A Virtual Tour of Olympic National Park

This Memorial Day weekend, please let me take you through a virtual tour of Olympic National Park. So many of us have lost trips and planned vacations to the coronavirus quarantines, and are now just re-emerging into our local neighborhoods. To make things easier, I hope to take you to the magical place I fell in love with last year, Olympic National Park.

This Show Me video podcast and associated transcript/photo essay takes you from the south of the park in the Lake Quinault region all the way to the ocean and then to the north, where we will visit Hurricane Ridge. The podcast will show you 40 photos over 20 minutes.

Before I begin, a little back story… In April 2019 I toured Olympic National Park over five days and four nights. The goal was to build an Instagram guide for Aramark’s Nation’s Vacation group of lodges in Olympic National Park. Thank you to the Nation’s Vacation team for letting me share some of those photos taken on that trip with everyone.

I hope you enjoy the journey.

Transcript of Show Me Podcast Episode 2.10 – A Virtual Tour of Olumpic National Park

Anybody that’s been to a national park knows how fun it is to arrive and you probably have gone through some hour-long drive or multiple hours to get there and you see the sign and you’re like, “Oh, here I am.” It was really cool to enter Olympic National Park.

Now, the first place I went, when I visited Washington State and the park was actually Lake Quinault. This is what Lake Quinault looks like on a crazy day. It’s a little bluer here in this image because I had some fun with the editing and made it a little surreal, but this is basically the beach at Quinault Lodge, Lake Quinault Lodge, which is run by the Aramark folks.

I am going to talk about that stuff. It’s where I stayed and that’s what I was there to do. So you’re going to see it from my perspective.

Anyway, it was a beautiful view, gorgeous sky, incredible. Believe it or not, the sky has a lot to do with what we’re going to talk about today, generally. Because when I started shooting there, I expected to get lots of rain and moody scenes, because that’s what that the park has a reputation for. But the middle of day two, the sky just went straight blue, no clouds. And it turned into quite a challenge photographing the park, but we’ll talk about that in a bit.

This is what the lodge looked like. It was really cool. This is a very wide-angle lens, so you have very little perspective about how long this actually is. But it was very cool. The leather couches were awesome, really enjoyed being there.

That’s what it looked like from the outside. I love this photograph with the wild flowers on the bottom, the lodge in the background. It was a really cool place. And there were a lot of families there. It was late April when I visited. Lots of fun.

So, again, here’s another photo from the lodge beach. Right away you see this log there. This is really Olympic National Park. You see these incredible rain forest scenes everywhere. Seeing logs in the water, in lakes, on the beach, in the ground, trees growing out of them, rain forest trees upon trees upon trees, all very normal stuff in Olympic National Park. What an incredible thing to see how Mother Nature has evolved over the centuries.

This is one of the waterfalls outside of the Quinault Lodge area, once you start entering into the park, it’s called Bunch Falls, really beautiful. I published a vertical version of this. It’s just a really, really stunning photograph. All the beautiful moss, the ferns. This is a beautiful scene. I have a copy of this photograph in my house. I framed it. I did a horizontal one here, but I have a vertical one in my house. That one I published last year, it was very, very popular. Just beautiful.You can see moss, you can see the flood waters, ferns, you’re going to see quite a few waterfalls here, because that’s what I felt like there was a ton of in Olympic National Park.

Here’s another one. This is Merriman Falls. This one I kind of went around the side and got that photo. Just really, really gorgeous, beautiful, beautiful scenery. Again, the ferns, the moss, just incredible.

And then here’s kind of the mood of Olympic. You have these rolling mountains, you see some of the snow from the ridge in the background and then the rivers and just really stark dramatic western landscape, kind of stuff you’d expect to see out of Ansel Adams, the pine trees, really beautiful.

Rain Forests and Mountains

So the way that you constantly see in the background there. Some of the fog is just really amazing as we move into the next picture of this Olympic Mountain landscape.

