Thursday, February 1, 2007

Hurricane Ridge

This is a trip Linda and I took with Noah a couple years ago.

The day dawned with bright sunshine on the bay in front of Ana and Noah’s apartment. Across the water was Port Orchard and behind it, in the distance, Mt. Rainer was wearing the pink robe of the morning sun.
As Noah fixed coffee it was easy to see his excitement. “It’s going to be a great day up on Hurricane Ridge.” he grinned.
Linda and I had driven over to see their first apartment the week after Christmas, a time when no one can count on a sunny day.
The only disappointing part of the day was Ana had to work and couldn’t go with us. So after she caught the ferry to Seattle, we started the two-hour drive to Port Angeles, then up to our destination.
The Olympic Peninsula was saturated with green. Puget Sound rains had left all the trees damp, making the colors vibrant and almost shiny as we drove north past the Bangor Submarine Base.
Noah’s enthusiasm to show us someplace we had never seen was fun to watch.
Linda and I have driven around the Olympic Range and we had looked up at the snow-covered crown from the ferry in the middle of the Sound, but we have never been into the mountains. Hurricane Ridge is one of the few places you can drive to at the very edge of the wilderness.
As we drove, some clouds started to appear in the brilliant blue sky. We passed Sequim and commented about how it is often mispronounced. (If you have never been there, it has only one syllable.)
There was still a feeling of exhilaration in the car. Linda and I were going to a place we have always wanted to see and Noah was getting to show off one of his favorite playgrounds.
For a while the sky was blue with some gray, but as we wound around the peninsula it started to be gray with some blue. Noah watched the sky and I thought I saw a bit of disappointment in him as I took off my, now unneeded, sunglasses. I wanted to let him know that we could still have a good time with a low soggy ceiling. I spotted a local winery and said we would need to stop on our way back. It got a smile out of him.
By the time we were in Port Angeles the sky had fallen. The town was so socked in it was hard to see the end of the piers along the waterfront.
At one of the main intersections we took a left and were on the road to Hurricane Ridge. I was still quite excited about finally getting to see it, but as we started to climb the fog got thicker until we could hardly see the tops of the grand old trees along the way.
Noah was now voicing his disappointment in the day.
As I looked at the murkiness swirling around us, I remembered a similar drive Linda and I had taken a few years ago. It was my chance to show her the Ross Creek Cedars above Bull Lake in Montana. She had never been there. As we drove along the valley floor the clouds settled down upon us. I was looking forward to showing her the view of the mountains across the valley as we ascended out of the canyon toward the grove. But on that day we couldn’t see across the road, let alone across the valley. Just as we reached the last vista we would get, we came out above the fog. The mountains jutted out of the heavy vapor we had driven through and glistened in the bright sun shining out of a blue Montana sky. I wondered if the same might happen in the Olympic Range.
Noah was trying to be upbeat but, I sensed, was feeling the thickness of the weather we were in. Then, almost like driving through a wall, the atmosphere we had been in cleared. The only thing between us and miles of panorama was clear mountain air.
We pulled off the road at the first chance to see what we had come through. All around us were hills and ridges and below us the heavy fog we had been in was now a beautiful, white angora blanket. The blanket had tucked itself into all the valleys and what was left fluffed out across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We couldn’t see Victoria, BC to the north, hidden under the gauzy white, but on the horizon to the east was Mt. Baker in the Cascade Range.
The spruces, pines, hemlocks, cedars, firs and more each gave us their interpretation of green. The textures of those greens, everything from lacy boughs to long needles, gave every slope its own character. The vivid blue above was a contrast to the greens that surrounded us, and the soft white below.
The brightest thing I saw was Noah’s face. His passion for the day was back. I was as glad for him that the fog had stayed below, as I was to see this new place. I put my sunglasses back on again.
We drove on up the road. Winter in the Pacific Northwest was considerably warmer than usual that late December day. And, as one would expect, there was much less snow than normal. This became obvious as we passed snow removal equipment parked along the road, waiting to be used. The apparatus was really just a self-propelled snow blower, one that could chew through a ten foot snow drift and blow it hundreds of feet off the road into the gorge below. But, setting there in about four inches of snow, it looked like a severe case of overkill, kind of like showing up at a whistle-whittling contest with a broadsword and battle-axe.
The road ended at the edge of the wilderness area. It was a 17- mile drive and 5,500 feet of elevation from Port Angeles. Looking around we saw ridge stacked on ridge with glacier-bearing peaks scattered around just for accent.
We spent some time strolling through the woods, up and over to a thrilling view, and then another. We weren’t there long, maybe a couple of hours, just long enough for us to want to go back. Go back either with snowshoes or hiking boots and packs depending on the time of year. I could easily understand Noah’s love for the place.
Going back down we enjoyed the scenery from the opposite angle until we entered the thick murkiness we had driven out of on the way up. The sunglasses were once again stored over the visor.
We did stop at that winery and tasted some of their reds. My favorite was a Nouveau Syrah. We bought a couple of bottles and headed back to Ana and Noah’s charming first apartment over the bay.
We had just had an introduction to someplace we knew we would get to know much better.
Oh yes, Sequim, to the natives, is “Squim.”

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