National Geographic : 1974 Feb
more than one hiker his life. I felt the swelling of that tide, like the breathing of some huge animal; I felt its power, its potential menace, even on a calm day like this. As we rested, watching the waves crash against the offshore stacks, Roger said: "Wilderness is not just a matter of geog raphy. It is also a state of mind. It's the realization that you are entirely dependent on your own resources, that if you do something stupid or have an accident, there won't be a rescue party there to pick you up in a few hours. In a real wilderness your smallest actions take on a heightened significance. You not only feel differently, you learn to think differently." By that token, I ventured, there was not much real wilder ness left in this country. "Perhaps not, at least outside Alaska," he replied. "When an area is as heavily visited as this Olympic National Park, some of the pure freedoms of the wilderness are lost. That's inevitable. Still, most of this park is as close to wilderness as we've got. I hope we can keep it that way." HERE IN THE OLYMPICS, as in other wild places I had visited, the quality of wilderness was inversely proportional to the ease of access. A few days earlier my Land-Rover had been one in a steady procession of cars on the paved road from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge, the most visited alpine area on the Olympic Peninsula. Chaletlike Hurricane Ridge Lodge was thronged, and people were scat tered all over its vicinity. But on the narrow dirt road to Ob struction Point I had encountered only two or three vehicles. I had almost reached the end of the road when I spied a movement through the windshield of my Land-Rover. Off to my right, in a meadow brightened by patches of yellow glacier lilies and white avalanche lilies, an animal was running-a fair-size animal, about as big as a large house cat, fat and golden furred with a coat so thick it rippled. An Olympic marmot, I knew right away, although I never had seen one before. He stopped and I approached him on foot. He watched me come, a rather indignant look on his face, his forelegs dangling across his fat tummy. I got to within ten feet of him before he dived into his burrow. From Obstruction Point I walked south along the Moose Lake-Grand Pass Trail toward a bare, grassy ridge 6,000 feet in elevation. A sharp, high-pitched whistle startled me, echoed by another farther off: marmots warning one another of my approach. Although this was mid-July and the sun shone brilliantly in a deep-blue sky, the wind was sharp and large patches of snow filled the hollows of the slopes. I reached a point where the ridge crested, and sat down on a flat rock, facing west, beside a small grove of stunted firs. Directly below me a tiny lake sparkled like a star sapphire. Left high and wet at low tide, starfish and sea anem ones cluster in a tide pool. These oases give safe haven to a bounty of life. On the flow of high tide comes a smor gasbord of plankton to keep the food chain intact. The Olympic wilderness begins here, underwater, and as cends through rain forest to glacier-crusted mountains.