I think I'm a bad ranger.
How can I possibly sit here on my high horse and tell people to get out of their cars and experience the outdoors when I, myself, have yet to visit many of the beautiful places in my own literal backyard of Olympic National Park?
In an attempt to remedy this travesty, I took one sunny weekend day and went out and had a tourist day. I took the right turn off of Highway 101 and proceeded up the Sol Duc Valley in search of fall colors and jumping salmon.
The colors up here this year are impressive. I don't remember them being this vibrant and varied last year. Granted, I don't remember much of my arrival in the northwest last year except the randomly placed jack-o-lanterns that slowly fell in on themselves along the Mora Road.
But this year even the clear cuts are pretty.
Sol Duc is especially nice.
I wandered along, driving slowly and listening to The Band at full volume (the perfect fall driving music). I pulled off at interpretive wayside exhibits and scenic vistas. I even occasionally committed the cardinal sin of stopping directly in the middle of the road to take a picture of something so I wouldn't have to get out of the car.
Honestly, it was quite freeing to live by tourist rules instead of ranger rules.
And then, just when I thought my transformation into a tourist could go no further, I stopped at Salmon Cascades to look for jumping Coho.
I walked the short path to the Cascades, looked over the edge, and, after only being there for three short seconds, proclaimed to no one in particular, "I don't see any salmon!"
If I was the kind of person who smacked themselves in the forehead, I would have done it then.
Chagrined, I sat at the overlook for a while after that and watched the sunlight play through the trees and reflect off the rippling water. The leaves blew in the wind. I watched an American Dipper jump in and out of the rapids looking for lunch, and I basked in the aura of the ancient trees that towered above me.
And I listened to three more groups of tourists walk up to the overlook and say, "I don't see any salmon."
I had to shake my head sadly when I finally climbed back into my car.
On the way back down the valley, I honked and gesticulated at some people stopped in the middle of the road taking pictures of leaves.
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