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10/12/17 - Fall Colors on Hurricane Hill

The rainy season starts in the fall. That means autumn color and the start of the rainy season. The brilliant, almost crystalline summer sky is replaced by a sky of clouds and mists. Rivers of cloud snake their way through the river valleys and drape the mountain sides. The snows many come at any time and close the roads to the high country, so we try to get up as often as we can while we can.

Mountains and autumn haze

Some color

Mount Baker from afar

Port Angeles from above

Another mountain view

Snow on the north face

The season of the misty mountains and golden grasses

More golden fields

More grasses

Keywords: autumn, high country, hurricane hill


08/20/17 - Hurricane Hill as Summer Passes

The summer is passing. More gold and brown are creeping into the colors of the high country. We hiked the Hurricane Hill Trail again and saw a bit of drama, two young marmots were attacked by a hawk. They were unharmed, but one tends to thing that these things are just staged for nature documentaries. Not true.

We also ran into the team planning to rebuild the trail. The Hurricane Hill Trail is heavily used in season, and it has been showing signs of wear. We're hoping they don't have to close the trail for too long. We've been having a lot of trail and road closures lately.


Summer colors

Still plenty of green

Mountains in late summer

Another view

The view to the north

Clouds add drama.

A silky sky

Late summer flowers

The season

Yet another view

The trail planning team at work

Keywords: flowers, high country, hurricane hill, marmots, summer


07/20/17 - Klahane Ridge Again

Our three favorite high country trails are the Hurricane Hill Trail, the Lilian Ridge Trail out of Obstruction Point and the Klahane Ridge Trail via the Switchback Trail. This season, the last of those of three keeps calling us back. We've been watching the flowers, with more and more lupines appearing as the phlox starts to fade. We've been watching the mountain goats, carefully, as there seem to be a lot of them. There were over a dozen on our descent. We didn't stop for photos. We wanted to keep an eye on them and be ready to react.

We made it up past the ridge overlook and followed the trail leading to Lake Angeles. The "rooms", areas carpeted with alpine flowers and divided by crags, were a trip back to early in the season. Only a few flowers had blossomed, though we expect more when we answer the call of Klahane Ridge again.


A view from the ascent

As we approached the ridge

A mountain goat and her kid

Another view of them

A view of the Olympic Mountains

One of the alpine "rooms"

The end of our hike, lingering snow

Phlox, probably at its peak - It's a pity there isn't HTML to capture the scent.

Lupines, a great year

Blood wort

Bog orchid

Keywords: flowers, high country, klahane ridge, mountain goats, trails


02/16/17 - Marymere Falls in February

It has been a wintry month, and we haven't been getting out as much as we'd like. If nothing else, the Spruce Railroad Trail and all of the Elwha Valley trails are closed for construction and the high country is covered with snow. We did get out to Marymere Falls. It was a short walk from the parking lot, less than an hour round trip, but it was a nice taste of northwestern forest for the season.

The falls

The misty mountain trail

Looking down at Barnes Creek

The trail with a new handrail (on the right)

Barnes Creek again

The side stream from the falls

Another view of Barnes Creek

Keywords: elwha, high country, marymere falls, spruce railroad, trails


09/30/16 - The Plains of Mars

Winter is coming to the high country. The greens are turning into browns and reds and golds. At Obstruction Point the colors are brilliant, and the fields of bright red foliage remind us of the plains of Mars. Of course, thanks to NASA we now know that Mars looks nothing at all like Lilian Ridge, but the colors still evoke the fantastic Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The high country is always a bit otherworldly, but it is at its most spectacular and alien when the colors start to change.

The mountains of Mars

More mountains with Martian vegetation in the foreground

Red and a shock of gold

Fields of Mars

More Martian landscape

Seasonal color change

Changing colors from a distance

The red land encroaches on a dying sea

Lakes and seas of gold

More plains of Mars

Another Martian view

Keywords: high country, obstruction point


09/18/16 - Smoke in the High Country

The Cox Valley fire is still smoldering in the high country. We hiked the Hurricane Hill trail and could see the smoke filled valleys to the south. We also saw a number of blue grouse. The grasses on the hill sides have been turning golden, but it was the spectacular blue of the smoke and sky that caught our attention.

Autumn colors and smoke

More valley smoke

Smoke and clouds

Golden grasses and forest fire smoke

One of the grice or perhaps one of the grouses

More distant smoke

Smoke, sky and trail

Dried flowers

Even more smoke

A close up …

… and another one

Keywords: grouse, high country, hurricane hill


09/07/16 - Hurricane Hill in the Mist

The weather in the high country is as changeable as ever. That means packing a light raincoat and making the most of whatever the mountains and clouds offer. We didn’t expect much from Hurricane Hill on a cloudy day, but the round trip walk takes over an hour and a half. That gave the clouds plenty of time to shift and change. At times we were wrapped in fog, but we still managed to discern a blue grouse and a marmot. We also had some spectacular scenery and a beautiful walk.

Mixed skies

Autumn colors

Mist

One of the views

A blue grouse

Autumn colors and autumn mist

The flooded foot path

A marmot in the mist

A closeup of that marmot

Some teasing blue sky

Another view

Keywords: grouse, high country, hurricane hill, weather


07/29/16 - Obstruction Point

We waited for a sunny day before heading out to Obstruction Point. We really did not want to be caught on the road out in the fog. We were well rewarded with spectacular high country views, alpine flowers and the return of the alpine lakes, even now filling with melting snow. It is always an otherworldly experience, a journey to the top of the world and another clime.

