The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Getting to Know the Elwha – Yep that’s water on my lens.


This weekend I enjoyed the company of my friend Olivia.  A co-worker back in CA noted my knitting on break and suggested I meet her.  The friendship was meant to be.   Olivia has a quiet and  calm presence.  We enjoyed much time knitting on the couch.  Her homemade soup, pie and company warmed me more than the cozy fire in the stove.

On her last day here we went to Olympic Nat’l Park (ONP) and hiked up the Elwha River and down to Goblin’s Gate, a rock stricture in the river that makes it roil and quicken.   I’ve been in ONP to see the Hoh Rainforest Hall of Mosses and hiked out by Hurricane Ridge on my first trip up here.

This was my first trip into the park since moving in November.

Something big’s happened in ONP.  The Elwha Dam is removed.  A second dam is nearly removed.  The waters of the Elwha now run freely from their source to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  A lack of fish ladders prevented 10 species of anadromous fish from spawning.  Sediment and silt built up and erosion changed the landscape.

The salmon, denied access for so long, are returning already.

This is an NPS PDF that gives  info on restoration related to the dam’s removal.

You can also watch a video chronicling a year of the removal process through time lapse photography:

It brings me great joy to see the needs of nature supported in this way.

We began at the Whiskey Bend trailhead.  A PDF map from the NPS is handy.

High above the river, fog and clouds blanketed the river and hid the hills across the way.  Occasionally, I caught glimpses of the other side.


The hike wasn’t long, maybe 4 miles total.  After walking out the mostly flat Elwha River trail we headed down to the river on the spur labeled “Rica Canyon.”   This is a STEEP half-mile  to Goblins Gate.  Even with poles, my knees crunched.


It’s apparent the topography here consists of steep hillsides diving down to rivers.  This trail had few switchbacks.


Olivia knows plants well. She could survive in the woods with all her knowledge of hunting and plant gathering. This is DULL OREGON GRAPE.  The blue berries it produces are edible but very sour.  My plant book actually suggests combining the grapes with salal berries for a jelly.  It had medicinal use (one apparently for shellfish poisoning) and the inner bark made a yellow dye.  It’s flowers are yellow. It’s an evergreen.

BTW, I know little about plants and their medicinal uses/whether they are edible.  I’m gleaning basic facts from reference sources.

The book Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon,  is a great resource if you can find a copy.


This is VANILLA LEAF or DEER FOOT.  Growing from rhizomes, they can form thick forest floor carpets. Having no petals, a single spike of stamens only sits atop one leaf per plant.  When dry, like this lacy specimen, it smells of vanilla.  Native Americans used the ground up plant as an insect repellent.

Moss is boss in ONP.  The moss below the Vanilla Leaf is called FERN MOSS.  Up close, it looks like miniature ferns.


Viewed as a whole, a lush carpet of green.


Pretty sure this is a Douglas Fir.  Being so huge,  I couldn’t see any needles.


Anticipation made me antsy to get to the river.  Here she is!  Like usual, the photo doesn’t share the true picture.  That’s still inside my mind.

This bend in the river had a meadow on the other side.  Steep hillsides stretched up in the background. Layers of clouds, the rain make a moody setting.  I’ve mentioned before how my eyes rest here in the PNW.  Lines and colors are softened unlike in CA where light defines more sharply.   I took a video but I can’t figure out how to get if from my Mac to here.


Yes there is water on my lens. It only got worse!


The gates:  Arms of rock defy the water, funneling it through a narrow passage.



Just above the fallen wood before the Gates we noted 5 Roosevelt Elk (who live west of the Cascades) grazing away.  Rocky Mountain Elk live in the Cascades.


This was a teaser of a hike.  Having ONP at my back door is a treat.  There are alpine, rainforest and coastal places to explore.  Can’t wait to return!

2 thoughts on “Getting to Know the Elwha – Yep that’s water on my lens.

  1. Nice Heather! Find us a good stretch to kayak!

    • Hey Alan! Crazy…crazy you guys are I tell ya. You all have a place to stay should you come explore the peninsula. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi!

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