Northern Tier 2010

July 3, 2010

Following the Hoh

Filed under: Geology, Pre-Tour Vacation — Henry Scott @ 9:00 pm

Today we went down in elevation, rather than up, and oh what a difference! After an informative stop at the Storm King ranger station, which was surrounded by gorgeous wild roses and daisies, we made our way to the coastal region of the park.

Following the ranger’s advice, we went to Second Beach, in the Mora / La Push region, and the weather was amazing — it was almost hard to remember the cool fog of yesterday.

The geological highlight for me was to see such well-developed sea stacks. Sea stacks are blocks of rock apparently, and inexplicably, left alone by the steady advance of coastal erosion. They stand alone, out in the water, amidst the crushing waves that have eroded the rest of the coast much further inland. However, after watching the waves work the coast for a while, one sees cracks and breaks in the cliffs that seem perfectly reasonable, and one can imagine that once those weaknesses are exposed the waves really take advantage — eventually working their way through and isolating some “lucky” leftovers. In the ONP area this has been enhanced by rising sea level since the end of the last ice age some 10,000 years ago. And, I expect, the crust has been popping back without the weight of the glaciers pushing it down.

In addition to the sea stacks, we explored the tide pools that were teaming with muscles, starfish and sea anemone — it took some coaxing, but Jennifer eventually agreed to try touching one. Surprisingly, she didn’t even shriek when it gently grabbed her finger.

After spending the morning at the beach, we made our way inland following the Hoh river and ultimately to the Hoh rainforest area of the park. The Hoh River is actually meltwater from the Hoh glacier way up on Mount Olympus, but the rainforest forms as the prevailing Westerlies push moist air from the Pacific up and over the mountains of ONP.
The air cools as it rises and drops somewhere around 140 inches of rain annually over the Hoh rainforest (for comparison, Seattle and Chicago each get around 40 inches per year, and that is considered high). We’re already coming out of the wettest time of year, but the trees, lichens, ferns and mosses are clearly doing quite well!

As a final point of interest, we learned today that we’re in the heart of “Twilight” country. Apparently there’s some plot relevance to the little town of Forks because just about every business has some reference to the series in its name. We followed the lead of some other tourists (more specifically: teen girls with very accommodating mothers) and stopped to take a picture of ourselves by the welcome sign. Not everyone is a fan, however, because before we could take the photo, someone in a passing pickup shouted “Twilight is for losers!” (Actually, that’s a slightly censored quote for the blog, but it goes better with the photo we took anyway.)


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