24 Apr Hurricane Ridge
The snowcapped Olympic Range can be observed towering into the clouds in almost any place in western Washington along the I5 corridor. The western half of the range is dominated by the highest peak in the park, Mount Olympus, which rises 7,965 feet. Due to heavy winter snowfalls and despite its modest elevation and relatively low latitude Mount Olympus supports large glaciers. These glaciers include Blue, Hoh, Humes, Jeffers, Hubert, Black Glacier, and White, the longest of which is the Hoh Glacier at 3.06 miles.
This was a day trip that I was looking forward to for a long time. I am in love with mountains. My first trip out west was to Colorado back in the day before the tunnel was built when Loveland Pass was the only way to get over the Continental Divide. That pass tops out at 11,990 feet and if it’s your first introduction to what real mountains are all about you will never forget the experience. Loveland is a mosaic of treacherous hairpin turns winding their way up and up, switchback after switchback to the summit where you are in a place that feels different than the rest of the world. You climb out of your vehicle and the the view just kind of leaves you speechless and fills you up with something, happiness. But you are also seeing a different world than the one you grew up in, a priceless world without the mark of man on it. I cherish these places that still feel wild and untouched. As you look out over the surrounding mountains, it’s easy to make the connection between what ancient means juxtaposed against our own very short existence and that gives one much to reflect on. Why are our lives so short? Are they?
Hurricane Ridge, that name conjured up all kinds of imagery for me, mostly anticipation of finding another special place that retains its wildness and offers a view of the world I have never witnessed before. Hurricane Ridge Road rises from the strait of Jan de Fuca and Port Angeles to 5,242 feet at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Amazingly this road is open year round, though in the winter just Friday through Sunday. It starts in the coastal plain and quickly climbs and winds its way up through several temperate zones and changing landscapes. The average annual snowfall is 400-plus inches a year. Breathtaking views are around every corner filling a person with anticipation for what will be revealed next. Nature does that for me. Shows you something extraordinary that you have never seen before or even imagined.
When you reach the end of the road some seventeen miles from Port Angeles you are greeted by the most amazing view. The Olympics stretch out to the horizon to the south, mountain peak after snow-covered mountain peak. And down below those peaks heavily forested virgin valleys rise up to meet them. This is a place that feels untouched, but could also be where heaven begins. It’s a vast panorama that fills your vision – ancient, yet still vital. Looking out at this range, I guess what makes me happiest is that it still exists and that I have had the chance to experience it.
This is a place I will return to, more than once. There certainly is a sense of power here that pours from earth to sky, and there is some message as well that asks to be uncovered.