A trip I recently took involved both a walk and a drive on the wild side. In between weather systems that have been passing through the area of late, I ventured out to one of my favorite areas, the Olympic Peninsula, in western Washington State. There is so much to do and see in this heavily forested and mountainous region. And, don’t forget the coastlines, as well! Yesterday, I visited Hurricane Ridge, in Olympic National Park. If one is measuring driving distances, it is approximately 100 miles from Tacoma, using the Tacoma Narrows Bridges as a starting point. From Seattle and points north, one may consider using the ferry system as an alternative.
A good bit of advice when visiting any of the national parks during the peak visiting season is to arrive early; otherwise, you will compete for parking spaces, as well as foot traffic. Avoid weekends, if at all possible. With this latest trip, I missed the peak wildflower season by a few weeks. Mid July is, typically, the meadow wildflowers peak bloom time. It is an experience not to be forgotten.
Another experience not to be forgotten in the park is the wildlife. Just about any time I have visited the Hurricane Ridge section of the park, there is always some wildlife to be seen and, many times, right there in the parking lot. The deer, in particular, seem to have no fear of humans. They will walk right by you without a care in the world.
This day, I was blessed to witness a family of deer, including the cutest fawn! It’s at this point I keep my fingers crossed that I get a good photo shot with these moving animals. Patience, patience!
Another wildlife encounter I had was with a Sooty Grouse. They will walk right along the footpaths, as well, but won’t let you get too close. I followed one and was able to get several good photos. If you happen to hear a loud, low frequency whooping sound that travels across the valleys, it is the call of the Sooty Grouse.
Okay … so much for the walk on the wild side. Now, let’s go for a drive on the wild side. On my return trip from Hurricane Ridge, I visited the Olympic Game Farm, located in Sequim. I had never visited this tourist attraction before and did not know what to expect. All I knew is that you could drive through an area of animals that roamed freely. Sounded like a safari adventure to me! This is an interesting place. If you have the time, read about the info given on the website. This is a special place that had a long relationship with the Walt Disney studios. Turns out that one just drives up to the park entrance pay station and the attendant will have you sign a waiver that excludes them from any car damage claims due to animal encounters in the park. That, right there, made me a little nervous. Also, you are asked if you want to purchase any loaves of wheat bread to feed to the animals. Of course! What fun is it if you can’t feed the animals on a wildlife game farm? Right? In fact, that is the most fun part, as I soon found out. Let me tell you. I kind of felt like I was driving along in Jurassic Park, meandering along a curvy, up and down, gravel road. And then, out of nowhere, along comes a big, horned Tibetan Yak looking for a hand-out. You have the option of keeping your windows closed or letting their slobbering tongues grab onto a slice of wheat bread, which you quickly let go of. There’s quite a few of these Yaks … and smelly, too. I got up the courage to feed one of them, closed my window and then slowly and, carefully, drove through the herd.
There are some Fallow Deer, which I took to and spent some time letting them visit with me and my wheat bread. They can’t stick their heads into your car because of their enormous racks. Here’s a guy chewing on his slice of wheat bread that I just hand fed him.
As well, there’s lots of roaming Llamas that are not in the least bit ashamed to stick their heads in your car to beg for a hand out. Hold out a slice of wheat bread and they’ll curl their lips around it and suck it right in. I noticed the carload of people ahead of me having just as much fun feeding the wildlife as much as the animals, themselves, seemed to be having. I came to the conclusion that it would be lots more fun with a extra passenger or more in the car. Screaming and giggling as a group is lots more fun!
Well, HELLO THERE! Careful with this guy. I was informed that the Zebras may bite, so I let him feed from the passenger side of my car.
There is also an area of Bison and Elk, but due to the start of the rutting season, I was informed at the gate not to stop and to just keep driving. I decided not to take any chances and just avoided this area, all together. But, by far, the most popular animal was the Kodiak Bear … lots of big, brown Kodiak Bears. But, don’t worry. They are all behind a wire fence. The fences are low enough for people to toss bread to the bears, as they sit on their haunches, catching the bread in their mouths. They looked really cute and cuddly.
What a trip!
© Peggy A Thompson