And then there are the rain forests and my buddy Nana joined me for the first day of it. Nana was featured in a different episode of the Show Me podcast. So we’ll put a link to that in the show notes.

Nana is a very tall man. He is 6’6″. So we had him stand right there in the trail and go up like that so you can get an idea of the perspective of the size of these trees. Just massive, massive spruces reminiscent of a Redwood forest almost. And it’s clearly filled with green vegetation from the rain, really beautiful. This is the trail to Irely Lake.

Irely Lake in its override is a very, very stark scene. As you can see with this incredible, I guess, dead trees coming out in the middle of their… particularly that one big huge spike, just shockingly beautiful and amazing and surreal. You just don’t see things like that very often. And my understanding of this lake, we were again there during April so there was a lot of runoff in the water, but as the summer gets along and the water decreases, you could see caribou coming up on the shores and stuff like that. There was very little shoreline there when we got there, it was very hard to actually even get a straight shot.

Then of course, Lake Quinault has its own rain forest. And I mean, I could show you rain forest scene after rain forest scene. It’s just incredible. I must have taken 300 photos. I’m not going to do that. You would probably be very angry with me, but I think this photo kind of gives you an idea of what these forests were like moss everywhere, great vegetation everywhere. Everything’s just full of life. It looks like it’s just spraying forward. Just a beautiful, beautiful place.

This thing over here in the lower-left corner, I love this photo because it kind of almost looks like something like a moss turkey coming out of the water, but just an incredible place to be. And then eventually we left Lake Quinault and Nana came out to Ruby Beach with me and then he had a jet back to Seattle because he had to kind of work and he got his fiancee there and all that.

Ruby and Rialto Beaches

This is what Ruby Beach looked like during the day. Now this photo is really pretty and you could see that there’s a little bit of log in the front, a couple of them, and there are some logs in the background and of course, beautiful, beautiful rocks. But in addition to that, you’ll notice that there are no clouds. From a photography standpoint, this presented a huge challenge for me because to have no clouds is like a nightmare.

The way I framed this was with thirds and layers. And as you move through this series of photos moving forward, you’ll notice that the sky’s pretty much going to be limited to the top third or less because there was nothing to see there. Unless there was some sort of a sunset where the color was actually good, which was rare with no clouds that I just did the best I could and it became about the land.

So here’s another shot of the incredible Ruby Beach. This couple framed by these gigantic rocks. Just an Epic, beautiful scene, I really loved Ruby Beach, if I ever go back, maybe the first place I’ll go to.

Here’s a young lady also walking through those same rocks during the sunset. I love how the people in the photos just provide a little juxtaposition.

And then you could see this scene as sunset arrives, again, the sky is minimized the suns right off over the edge as you can tell. It’s just a really gorgeous, beautiful long exposure. I think you could see somebody standing on the edge of one of the rocks in the distance. All the pebbles in the foreground, so pretty, so amazing.

If you get an opportunity to see this place, I highly recommend it. I probably spent about 30, 40 minutes getting shots of this. And I have a whole bunch of different exposures from the orange of the sunset, to the blue of the immediate time proceeding that.

This is Rialto Beach, which is to the North. Very, very harsh beach, a lot more rugged than Ruby. It’s got a lot of logs on the side of it, really gorgeous, amazing scenery. Again, no sky. So you’ll see in the top third here, but I think this kind of gives you a sense of feel for what the place is. Of course, it has some incredible scenes.

This is what is known as the Hole-In-The-Wall. Really gorgeous. You can see through it. People are probably… I have a couple of photos with people in it. I probably should show more here, but people were probably about, maybe of that hole if somebody standing behind there, they’re probably about 1/6 the size of it just incredible. You’d have to trudge through about three or four miles of sand to get there. It’s amazing.

And here’s another view of that same landscape, the Hole-In-The-Wall behind these rocks here, again, a long exposure in the middle of the day.

