October 24, 2017
At 8:30 in the morning it was too early for the sun to reach across Olympic Mountain and into these dense forests, but it was just peeking through the trees in those cool, smoky beams of light. It’s a short hike to Sol Duc Falls, but the rain forest is beautiful. My pictures are inadequate for this beautiful spot. It is small, but a long, cascading decent over lush, green logs and rocks, moss and fern. Silently we walked up along the side of the stream and every stop was beautiful. On the way back we passed a serious photographer with his backpack and tripod. Surely he would get the right light, and it would be even more spectacular.
Yesterday we saw two salmon come into the tiny, shallow pool beside our campsite. Driving back into camp Martha said to stop by a pool a couple of sites down from us. Two ladies were gazing over the edge of the creek as we walked down. They said, “Come look. salmon are swimming into the pool”. Sure enough a salmon splashed its way up a shallow riffle, around a log and into the shallow pool. We watched a few more come in. The ladies then told us we MUST go to The Cascades down the road where the salmon are jumping through them. One said, “It’s National Geographic moment. You are going to love it”. I couldn’t wait! I have been looking for this the entire trip. We thanked them for showing us the fish and directing us to the falls
We hooked up the trailer and headed just 5 miles down the road. Lots of cars were there, but we found a place to park the truck and trailer. Crossing the street with two cameras in hand, we could see the falls. Martha yelled, “Look at them! One, two three all at once”. I was looking at the stream near me and saw nothing. She was looking 150 yards ahead at the falls. We hurried along the wet, slippery trail to the falls finding a spot to see. Sure enough salmon continuously launched themselves into the falls, and then I think were washed back down. Big ones, small ones, all leapt into the rushing waters. Two little pools along the side held many fish in the only resting places. You couldn’t see any at the top of the falls, but we know some got up, because they were in our campground.
Two photographers were in a great spot shooting away. The woman was sitting and was really focused on the fish. I was looking at the man’s hat that said something about fly fishing when he pointed to my hat from Misty Mountain Fly Shop. We struck up a conversation about the salmon running, and that these were wild Coho salmon that start their run in July and August. They can make 20 or 30 miles a day. Fishing has been banned this year as there weren’t so many running because of warm El Nino waters. He talked about the hatcheries that clip the adipose fin to distinguish them from wild salmon. All of these had adipose fins, which is a rare thing today, but happens a lot on this river. His accent didn’t sound local, and I asked where he was from – New Hampshire. He loves to fish and he loves this area. He and his wife shoot pictures for the park, but they donate them. They had just returned from Alaska shooting polar bears. That too was something they do for free. Always looking for a way I might pick up a buck or two in my travels, I asked point blank, “How do you make a living”? They own a family golf course in New Hampshire, which his brothers manage.
Then he mentioned something about artwork. Their names are Ken and Mary Campbell, and they do wood carvings and nature photography. He has a wildlife degree, his first job being as a marine biologist. We were getting an education on summer-run salmon, winter-run salmon and steelhead. He said you have to be tough for the winter steelhead run in February, but it’s something. He likes to fish the ocean and lakes. The locals say it isn’t like it used to be, but what is? You can catch a lot of big fish in the lakes. “If you come back, call me. I’ll take you fishing”. Sheez, what a nice and knowledgeable guy. He said if you like spring and fall, you will like it here. They don’t get much snow. Yes, it’s gray and rainy for five months, but you adapt. He heard there was a bobcat at these falls last week, but it hasn’t been spotted this week. Surely it would like a nice salmon meal. Now that the fish are getting to the campground, the bobcat probably has easier fishing spots. I could talk with Ken all day, but we had to get down the road. We exchanged cards. It would be great to come back and go fishing with him.
We didn’t have far to go to Mora Campground on the coastal part of Olympic National Park. This is unusual for Martha, Usually a 4-night planner, we were now on the 1-night schedule, but it’s working great. There was no one in Mora, so we could pick our spot. Then we went to James Pond, which is a marsh caused by beavers. We couldn’t find the trailhead, but a gentleman getting out of his car pointed us in the right direction. It’s a pretty spot where a fallen tree provides a walkway into the marsh. Perfect mirror reflections showed trees in better color than when looking directly at them. The gentleman and his lady came out onto the log, and we chatted a few minutes. He has lived here for 40 years and gave us tips on where to go.
We walked back, then drove to Rialto Beach. This is an impressive, beautiful rock beach with powerful Pacific waves pounding the rocks. With such a beautiful beach on a perfect, sunny day, lots of people were enjoying it. A couple brought chairs and sat reading their books. As we looked around, we saw our new friends and went up to say Hi. We talked for a bit, admiring the scenery, and we exchanged taking pictures of each other. As we left, I saw them sitting on a fallen tree, talking and relaxing in a gorgeous spot. He grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. Rialto Beach was Martha’s favorite beach of the trip.
The next stop was a hike to Second Beach. As we gazed from an overlook on the road, a man stopped on his bike. He is a surfer, but these waves were too big at about 12 feet, and one after another. He would wait for a better day. We walked down the trail to a beautiful, black sand beach with “sea stacks” in the cove. Fortunately Martha checked the tides, a very important thing when walking beaches. We have heard a harrowing tale of a couple getting caught on a beach when the pounding Pacific tide came in. They were lucky to be able to climb up a rocky cliff far enough to safety, but then had to wait for the tide to go out again. You could walk on this beach a long way. We walked a bit, then sat on a log and enjoyed the scenery. A hiker came by asking about a campsite on the beach. We hadn’t seen one, but the only likely place was around the corner in a deep cove. There was still no one in the campground when we returned. Sometimes that’s a little spooky, but we didn’t have any trouble sleeping.
Do be careful of sneaker waves. They seem to take out one or two tourists a year here in Big Sur.
No worries. We are headed home now.
As usual your pictures are impressive. You are having the trip of a lifetime and you deserve it. I guess Kelly has gone back home? He’s missing some impressive sights!
Thanks Billy. Yeah, Kelly is home now, and we are headed that way too……unless i can convince Martha to go to Yellowstone!
Fabulous pictures Greg! Recognise those rock formations on the shore, we were on that very beach about 17 years ago! It’s a very dramatic coast isn’t it and the rain forest was incredibly beautiful although I remember being terrified of cougars at the time !
Thank you Sarah. It is a beautiful coast with beautiful beaches. I just love it! I am always wary in Grizzly and cougar territory, but in the end it is we humans who do all the damage. We have been extremely fortunate in many ways for which I am eternally grateful.