Often a national park will have multiple ecosystems to explore allowing for a more diverse experience. Olympic National Park definitely fits into this concept with three different systems – mountains, forests, and a coastal ecosystem. It’s always interesting to find freshwater environments near the coast so you can contrast and compare them. A small distance apart can make a tremendous difference in the wildlife that visit each and in some cases both types of water. Gulls, eagles, and bears will visit both freshwater and saltwater in search of food while salmon will only enter freshwater during spawning season and ducks and deer remain near the freshwater. Pelicans will primarily stay near saltwater along with so many other sea creatures (urchins, sea stars, ect…).
Those of us that don’t live near saltwater are not use to seeing the diversity of both these ecosystems and how similar they are as well as how different they are. After visiting the interior of the Olympic Peninsula for a couple of days it was time to venture to the coast and enjoy another environment. Two things on our list of things to see here were the sea stacks which are basically large boulder or small islands of rock out in the ocean not far from land and tide pools containing urchins, anemones, and other sea creatures caught during low tide.
We started out at Beach 1 near the Kalaloch Lodge to start our coastal adventure. After a short hike down to the beach you notice it is full of logs piled everywhere and Dungeness Crabs laying all over the beach being picked at by gulls. Being there in late August may provide a different encounter with the crabs as I’m sure they don’t litter the beach here year around. Working to get over the logs you land on the soft sand often desired with a beautiful beach. Unfortunately, there where no sea stacks and no tide pools to peer into. After a little more exploring, it was time to find our next meal and another vantage point to explore the ocean coast.
Since we were near the Kalaloch Lodge, and there aren’t a lot of dining options in this area, we opted to eat there and enjoy a great view of Kalaloch Creek entering the ocean. We enjoyed our meal and then a quick hike down to the ocean for another touch of the soft sand before venturing off towards Ruby Beach. This beach was recommended as the best location to see the sea stacks closest to us. There are better beaches for this which also offer nice tide pools but they were several hours away and our day was dwindling as it was.
Getting out of the car at Ruby Beach you can’t see the ocean but there is definitely a strange sound. Another short hike to get to the water and now this sound makes more sense. There is no sand here, just small, smooth, flat rocks making a unique sound as the water washes onto them. Finally a view of sea stacks. I’m sure they are more impressive on sunny evenings as the sun wanes behind them but this day was cloudy with heavy mist all around us. Still they were fun to see. Due to our timing, the tide pools would not be visible as it was near high tide. That was a little disappointing as pictures we’ve looked at provide a lot of colorful creatures. To see a post by Lee Rentz displaying some beautiful photos of the tide pools click here.
After enjoying this stone beach for awhile, rain moved in making the decision to call it a day and head back to the hotel pretty easy. Three days of exploring this national park left me exhausted so an early night at the hotel was just right in order to recoup before returning to Seattle for another long day’s adventure.