When I wrote last week that I was heading off for three days in Olympic National Park, I grabbed the photo you see here from Google Images, because it captured what I remembered from my last visit to the park, which was sadly way too long ago.
Well, as it turns out, it’s exactly as I remembered it, and the photo here could have been taken at any number of moments during the trip, except for the obviously lack of 10-12 year old kids, chaperones, and Olympic Park Institute (OPI) “Educators.” The OPI campus is on the west shore of Lake Crescent, a gorgeous glacial lake surrounded by foothills of the Olympic Mountains, and the “Educators” are the staff who facilitate activities all day long. The activities are designed so that the kids learn about the ecology of the national park in a fun, interactive way, and there wasn’t one of the 21 in the class who wasn’t touched in some way by the program.
Just a few of the things I learned:
- There are 40 varieties of fern in the national park
- There are 700 varieties of moss in the park (seriously!)
- Old growth forests are identified by the existence of: 1. old trees (at least 250 years or older); 2. woody debris (fallen trees in various stages of decay); 3. layers (ground cover, understory, canopy, etc.); 4. snags (dead trees still standing).
- Lichen is made up of two symbiotic organisms, algae on the top and fungus on the bottom.
- I feel REALLY, REALLY good in an old growth Pacific Northwest forest
The highlight of the trip, which included a wonderful drive down half the length of Whidbey Island, over the awesome Deception Pass Bridge, and a ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Townsend, was sharing it all with my son, who is graduating this week from 6th grade. To see him participate with enthusiasm in everything we did, to see him frolicking amongst the towering trees, to see him paddling a canoe, to see him toast a marshmallow, to see him sleeping in his upper bunk…
…well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.