We just got back from another banner trip to Olympic National Park. We left Seattle in grey, but otherwise non-rainy weather. The eastern Olympic skyline was visible from the ferry, but clouds were beginning to form on the higher peaks as a south wind whipped up the Sound.
Somehow we managed to get aboard the “training” ferry, and my ferry-board lecture kept hilariously being interrupted by the chief steward running a shipwreck training drill on the loud speaker. It was as if he was secretly watching me and interrupting me every time I opened my mouth. He even sent a new crew member over to our group to instruct us on the use of life jackets right as I was finally getting into my lesson.
On the ferry, Sunday night. Sadly, two of our 9 vans got shunted onto the next ferry at the last minute, so this is not our entire group!
We made our first stop at the Jamestown S’Klallam reservation to ponder native American relationships to natural history, and the connection of native languages to natural history knowledge. We then continued westward through the rain shadow of the Olympics, then further west and upward into more and more rainy weather. Our next stop was at the overlook for the lower of the two Elwha reservoirs. The Elwha River restoration in full swing, and red alders are actively colonizing (in some cases with a little hand from the restoration ecologists who want to prevent invasives like Scotch Broom from taking over) the deep sediments that were deposited behind the dam. Additionally, it has been amazing to see the oldgrowth stumps, a legacy of the original forest, emerging from the mud. Soon scientists will be able to document the return of salmon and the effects of marine derived nutrients in the upper reaches of the river.
Elwha overlook. Alders are colonizing the sediments that built up in the reservoir over 100 years, behind the lower of the two Elwha dams.
On the shores of Lake Crescent, the cold rain really set in. At 90 inches of precipitation a year, Lake Crescent gets more than double the annual rainfall of Seattle, but is not quite a true rainforest. Just over the ridge in the slightly rainier Sol Duc drainage, one can find Sitka spruce and Selaginella growing in abundance. Nevertheless, the forests of Barnes Point may as well have been rainforests on this day, and the oldest trees there are as big and impressive as anywhere. Especially interesting is the hike up the west facing slopes of Storm King Mountain, where one finds many species that are adapted to drier micro-climates.
Before proceeding with some shots from my hike up Mount Storm King, I should also thank NatureBridge for hosting us again. We were especially thankful to be able to warm up and dry out at the end of the day by the wood stove with hot chocolate in their cozy historic lodge. This lodge is also where FDR ate breakfast on his famous tour of the Olympic Peninsula in the 1930s prior to designating the national park. It is a perfect location for our evening lecture on early naturalist/explorers of the Puget Sound Region.
Here are some pictures from our exploration of Barnes Point and Mount Storm King.
Calypso bulbosa in second growth Douglas fir forest on Barnes Point before the hike up Storm King.
The rain drip pattern on the underside of a madrone.
Manzanita, a species much more common in the California chaparral. Amazingly a subalpine fir grows right here too, at about 1800 ft elevation. One individual seed made its way down this rocky ridge and germinated far below the subalpine zone! Also amazing is Pacifc yew, growing in some of the driest and most exposed areas of the ridge. Clearly not solely a valley bottom species!
More twisted manzanita.
Fritillaria affinis, or checker lily, growing on a mossy cliff.
Trillium ovatum in a moist valley site. Note the moisture on my camera lens! Nice effect. All of us noted how much further behind Lake Crescent was phenologically compared to Seattle. Trillium ovatum dropped its petals in Seattle at least 3 weeks before this picture was taken at 900 ft. in Olympic National Park.
The elusive rainbow star! Amazing find in deeper sections on the edge of Tongue Point.
Sunday brought better weather and our annual excursion out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca for a minus tide at Salt Creek. The tidepools did not disappoint. Nor did the Sitka spruce trees in the coastal fog belt, as well as Fritillaria along the bluffs, and amazing seabird diversity for our bird buffs (marbled murrelet, common loon, pacific loon, harlequin ducks, pelagic cormorants, surf scoters, white-winged scoters, 1 surfbird, 1 dunlin,1 oyster catcher, and much more). Tongue Point is also amazing for geology buffs. The hard basalt, part of the Olympic basalt, resisted erosion, and juts out into the Strait. It is littered with erratic boulders from the massive Juan de Fuca ice lobe that flowed out the strait only 16000 years ago. A smaller lobe of the same ice sheet pushed its way into the Lake Crescent valley during the same period.
Here are some of our other finds and some shots of naturalists in action:
The amazing kelp copepod! Quite the camouflage.
Allie with a small nudibranch. Good find!
A giant sun star next to a timeless green anemone. We also saw the striped anemone this year in a deeper tidepool.
The modern “i-naturalist” at work
Cassie making observations and notes for her journal.
Blood stars are common in the eel grass higher up on Tongue Point.