Finally on the way back, I sat down and I caught some more images and photographed what I would say is one of the primary rock foundations over here, this is a Native American land. And I couldn’t get in there, but I did photograph this here. You could see there were some black sand beaches.

Hall of Mosses and Sol Duc Falles

This is really cool. That was my tour guide over there. This is the Hall of Mosses. And this is probably the most famous site in Olympic National Park, outside of Hurricane Ridge. And I think it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can see three people looking up at these gigantic trees with the moss raining down on them.

It’s just shocking. This is probably about a 200 yard stretch in the forest where the Hall of Mosses actually is. Here’s a look straight up at what they’re looking at. Again, these towering trees with 100s of years of moss, just kind of growing down on them, pretty cool. Along the way out there’s of course the whole rainforest, which is right by the Hall of Mosses.

There is a mother holding a child on one of these big logs in the middle of the forest there. It was pretty cool.

I also went out into the woods and found this cabin. I think this was by Salmon Cascades and some of the forests out there just really stark, really beautiful, kind of shows you what life was like maybe a 100, 150 years ago. Can you imagine living in this type of an experience? I mean, wow, just amazing takes your heart away.

You could see the ferns and the mosses and the rain forest. This is a babbling brook by Sol Duc Falls. Again, very dark but I had to expose it this way because if you see in the background, the light is also very, very dynamic in range. And you can see that the water wasn’t moving too fast.

You had very few areas where the rapids translated into kind of a wide fall, but if you want that kind of thing, Sol Duc Falls is just incredibly powerful. You could see in the upper right quarter, there’s an overlook where people could see the falls and this stuff comes fast and furious. Very powerful waterfall, probably the most dynamic of all the falls I had seen when I was there definitely worth checking out. I do believe that there’s the [Sol Duc] hot spa by there too if you want to take a soak.

And then along the way out to Sol Duc Falls is Salmon Cascades. This is again, another really powerful waterfall or a rapid. And this is the type of rapid that you would see wild salmon when they’re mating, they would go up a river like this so that’s why it’s called, you’ve got Salmon Cascades.

Lake Crescent

Eventually I made my way up to the North side of the park and there’s Lake Crescent Lodge, which is another one of the Aramark Nation’s Vacation properties. And again, really gorgeous, really beautiful. You could see these chairs looking out of the Lake. This was towards the end of the day, thus the somewhat yellowish golden shot tinge on the building and the chairs, but no clouds again. So you can see, I did my best to cover up the sky just enough to show you that it was a clear deck.

This is the interior of the lodge. Really awesome. Really cool. I love that telephone booth in the back there. I actually got another photo of that.

This is kind of what it looked like from the perspective of being in some of those chairs, this beautiful sunrise or sunset, I should say this duck going across the scene, just really amazing, beautiful, beautiful scenery. It warms my heart. I love being out there. I must have spent several hours on the shores just trying to get different images and views of that sunset, those mountains, the blue mountains.

I did travel around the Lake a bit, it is pretty amazing. This is how clear it is. I mean, literally these stones are underwater. So consider how beautiful and unpolluted the waters are. And then also the mirror image that you’re seeing with these different mountains and the trees on the right side, just incredibly crystal clear. And again, no clouds. So we minimize that and bring out the rest.

There’s a camp that’s near the lodge. So I hiked around one morning and I caught this image. I thought it was really kind of scenic and beautiful, Can you imagine being a kid and going to this for a week or two with your schoolmates? I mean, come on, man. Does it get better than this? I got to send my kid to this place. This is amazing. I really loved it and wanted to go back. And of course, we could stay at the lodge for a long time, but I did get out and photograph everything.

One of the things I saw was Elwah River. I was on my way there to capture another waterfall. And this was kind of what I saw. It was an amazing kind of way, the water kind of moving so quickly from all the snow melt off and it was gorgeous.

Then of course here’s the waterfalls, Madison Falls. Big, huge waterfall, so I have to do the shot vertically with this one. Again, there’s so many waterfalls around Olympic National Park. You probably just drive around for days looking at waterfalls. If you’re a photographer and you like long exposures, you probably will. I want to show you this photograph.

