Close to a small town in the State of Washington, where the vampire-romance novel series Twilight is set, are the beautiful Olympic Mountains. The town is Port Angeles, hidden in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. If vampires existed, they would certainly enjoy the dense forests that cover the Olympic Mountains. They could use these nearby mountains as an alternative hiding place.
You can drive uphill from Port Angeles to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which offers great scenery and a view of all the highest peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Most of them are permanently covered by snow, at least until global warming effects reach them. If this happens, Mount Olympus, the highest peak of the Olympic Mountains at 2432 m (6480 ft), would be expected to lose its white cap last.
“Do not expect wilderness, as in Alaska, or seeing too many animals here,” one lady told me at the entrance to the Olympic Mountain National Park. For that reason, I did not set my expectations high. I was ready to accept that fact, and wanted to take advantage, at least, of the beautiful scenery. Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. This proverb proved 100%valid. While driving on the steep road up to the visitor center, I saw a deer family of four—including one young deer—appear close to the road. I stopped the car, took my camera and started shooting these cute and peaceful animals. They kept a safe distance, but did not mind being photographed. This pleasant experience was not the last one I would have that day.
Once I got to the end of the road at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and began walking up the nearby hill, I saw a dog running in the grass. “Wait a minute,” I thought “this is a very strange kind of dog, moving in such a funny way.” A few seconds later I realized this was not a dog; this was a marmot. It showed up at the right moment, as if it was paid by the Park to convince tourists to come again.
When you turn north on that hill, away from the highest peaks, you can spot Canada’s Vancouver Island in the distance, across the strait. If weather permits you could recognize the skyline of the city of Victoria or the town of Sooke. The ocean’s blue, along with the sharp green of the grass and trees in summer, make this place a very photogenic paradise for nature photographers.
The marmot was not the end of this incredible mountain show. I decided to take one of the trails going to the mountain ridge. As people traffic dwindled until there was almost nobody there but me, an elk walked out of the forest. He was fast, but he gave me few seconds to take his picture.
And this was not all the Olympic Mountains offered that day. On my way back to the parking lot, suddenly a deer showed up on the trail, right in the middle of a group of people. The park ranger told us the deer are so smart that when chased by a cougar—considered by deer as a blood-thirsty animal vampire—they often come close to people in order to save their own lives. They know a cougar would be too scared to do the same. It looks like humans pose a smaller risk to them than cougars do.
I saw much more in one day than I would have expected, and more than the lady at the entrance anticipated, but I didn’t want to push the envelope. For sure I would have welcomed a cougar, mountain goat, owl or bald eagle as a bonus. Hopefully next time, and hopefully either mountain animal vampires—cougars—or human vampires in Port Angeles will show their faces to my always-hungry camera.
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