other parks, like Mount Rainier, have their own memorable signage. While I love entering parks in the car, there is something incredible about entering into a park by foot, especially on a trail that is often overlooked. In my backyard of the Olympic Peninsula, there are dozens of entry points like this into Olympic National Park. Wild, rugged and removed from the masses, they the perfect entry point for those seeking true wilderness.
We hike in wilderness to experience the most pure form of nature, hoping untouched lands still exist. We search for the wildest square miles on the continent, longing to get away from the metropolitans and pavement that brings stress and worry. When we find it, we become addicted, jonesing for the next fix of pure oxygen. We explore rugged ridges, wild coastlines and forests that feel like they are as old as human civilization. We return to a timeless wonderland for a day or a week, reconnecting with the history of Earth with each step. In wilderness, we never expect to see signs of civilization.
I was somewhere near Roaring Winds when the wanderlust began to set in. I remember mumbling something like “this place is flippin fantastic,” but not loud enough for anyone to hear. As a sea of ridges and snowcapped peaks rippled with the faintest wisps of smoke as far as the eye could see, I knew that this would be an adventure that would stick with me for a long time. As my eyes darted out toward Mount Olympus, and then back to the Salish Sea, I sat next to an old wooden sign, slightly askew, like me.