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Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is unusual among our national parks because no roads cross the interior. The interior is extremely mountainous which deters road building and kept the area safe from logging before National Park status was granted. If the Park's interior had not been so impassable, the campaign to create the park might have failed--as powerful local logging interests would certainly have vigorously opposed its creation.
Because there are no roads through the Park, it is a pristine wilderness. That means that to see the best the Park has to offer, visitors need to be prepared to hike. The Olympic National Park wilderness is of such unique environmental interest and significance that itwas designated a World Heritage Site in 1981 by the United Nations.
Hurricane Ridge is the highest point accessible by car and the views are impressive from the parking lot at the Visitor's Center on the ridge. The ridge is high enough that on some days the rainy weather for which the Pacific Northwest is known is left behind on the ascent, and clear weather prevails at the top. On such a day, we made the drive which can get rather harrowing at times as the visibility sometimes drops to only a few feet in places. The scary drive to the top was well worth the challenge though: we were rewarded with amazing mountain and glacier vistas and clear skies at the top. We took the hike up Hurricane Hill which yields views even more striking than those available near the road.
One the best and most surprising aspects of the our time at Hurricane Ridge was how few people were there at the height of the tourist season. Several frequent visitors we met said it was unusually quiet for the 4th of July weekend. Some blamed the bad economy while others thought the fear of possible terrorist incidents timed to July 4th had kept people home. Whatever the reason, we were very glad to have uncrowded trails and no traffic jams.
Sunset from Hurricane Ridge
We were quite fortunate to catch a spectacular sunset from the ridge. The pictures on the right show the view across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
We stayed in the town of Port Angeles for several days which is situated at the bottom of the Hurricane Ridge road. Port Angeles sees many visitors due both to the national park and also to having the shortest ferry crossing to Victoria on Vancouver Island in Canada. Although in most parts of Washington State outside Seattle we struggled with what we came to dub Washington State's "hostile-tality" (as opposed to anything resembling any reasonable standard of true hospitality), our stay in Port Angeles was pleasant.