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Posted on: 03/10/2015

Mountain Life: Olympic National Park

It sounded too good to be true, glacial lakes, many miles of rugged coastline, alpine mountains, and rain forests. 


Mountain Life: Olympic National Park

My girlfriend's dad had made us promise him to seek out some rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, so that had stayed in the back of our minds until we crossed into Washington.

Camped outside of Leavenworth, a cool little Bavarian town in the Cascades, I broke out our increasingly tattered atlas, the bible of our trip. Googling the national parks I found on the Washington map, we found Olympic National Park, purporting itself to be three parks in one.

It sounded too good to be true, glacial lakes, many miles of rugged coastline, alpine mountains, and rain forests. We had our destination.

Throughout the park glacial lakes stun with crystal clear waters and stone bottoms scooped out millenia ago. The sky opened up the first night we were there leaving us to watch drastic cloud smother mountains under icy drops of rain.

Sea stacks are a common scene on the west coast, but rarely seen on the right (east) coast. A rainy day in Olympic provided seas as rough as eastern hurricanes. Signs warning of sneaker waves kept us wary of each crash of the surf.

The Hoh Rainforest is like The Land Before Time. Trees bigger than we'd ever seen, hanging moss from every surface, and vegetation in every shade of green made the appearance of a velociraptor seem a foregone conclusion. 

The light streaming through the perpetually wet trees cast light in ways I'd not seen before. Everything before us seemed to slowly be melding into one giant moss like organism. 

The Hoh River winds through the forest and is mirrored by a popular 18 mile hike snaking deep into the park. The river runs a steel gray from the stone dust in the glacial melt water feeding it.

The scale of the park and the forests was starkly apparent whenever we split up to fulfill our different shooting needs. We were gnats amongst giants. We spent three days in the Olympic National Park, and left in awe feeling as if we'd only scuffed the surface of what it had to offer.

We'll be going back, I'd recommend you do the same.


Words and photography by Jon Gaffney, AKA @thevanman