100 Days of National Parks: Day 52 – Sunset over the Olympics, Olympic National Park

Sunset over the Olympics

Sometimes you come across a sunset that is so breathtaking, nothing else around you seems important. It doesn’t matter if you’re exhausted from a long day of hiking, or freezing from the bone-penetrating cold of winter in the mountains, or simply ready to get back on the road and return home to your bed and a much needed shower. Sometimes, you just stand and watch as the sky seems to burn with the reds and oranges of the setting sun.

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Sunset over the Olympics

Sunset over the Olympics
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Sometimes you come across a sunset that is so breathtaking, nothing else around you seems important.  It doesn’t matter if you’re exhausted from a long day of hiking, or freezing from the bone-penetrating cold of winter in the mountains, or simply ready to get back on the road and return home to your bed and a much needed shower.  Sometimes, you just stand and watch as the sky seems to burn with the reds and oranges of the setting sun.

In December of 2014, I spent a long saturday hiking in the Olympics, exploring the Elwha valley and its surroundings.  I stayed below the snow line for most of the day, but still I returned to my car wet and muddy and feeling pretty beat-up after going further than I’d planned.  I checked the clock when I returned to my car and figured I had just enough time to beat the park closing time and race the sunset up to Hurricane Ridge, outside of Port Angeles, Washington, the most easily accessible section of the park and the only overlook to speak of offering vistas of the impressive mountain-scape of the Olympic Wilderness.

I got to the parking lot at the top of Hurricane Ridge just as the sun was starting to set, and bundled up in all my gear to race out and get a shot of it.  The wind was whipping snow in my face, and the cold of the mountain evening was driving other visitors away in droves, but I stood out and watched as the sun provided the one of the most amazing light displays I’ve ever seen, the cool blue and white of the snowy slopes contrasting sharply with the brilliant orange and red light behind the far mountains.  It was amazing, and though I was acutely aware of the biting chill in the air, I didn’t care, and came up with several shots that are some of my favorite sunset photos that I’ve ever taken.

By the time the sun had gone all the way down, I couldn’t feel my toes, fingers, or nose, but I was so satisfied and glad I’d stayed to see the spectacle.  I returned to my car and cranked the heat, and made the long drive down the icy mountain road back to civilization and a blessedly warm hot chocolate.  I was the last one to leave the ridge.

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