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06/14/18 - Can I Ride The Mules?

Olympic Hot Springs Road is still closed at Madison Falls. The mules have been relocated from their usual home at the start of Whiskey Bend Road to right past the end of the road. Clearly, we are not the only ones following the mules' progress. Others are curious about them too, so curious in fact that the park service has been asking the question that seems to be haunting everyone, "Can I ride the mules?" In brief, the answer is no. That isn't the question we tend to ask. We're more likely to ask if there has been any progress towards getting the road or a replacement for it opened.

Can I Ride the Mules?

Mule Camp is on the left.

A tiger lily

Where the river meets the road

Another view of the river

Keywords: elwha


05/25/18 - Elwha River Update

We drove out to Madison Falls, the current end of Olympic Hot Springs Road. We took our usual walk along the Elwha, past the relocated mule camp, over the temporary bridge, and down to the latest washout where the Elwha meets the road. The Elwha won, as you can see in the pictures.

The park is making the best of the situation. They can't conjure a road from nowhere. Along with many of our favorite trails, there's a park ranger station and work area cut off by the river. There is a temporary trail around the wash out, and while it isn't suitable for cars, it is apparently human and mule friendly. We saw a group of laden mules taking the route.

The river is as beautiful as ever, but the trails out of Whiskey Bend and to Olympic Hot Springs are still inaccessible. This will probably be the situation for some time.


You can see two branches of the Elwha crossing the road here.

Elwha versus Road; Elwha wins.

The park service mules in action

The Elwha

Another view of the Elwha

An artfully framed view of the Elwha

White water

Madison Falls, worth the two minute walk

Upper Madison Falls

Snow covered mountains

A last look at the Elwha

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spring, trails


04/26/18 - Spring Comes to the West Elwha

We took a walk west of the Elwha River and saw definite signs of springs. There were trilliums in bloom and columbines in profusion. Spring is here.

One of the many trilliums

Water crossing the trail

More trilliums

Old forest, signs of moisture

Another trillium

A columbine

More columbines

The boardwalk

More flowers

The Elwha River coming ...

... and going

Keywords: elwha, spring, trillium


03/31/18 - West Side of the Elwha

We've been locked out of the various Elwha River hikes for a while now, and it looks like Olympic Hot Springs Road is going to be closed for a while. Missing the river, we decided to try one of the less accessible hikes on the west side of the river. It was different, but it was the same fern filled forest with moss everywhere. We followed the trail down and further down, crossed a stream and then headed up a bit. Then, we started to get some views of the Elwha River, as beautiful and wild as ever. We turned around, leaving a fair bit more of the trail to explore, but it was nice to get another taste of the Elwha.

The forest and the ferns

A foot bridge

More forest trail

First glimpses of the Elwha through the trees

The Elwha River, calm in its course

More of the Elwha River

A boardwalk made the going easier.

Another view of the river, less calm

Moss, rocks and water

More moss, rock and water

Looking up the wall of green

Keywords: elwha


03/17/18 - The Elwha Again

Given what the park service is up against, the lack of an immediate plan to get Olympic Hot Springs Road open again is not surprising. The Elwha River now has a full fledged tributary running through what was once the Elwha Campground. A temporary bridge is possible, but we haven't even seen the spring melt. The older temporary bridge is still in place, but one can imagine a running battle with the park service building temporary bridges and the Elwha River finding clever new ways to branch around them.

Meanwhile, the mule camp is being relocated. If you've ever taken Whiskey Bend Road, you might have noticed the mules in the field near the start of the road. They work for the park service, but the old mule camp is no longer reachable by road. Yes, the mules could walk in, but it's much easier to deploy mule power if you can get all your mules in a truck or two and take them where they are needed. So, their new seasonal home will be the field just past the Madison Falls parking lot. We probably won't be seeing much of that bobcat who hangs around there. Mules have an ornery reputation.


A river still runs through it.

River meets road.

Another view of the river

Fencing for the mule enclosure

Spring flowers - finally

Keywords: elwha, spring


03/02/18 - A Bobcat and the Elwha

We often head out to check up on the Elwha River. We park at Madison Falls and walk along the closed road, across the temporary bridge to where the most recent branch of the river cuts across the road. It's a short walk, but it offers some nice views of the river. Sometimes we see a bobcat. The bobcat lives not far from Madison Falls, and we usually see him or her in the broad field just south of the road closure. The bobcat was there on our last visit, and we managed to take a picture or two.

The bobcat is there.

Here's a closer view.

