Sunday, September 8, 2013

Enchanted? Indeed.

                  Enchantment healed his weary feet
                  That over hills were doomed to roam;
                               - J.R.R. Tolkien,  The Lord of the Rings

So I wasn't exactly "doomed to roam" in the Enchanted Valley of Olympic National Park this weekend, but my feet were definitely feeling the 27 mile round trip distance.  Enchanted is a glacially carved valley on the windward side of the Olympic Mountain Range that gets feet worth of rain each year, forming a unique temperate rain forest.  At the top of the valley, the trees thin out to open meadows below towering cliffs and the formidable Anderson Pass, Glacier, and Peak.

The hike up was a gentle, but long trail through towering cedar, hemlock, and fir trees, thinning out in places to gnarled, moss-covered maples and alders.  Ferns, lichen, and grass carpet the forest floor.  The top of the valley is home to the world's largest Western Hemlock, and down at the bottom is the world's largest Sitka Spruce.  Must be something in the water. :-)

Referencing the Tolkien quote above, if there is any place that resembles the LOTR Middle-Earth (besides New Zealand), it would have to be the Olympic Peninsula.  The ancient trees, mist-covered peaks, and mossy groves had me looking for Hobbit footprints.

Thinking about it, the two hippy-chicks to whom I gave a ride from the ranger station to the trailhead may have been hobbit-folk;
They were quite short, and actually started hiking the trail barefoot.
They were also pretty hairy, so maybe they were dwarves.
They definitely didn't smell good enough to be elves.

 I didn't see any giant spiders, but plenty of small ones, like this one I watched spinning her morning web.

Although walking through spider webs across the trail has a certain "ick-factor", it also means I'm the first one on the trail, and in this case, the only one that day who made it up to the valley.  The solitude was sweet.

At the top of the valley stands a chalet that was built in the 30's.  The details are below, but today it stands as a ranger station during the busy season.  This evening is was just me and the ranger - a former Army pilot and all-around cool guy.  I had a good chat with him and then wandered around after dinner.

The next morning, I snapped some pictures of the valley that had emerged from the previous evening's mist and then hit the trail.  

 Unfortunately, I didn't see any of the resident black bears, who had moved up to the passes is search of late-season berries, but I did see plenty of elk.  It's the beginning of the rut, so there was a little bugling and tree scraping going on - and the strong smell of bull musk marked at trail crossings.  These massive Roosevelt Elk, native to the peninsula, are protected within the National Park and so grow HUGE.  They were impressive to watch.

All in all, it was a nice trip, and another spectacular location checked off my Pacific Northwest bucket list.

No comments:

Post a Comment