“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” – John Muir
It’s quieter up here. Shades of green and blue recede on the white-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range. My inner voice breaks into song with “the hills are alive… with the Sound of Music” as we gaze into the distance. It feels good to stand on two feet after seventeen miles of driving the zig-zag up the mountain. A marmot basks in the sun on the parking lot curb unconcerned with visitors walking by. The deer peacefully grazing the valley seem different than the Midwestern deer. Or is it just that the grass is always greener on the other side? Olympic National Park’s most popular hike, Hurricane Hill, is closed for trail maintenance but the ranger suggests the High Ridge trail to Sunrise Point as an alternative.
We set off with a spring in our step on the rocky, steep incline surrounded by a panorama of mountains that look more like they were painted in the skies than physically beside us. I think we’ve come too close to the edge of our comfort zones. We don’t make it too far up the trail when we park a seat on a viewing bench. A fear of heights combined with a relatively narrow shoulder on the path lead the imagination toward dark endings. We abandon the remainder of the incline and turn right on the Cirque Rim trail following the bird calls that pique our interests. The deer are hiking beside us while feeding off the wispy, pale-green threads of Goatsbeard Lichen falling from the trees. We’re high enough to throw a snowball in T-Shirts and look out at what seems like all of the world from one spot. Holding hands on the decline feels like a safety net for the nerves until we make it back to the valley.
Slow deep breaths and a cautious foot on the brake help with the drive down the winding road. A welcome pit stop halfway down the mountain on the Switchback trail is an interesting hike just off Hurricane Ridge Road. The trailhead sign warns us of habituated mountain goats that display aggressive behavior. It’s almost dinner time so we don’t plan on staying long. Water trickles over rocks that seem to be carved away from the mountain as we enter a forest of trees so tall that we can’t see the top. We explore the switchback for fifteen minutes leaping over streams and stomping up rocks with our eyes on the prowl for new birds to identify and mountain goats to avoid. It’s a short visit for us through the alpine wilderness but we have a lot to see on the Olympic Peninsula.