A better view

Zoomed in

Zoomed in again - like a house cat, but bigger

A bridge across one of the Elwha's new branches - not suitable for cars or clumsy people

The river

Misty mountains this long winter

Another view of the river

Keywords: elwha, winter


12/14/17 - Why Is Olympic Hot Springs Road Still Closed?

Like many, we've been wondering when Olympic Hot Springs Road is likely to reopen. We want to get back to the trails out of Whiskey Bend and to Olympic Hot Springs. We drove out to take a look and see how the river was flowing. We parked at Madison Falls and walked past the gate and followed the road over the temporary bridge. We could see that the road wasn't in great shape, but last time it was completely flooded. Now the waters had receded, so we pressed on.

We didn't get very far. Maybe a quarter mile past the temporary bridge there was a gap in the road and a branch of the Elwha river running through that gap. It wasn't just some little stream, but a full fledged torrent, maybe thirty feet wide. This wasn't something that could be easily stopped or bridged. The remainder of Olympic Hot Springs Road, including the ranger station, was cut off.

On our way back, we stopped to study one of the signs describing the temporary trail that the park service has blazed. It cuts inland near where the road gets its first view of the river. According to the sign, the trail runs inland and uphill and continues south past the east side of the campground. It appears to rejoin Olympic Hot Springs Road down near the ranger station and the junction with Whiskey Bend Road. In other words, it is possible to head further down the road on foot, but not otherwise, and this isn't likely to change very soon.


The road wasn't in great shape.

We could see a gap up ahead.

That's a new branch of the Elwha.

Some more road damage

Even more road damage

The river wild

More of the Elwha River

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, trails


11/24/17 - The Elwha River Flood Report

Olympic Hot Springs Road along the Elwha River has been flooded for a while now. The last time we dropped by, there was just a bit of water on the road. This time, the whole road was a river from shortly after the temporary bridge towards the campground. The side stream that flows through the old campground is now a river in its own right, and we have never seen so much rough water in the Elwha.

Olympic Hot Springs Road flooded

The river in full flow

Another look at the river

Water under the bridge

High water on both sides of the spit

Rough, roaring water

Some mist

Another view upstream

Wild water in the Elwha

View from near Madison Falls

A view downstream

Keywords: elwha


11/19/17 - Elwha River and Madison Falls

Olympic Hot Springs Road along the Elwha has been closed at Madison Falls again. This time because of flooding. We took a walk up along the road. Indeed, there was a stretch of it under water. We made the most of our wandering and got some nice views of the river. We also checked out Madison Falls. This has been a wet autumn.





Keywords: autumn, elwha, olympic hot springs


10/24/17 - Along the Elwha

Olympic Hot Springs Road was closed for a day or two due to weather related damage, so we got to walk along the roadway south from the Madison Falls parking lot. We had been taking this walk a lot while they were repairing the road, but once we could get the Whiskey Bend and the like, we zoomed right past this area to get to our trailhead. With the road closed, we revisited. (The road has since reopened.)

Did we mention fall color?

Twisted Halloween trees

More color

The Elwha

Another view of the Elwha

Misty mountains

One of our favorite views

A view upriver

More misty mountains across the river

Keywords: elwha, halloween, weather


10/20/17 - The Smokey Bottom or West Lake Mills Trail

We took a walk along what was once the west bank of Lake Mills, but now is just a trail following the Elwha River. We started at the old Glines Canyon dam overlook and headed south. We passed through young forest and then more open areas with nice views of the river. There were lots of late season lupines in bloom, a lot of them planted as part of the restoration effort.

It was a short hike. We're hoping it gets extended and linked up with other trails in the area. For now, it's a good way to watch the old Elwha River come back into its own.


View from the remains of the Glines Canyon Dam looking south

The eastern remains of the dam

Some mushrooms

Signs of fire

Young forest

A late season lupine

A view of the river

Formerly Lake Mills

Another view

Keywords: elwha, trails


06/09/17 - Elwha Trail Update

We were on the Elwha Trail again. The trilliums are almost gone, but the sedums are out as are the butterflies.

The first crossing

One of the butterflies

One of the sedums

The trail

And more of the trail

Keywords: elwha


04/22/17 - Elwha River Trail - Part 1

With Olympic Hot Springs Road open again, we've been heading up to Whiskey Bend and revisiting the Elwha River Trail. We've already made it to the overlook before the second canyon on the way to Lilian Camp and down past Michael's Ranch for a look at the Elwha River. The trails are still a bit muddy, but lots of people are about celebrating the area's reopening. We've been celebrating this year's crop of trilliums and are looking forward to a great hiking season.