I think I actually saw this near the Hoh rain forest, but it really kind of shows you the neatness of how the rain forest grows. You can see these two trees, the mosses on the trees and they grew together and the roots were together. And I believe that there’s a dead tree underneath or a very old tree that had past centuries before that these guys grew on. And so they call that a nurse tree. And when the nurse tree eventually goes away, sometimes you’ll see something like this, where the trees are together.

I called this photo until death do us part. I think it’s kind of like a married couple together in the forest.

Hurricane Ridge and Conclusion

Finally, I can’t tell you how awesome it was to go to Hurricane Ridge. I was really hoping for some clouds so I could get some insane, what I would call rolling cloudscape photos of the clouds moving through the mountain range was not to be. I did get some incredible photograph. So this is the Hurricane Ridge sunrise, it’s orange, it’s beautiful.

There are some incredible rays coming through the lab and it was fantastic, really enjoyed it. You could see there’re some crepuscular rays. I did have a couple of happy accidents with some really wild distortion with the light. This is a blue chip photo, as I said.

Here’s another one, again, looking the other direction. What was orange on one side you turn around behind you, you got the sun coming up and you can see the burn coming up on the pine tree to the right, which provides great context. Hurricane Ridge is back there, just incredible. They call it Hurricane Ridge because when the winds kick up and it’s as fast and as loud as a hurricane, just an incredible scene. This is one of those epic shots you would expect to come out of this park.

Here’s one with the rays coming in sideways, crepuscular rays as they call them. Just again, so amazing. You could sit here for just hours and watch the light, paint the scape and change the scape and just get different perspectives. Look at the little pine trees on the front down there just giving you an idea of how big the scene really is. And I hope I can make it back there someday. Bring my kid along with me, but something to think about for you this Memorial Day, hopefully.

One of the things that you’ll find in national parks is wildlife and this is a grouse that was mating at that time. Now I didn’t have many wildlife opportunities. I was hoping to see some elk or some caribou, but this guy just kind of literally landed right in front of us in Hurricane Ridge. I was there with the tour guide and posed and was kind of puffing out his chest to do a mating ritual. And so I got his photograph. It was awesome. I think I shot this with a 200 millimeter shot. So that kind of gives you an idea of how close I was. And he did not move at all. I mean, he was just there and it was a great wildlife photo.

If you’re into that kind of thing, also saw a lot of hummingbirds and sparrows, really cool stuff. This is Port Angeles. And I wanted to show you this because if you have to leave Lake Crescent Lodge to get anything, you have to go to Port Angeles.

Across the way across the sound in the distance, you see a little bit of land that’s Canada. So that’s how close I was to Canada. It was really cool. I loved this photograph because it’s so beautiful with the lines and the cruiser in the back. Travel photography is not just about the billing, but also about wherever you are and again, outside the sea wall, no sky. You can see we got some good photos with no sky. You can make it happen, but you definitely have to work on your composition to make it work.

That’s pretty much it, but I’m going to give you a couple more photos, just to end it on a bang. This is again like Quinault, moody kind of scape, it’s kind of got all the drama of the sky over a good 30 seconds, maybe longer exposure to some incredible stillness in the scene. Also, it shows you all the power and the emotion of the moment.

On the other side [of the Park], this was what Lake Crescent was like at night.

I really have to thank Aramark and Nation’s Vacation for allowing me to show you these photos. I have so many more. I really went from 90 photos last night to the 40 that you saw today. It was hard, but I don’t like these podcasts to go too long, especially when it’s me. It gets kind of boring.

Have a great Memorial Day, have a great vacation. Don’t let this COVID thing get you down. Find your park, find it near you and enjoy some nature. Thanks for having me as part of your day.

Thanks for listening to the Show Me podcast with Geoff Livingston. More shows, sponsorship and donation information are available at showmepodcast.com.