It was a dark and stormy day

Stormy DayThe Olympic Coast of Washington State is a place of extreme beauty—and extreme weather.

Last time Shelley and I ventured out from Seattle to the far reaches of the Olympic Peninsula, we were caught in a pretty savage storm. Not that we weren’t safely ensconced in our car most of the time, but the weather outside the windshield was brutal.

We stopped and braved the gale at Ruby Beach, wearing parkas with hoods up to protect us from driving rain. Down on the beach, high onshore winds smashed titanic ocean rollers onto ragged rocks. The spume that flew up from the wave tops was the color of dark chai, tainted by organic muck stirred up at the mouth of a rain-swollen stream that gushed from an Olympic mountain canyon. Logs, stumps, and colossal tangles of roots vied for preeminence with dark headlands and sea stacks.

Whipped by rain-laden winds, it was all I could do to stand upright while taking my camera from under my coat and shielding its lens with one hand to snap the photo you see here. And as I stood on a slippery tide-wetted log to get a good angle, huge ocean surges did their best to sweep me down among the logs and crush me.

No. Really.

But I got the shot while Shelley watched, aghast at my temerity, or stupidity, or whatever it was that drove me to the brink. But it’s a pretty nice photo if you like scary weather. Click it for a closer view.

Calm DayWe went on our way and stayed the night in calmer circumstances at idyllic Lake Quinault Lodge, where the winds and rains abated during the night.

In the morning we retraced our route heading for home. The weather had cleared and the sun shone. It was the complete antithesis of the day before. So I couldn’t resist stopping at Ruby Beach again to capture this shot of the same scene under happier circumstances. The blue of the sky, freshly cleaned by the storm, and the brilliance of the azure reflections on the water were as stirring and memorable as the raging scene of the day before.

Gone was the rush of the wind in the evergreen forest. Gone was the roar of the ocean. They were replaced by the gentle splash of a much smaller surf and calls of birds that had gone to ground and hidden the day before. Even the giant tangle of logs had somehow been swept away, leaving a smooth and gently wave-lapped shore.

Seattle BlazesIt all amounted to a beautifully refreshing engagement with nature for two often-world-weary urbanites. Our spirits stayed high all the way home, over long highway miles and a ferry ride from the Olympic Peninsula to the mainland. And as we neared Seattle, it seemed the entire city had caught our enthusiasm for life. The skyline lit up with incredible dazzling shimmers of gold at sundown.

Wow. Now that’s what I call a nice getaway trip!

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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