Ode to Hurricane Hill

It was June 12 - the road to Hurricane Hill was open, the park service was conducting a population study of marmots on Hurricane Hill, perhaps the first mountain goat to visit Hurricane Hill arrived and the crowds of visitors seemed to equal those on an August weekend. It was, in short, a remarkable time. And your friends Diane and Rich were there to witness these memorable events.

There was little remarkable about the day itself. It was not as sunny as some had been or as warm, but it was dry and cool. As we walked up the hill, there was little to indicate anything special until we took a turn off the main trail just past the sign to the Elwha River Trail.

There we saw a man in black carefully watching two marmots as they exited a dug tunnel and seemed curious about a cage placed near them. We looked downhill and saw a group of three people looking through the sparse vegetation for signs of what? Marmots. It was a marmot census in progress. Later, we met a lone fellow toting an antenna to track previously identified marmots. Ah ... excitement.

This was a day off for us on our training regimen for our climb to Tyler Peak. It was fun to charge up Hurricane Hill instead of inching along on the flank of Tyler Peak, catching our breath after every five steps. Diane said she had been passed on the trail here by a disconcerted mountain goat that had his or her tongue hanging out. Perhaps it was a young male seeking companionship or a young woman trying to avoid this young man?

When we stopped for lunch, the goat leapt up on a rock outcropping and quietly had lunch as we watched. It was a fun day for us with the marmots whistling warnings, the lone goat, quite a number of deer feeding in the meadows, and the young folks busily counting all creatures great and small. Most of the marmots looked quite healthy with new fur coats ... a few were in that awkward stage between tough old skin and healthy new fur.

We asked the fellow with the antenna if he had seen the goat. His response was, "Yes, but he's not supposed to be here."

That struck me as some kind of supreme arrogance. Who is the arbiter of "supposed to be here?" Am I supposed to be here? I may have a very naive concept regarding such issues: Whatever is here is what is supposed to be here. Of course, I've never been a real good bureaucrat ... or, for that matter, a deep thinker. After all, I once mistook a coyote for a wolf. That was because my friend Diane misled me when she named the coyote she saw up here as Wolf.

It's funny, but Wolf disappeared about two years ago and since then, the crop of marmots up here has grown rapidly. I never thought that Wolf was much of a threat to the marmots since whenever I saw him hunting, he was in the meadows catching grasshoppers. It was interesting to watch him nose around in the grass, jump upward on all four and land with his jaws working to help him digest these tasty morsels. Perhaps, Wolf was not supposed to be up here.

This is one of the most accessible wild places in Olympic National Park. The scenery is spectacular, the path mostly paved, the trail relatively short and there certainly is wildlife to see and great wildflowers. Take a chance and dare to visit this fantastic place ... even if you have some doubts about whether you're supposed to.

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