A trillium

A view from the overlook

A tree down across the trail

Another trillium

Another bit of trail

One of the many streams

Yet another trillium

Those yellow violets

The trail is beautiful on a sunny day

Our first slug of the season

Mysterious alligator leaves

Keywords: elwha, spring, trails, trillium


04/21/17 - Elwha River Trail - Part 2

The last photo in Part 1 is of a mysterious alligator leaf, something we had never noticed before on this trail. On our second trip we solved the mystery. Those are columbine leaves. We have never seen columbines growing in this area before, so we were quite pleased. They've been added to the regional treasure trove along with the trilliums, orchids and yellow violets.

The Elwha River itself is well upstream of the dam, but each year we have seen more brush growing across the river bed. When we first started visiting, over a decade ago, there was some scrub, but now there are substantial bushes. Has the river changed? This part wasn't affected by the dam removal, so this is another mystery.


One of our favorite waterfalls

Another view

The trail

The river

Another view of the river

More of the trail

An orchid

Another orchid

A columbine - the mystery of the alligator leaves solved

Yet another columbine

Even more columbines

Keywords: elwha, trillium, waterfall


04/20/17 - Elwha River Trail - Part 3

The Elwha River Trail out of Whiskey Bend is in pretty good shape, but on our way down to Michael's Ranch we were warned not to linger for a stretch. There were overhead hazards, presumably falling branches. This was the stretch with one of our favorite waterfalls, so we did stop briefly to admire it, but not for long.

This stretch of trail is also being rebuilt a bit. We chatted briefly with two of the trail workers rebuilding a stretch of boardwalk. They were hard at it. Presumably, their work is done, and we'll be spared a bit of mud on our next hike that way.


Warning, warning

Thank you, trail maintainers!

Another view of the boardwalk work

Some forest

A bonus trillium

Keywords: elwha, trillium, waterfall


04/03/17 - Whiskey Bend Road is Open

We headed out to Madison Falls hoping for a little walk along the Elwha River. To our surprise, the gate on Olympic Hot Springs Road was open. To our further surprise, the bathroom at the ranger station is now both handicapped accessible and beautiful. To our even further surprise, Whiskey Bend Road was open. We made our way up the twisty one and a half lane road and took the Elwha River Trail for a ways. The last time we did this was a year and a half ago, and the trail was only open for a week.

The trail was as beautiful as ever, but we kept expecting to run into a ranger telling us that we had gotten in by mistake and would have to leave. We felt we had sneaked in. The trail is in great shape, though we only made it a bit past Michael's Cabin, heading up on the trail to Lilian Camp. The day was sunny; the greens were brilliant. We had glimpses of snow covered mountains. It was great to be back.

P.S. We're hoping the trail stays open, and that they open the road to Olympic Hot Springs soon. Meanwhile, the Spruce Railroad Trail is still closed, and the latest word on reopening is in July.


The Elwha River Trail

Wonderful light

Michael's Cabin

Much less green than we expected

Another bit of trail

A friendly fungus

A glimpse of the river

A glimpse of snow covered mountain

One of the streams

Yet another view of the trail

A waterfall on Whiskey Bend Road

Keywords: elwha, spring


03/28/17 - Skunk Cabbage, at Last

Spring has been coming slowly, but on our last walk along the Elwha River we saw our first skunk cabbage of the year. It's about a month late, but better late than never.

Spooky trees

Save this for Halloween

Skunk cabbage, at last

More skunk cabbage

Aren't you glad your browser doesn't support odors?

A side creek

The forest

More forest with spooky maples

Another view

The Elwha

The Elwha again

Keywords: elwha, spring


03/12/17 - Elk and the Elwha

With Olympic Hot Springs Road closed, a lot of trails have been unreachable, so we've taken to walking the closed road from the closure at Madison Falls. The river is still beautiful, and the high country still beckons. We hope the park service manages to reopen the road at some point.

There was a herd of elk by the road on our way to Madison Falls. There were quite a few of them. As we move into spring, then summer, they'll be heading up to the high country. For now, we'll take advantage of the photo op.


An elk farm

Some elk

More elk

A horse watches the elk suspiciously

Even more elk

The mountains

Off the Elwha

The Elwha River

Another view of the Elwha

An artsy view of the Elwha

Lately, our favorite view of the Elwha

Keywords: elwha, spring, trails


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