Introducing Olympic National Park Hiking, Naturalist, and Birding Guide Carolyn Wilcox

Close-up of smiling Olympic National Park hiking guide and birding guide Carolyn Wilcox of the Olympic Peninsula

Summary of Olympic National Park's Carolyn Wilcox

Hello, my name is Carolyn Wilcox and I am fortunate enough to live year-round in Port Angeles, Washington.  I started ExperienceOlympic to merge my passions for hands-on education, natural history, and outdoor exploration.  As the owner, hiking guide, birding guide, and naturalist for ExperienceOlympic, I hope to collaborate with you to create a unique Olympic National Park experience for all ages and abilities.  I am a certified biology teacher in Washington State, and have a Master of Science degree and Wilderness First Responder first-aid certification (with over ninety hours of medical training in dealing with emergencies in wilderness settings).  I hope you will consider joining me the next time you visit the Pacific Northwest's Olympic Peninsula!

Return to the ExperienceOlympic Tour Operator page to learn more about my small ecotourism company.

Olympic National Park hiking guide Carolyn Wilcox pointing out a caterpillar to a young budding naturalist

Carolyn Wilcox working in Olympic National Park

Employment with NatureBridge (formerly Olympic Park Institute) was what led me to move to Port Angeles, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula.  NatureBridge is centered around the historic Rosemary Inn, which is located between Storm King Ranger Station and the Lake Crescent Lodge on Barnes Point.  I worked with students of diverse ages and backgrounds, acted as naturalist and hiking guide to students in and around Olympic National Park on a daily basis, and used my advanced first aid skills to respond to wilderness emergencies.  Students and people in general sometimes just need a little encouragement and modeling to bring out their naturalistic intelligence and love for the natural world. 

A participant and an Olympic National Park hiking guide sit enjoying a beautiful stretch of blue Elwha River

Another opportunity opened up in Olympic National Park when I accepted a job with the U.S. Geological Survey as a member of the Elwha River Wildlife Research Team. Hiking and wildlife observation skills were required to complete our research on Olympic National Park wildlife. I helped gather data on river otters, black bears, amphibians, and medium-sized carnivores (like weasels) before the Elwha Dam Removal.

View through the spotting scope of birding guide Carolyn Wilcox who is studying her bird guide with a quesadilla

Carolyn Wilcox the Birder

Since childhood, I have had the ability to see and understand wildlife.  I was first exposed to ornithology as an undergraduate and have been obsessed with birds ever since 1998. 

Although I have studied birds in a scientific capacity, I prefer to study aves as a naturalist and birding guide and love pointing out birds to people.  I learned to "bird by ear" in the late 90's with the Missouri Forest Ecosystem Project.  I conducted auditory transect maps of neotropical migratory songbirds, set-up mist nests, banded birds, and searched for nests.  In 2011, I worked hard to improve my raptor ID skills with HawkWatch International through migratory raptor data collection in Utah.

Here on the Olympic Peninsula, I have been concentrating on seabird and shorebird identification.  To this end, I have had the amazing fortune of pelagic birding off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula from both La Push and Neah Bay.  I am also working to better understand old-growth forest indicator species like the Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet in order to share this research with participants.

A five year old girl in a red bathing suit has a butterfly resting on her hand

Although I am pointing out birds on all ecotours, I am quick to assess interest and hope to encourage more birders to embark on Olympic Peninsula birding tours.

Wilderness ethic of naturalist and hiking guide Carolyn Wilcox

My mom has always loved gardening, which allowed me to have time to enjoy nature as a child.  My parents also liked to car camp in parks and we were lucky to have relatives who lived in rural settings.  This photo of me taken in the 1980s captures my delight in being outdoors and interacting with the natural world. 

Olympic National Park birding guide and birding participant are smiling and taking a moment away from the spotting scope

Fast forward to college when I first discovered the joy of backpacking and natural history while studying under Round River Conservation Studies in wilderness near Alpine, Arizona. During spring bird migration under the tutelage of a master birding guide, I used bird-watching optics (like those you will use on Olympic National Park guided ecotours) to watch raptors such as the Common Black Hawk, Golden Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. I wouldn’t have developed a strong wilderness ethic if it were not for this unique hands-on experience in a wilderness setting, small group of students, and time with an experienced naturalist and birding guide.

Academics of Carolyn Wilcox

I earned my Bachelors in Biology at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and a Master of Science in Environmental Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. I was especially inspired by undergraduate classes in Mammalian Ecology, Limnology, Botany, Ornithology, and Entomology. While in graduate school, I conducted plant ecology research in the Mojave Desert and became proficient at handling complicated logistics, timelines, and data management systems.

Naturalist and hiking guide Carolyn Wilcox with six students posing in front of a Monteverde Costa Rica Cloud Forest sign

Teaching by Carolyn Wilcox

I am endorsed by Washington State to teach Biology and Science to middle to high school-aged students. I have taught science in public secondary schools in the Pacific Northwest. I have loved:

1. Guiding biology students on morning bird walks

2. Guiding marine biology students to low tides

3. Implementing and leading multi-disciplinary trips to Costa Rica

4. Implementing and leading a class trip to the North Cascades

5. Incorporating a greenhouse and outdoor garden into environmental science studies

Naturalist and hiking guide Carolyn Wilcox touching a termite mound in Costa Rica jungle


Travel abroad by Carolyn Wilcox

I was fortunate to travel "Down Under" (to both Australia and New Zealand) with Youth For Understanding in high school.  Since then, I have taught and traveled extensively in Costa Rica and Mexico; I have also traveled a bit in Canada, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama, Bahamas, Bermuda, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, Namibia, and Tanzania. I look forward to interacting with all travelers as your naturalist, hiking, and birding guide, learning about different world views, and sharing my home in and around Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula.

Olympic National Park Tours with ExperienceOlympic, Port Angeles WA 98362, founded by guide Carolyn Wilcox, starting offering guided hiking and wildlife-viewing tours in May of 2013.