Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The American Himalayas



       The Himalayas are shrouded with a mystique as being the gateway to Shangri-La and the roof top of the world. Diverse plant life, wildlife and natural features bring millions of tourists to Kathmandu to experience the Himalayas, and everyone wants to experience the raw and awesome power of nature that they can offer. While the Himalayas are beautiful, awe-inspiring and breath-taking, one can find a place in America that is almost as diverse and able to serve as a place for a spiritual journey to connect with nature.  While the Himalayas may be the ultimate bucket list destination, the Olympic Mountains can offer you one thing that the Himalayas are getting less likely to give you: solitude.
                Nestled in the northern most point in the continental United States, Tucked away deep within a National Park, the Olympic range juts out from the rainforest canopy, towering above everything else on the Olympic Peninsula. While it is just a few hours’ drive or ferry ride from an urban population of well over a million people, few of the masses take the time or have the passion for exploration which will take them deep in the Olympic Mountains. With hundreds of peaks about 5000ft and over 89 peaks over 6500ft (with over a 400ft of cleared prominence) climbers have a wide variety of skills sets to master in order to experience them all. Like the Himalayas, the Olympic Mountains offer little as far as infrastructure inside the area, with much trekking done up old animal trails and through weather beaten landslide and avalanche prone areas. In both the Olympic Mountains and the Himalayas, weather can change quickly and it can be weeks before you can be warm or dry. Also, bugs, flooding and natural disasters can all ruin what would normally be a good trip. While the Himalayas are world renowned, the Olympic Mountains serve as a miniature version of them, allowing for exploration, isolation and developing a deeper connection to nature while you are at either place.

                To best appreciate the vastness of the Olympic Mountains, one needs to journey to the Kathmandu of the Olympic Peninsula.  The city which serves as a gateway is Port Angeles, Washington. Port Angeles is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a few hours ferry ride from Victoria British Columbia, Canada. With almost 20,000 people (according to the 2010 US Census), this small town acts as a Port of Entry to the United States,  to the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. Port Angeles was also established as the headquarters for the Olympic National Park, which was created in 1938. While the city itself has a few rolling hills, few parts of the town lay above a few hundred feet above sea level. Yet, following a 17 mile road to the south, you climb to over 5000ft to the Hurricane Ridge area. Random side note: Port Angeles is the birthplace of Quarterback John Elway.  

                                                              Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge stands at over 5000ft, (600ft higher than Kathmandu!) but is located just mere miles from sea level, showing the sheer power that was needed to create such a rugged terrain. Huge sweeping valleys dive deep along gorges of old growth forests, only to jut back up into the heavens with yet another ridge of mountain peaks. With a new, state of the art lodge, miles of trails, as well as a small ski/snowboard run(open in the winter only), Hurricane Ridge offers the entire family a great wealth of activities to do. Besides the day activities that one can do at Hurricane Ridge, it is also a great place to stand and stare at the impressive vista of the interior of the Olympic National Park. From the lodge, one can see miles in every direction, laying their eyes on peaks that otherwise may be hidden from view from everywhere else on the Olympic Peninsula. Hurricane Ridge allows the imagination to take over, giving the viewer the full force and greatness of nature.

Hurricane ridge provides tourists with a vantage point to see what lies deep within the temperate rainforest. With views of Mt. Olympus, and numerous other peaks, Hurricane Ridge is the place to go to be inspired to explore the green, alpine jungles of the Pacific Northwest. With miles of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails (some well-groomed with the VW Bus you see above) in the winter, to summertime ridgeline trails with sweeping vistas, blooming wildflowers and an abundance of wildlife, the Hurricane Ridge area in the Olympic National Park is the rooftop to the Pacific Northwest.

For tours of the Olympic Peninsula and Hurricane Ridge, call Exotic Hikes at (360) 350-8938 or follow us on twitter @exotichikes. Until then, see you on the trails!
Douglas Scott
Exotic Hikes

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