The trail

One of the views - the Olympic range

Another view

A seasonal lake

Glacier lily - It’s still early spring out there.

Some lupines, nice to see

Another seasonal lake

A lake and melting snow

Yet another view of the mountains

Another lake and melting snow

Phlox, a sign of spring

Keywords: flowers, high country, obstruction point


05/12/16 - Hurricane Hill Road Is Open

Hurricane Hill Road opened on Sunday, the 8th of May. This is earlier than usual. There was a lot of snow up on Hurricane Ridge this winter, but it has been melting quickly. We took advantage of this early opening and went out to hike one of our favorite trails in the high country. The sky was blue. The snow covered mountains were crystalline in the distance.

It was still early in the season, though. There were only a few glacier lilies, but a lot richly scented phlox. In places it covered the hillsides, and its aroma covered the trail. We made it all the way up to the summit, about a 650 foot climb. The only snow on the trail was where the trail was protected on both sides by pine trees, the section running from the bench, about 200 feet, to the open switchbacks above, about 350 feet.

The high country is open. We should note, there is only one open restroom at the Hurricane Ridge lodge during the week, but the picnic area restrooms down Hurricane Hill Road are open, even during the week.


The snow capped Olympic Mountains

The one long snowy stretch of trail

A spectacular place to hike

A glacier lily

More scenery

The mountains again

… and again

Phlox

A view from the summit

A north facing hillside

More phlox

Keywords: high country, hurricane hill, hurricane ridge, trails


09/12/14 - Fall Colors at Obstruction Point

We always like the Lilian Ridge hike out of Obstruction Point in the autumn. In truth, this hike has its charms in every season, but in the fall the wild, high country foliage starts changing color. There are bright yellows, pale silvers, and some amazing brilliant reds. The high country is exotic enough, but sometimes we feel like we are on another world, hiking the bright red plains of Mars.

Bright reds set off by deep summer greens

One of the many crickets about

More brilliant red

Red fields and red stairs

More early autumn color

A few last harebells

Cedums and dried flowers

More alpine flowers

A patch of red

Red grasses

More red fields

Keywords: autumn, high country, obstruction point


07/24/14 - Obstruction Point, Just the Flowers

The glacier lilies and phlox may be passing, and the lupine a bit off their peak, but otherwise, this has been the most amazing year for high country flowers. We won't even bother with captions; we don't even know the names of most of these. They're just beautiful. We'll let the pictures do the talking.











Keywords: flowers, high country, obstruction point


07/23/14 - Obstruction Point Revisited

Obstruction Point Road opened a bit over a week ago, so we ventured out from Hurricane Ridge. It's a one and a half lane unpaved road, so we drove carefully to the parking lot at the edge of the high wilderness. Most of the snow on the trail had melted, so we made it all the way to where the trail drops off for the descent towards Grand Lake. Here, there was some snow on the trail, but otherwise, it was easy going.

The high country here is wild and austere with dusty trails, cracked rocks and a profusion of wild flowers. There was some phlox and a few glacier lilies left, but there were so many flowers that we'll have to have a separate post just for them. Some years, the alpine lakes in the valleys below are covered with snow, but this year, the snows have melted early, so they are all full of water and almost like distant mirrors.


The view down the staircase

The last few glacier lilies

A last bit of phlox

One of the seasonal lakes

More lakes - the one on the left with icebergs



The mountains

More mountains

Melting snow

The trail

Keywords: flowers, high country, obstruction point, trails


06/05/14 - Klahane Ridge Report

We still aren't sure how we did it, but we managed to climb up the Switchback Trail and get all the way up to Klahane Ridge. We were sure that this was as early in the season we had ever managed the climb, but we actually did make it to the ridge on May 29th back in 2005, so it has been a while.

This is always an exhausting hike, but the sense of the mountain and the spectacular views always make it worth the effort. This time that effort included having to clamber over a few remaining mounds of snow. The trail starts among trees in the ghost forest, then emerges onto the lush hill side. Most of the flowers have yet to bloom, though there was plenty of richly scented phlox and a lot of golden glacier lilies.

As we climbed, the distant rocky ridges overhead drew closer, and our view expanded. At around 1000 feet above the parking lot, Sunrise Point no longer blocks the view of glacier covered Mount Olympus and its cousins. The sky is wide and sparkling. Of course, at the ridge, the view is panoramic with the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, and everything else in creation, it seems, distantly visible.

We saw one lone marmot as we approached the ridge, but he or she - a matter primarily of interest to another marmot - dodged under a tree and some rocks. If we want to see marmots, we'll head back to Hurricane Hill. The high country is open. It looks like an early season.


The white stuff in the foreground is phlox. The white stuff in the background is snow.

The view

Mount Angeles

There were fields of richly scented phlox.

Phlox and more view

The view north of the strait

More phlox

The Olympic Mountains

Rocky fingers and lush green slopes

A glacier lily

This is a carnivorous plant growing not far from the parking lot. Click to enlarge the image and you can see the trapped insects.

Keywords: flowers, high country, klahane ridge


06/02/14 - Hurricane Hill Trail Report

The Hurricane Hill Trail is open. On slow days, we have been heading up to Hurricane Ridge to watch the snow melt and glacier lilies blossom. Usually this time of year, there are ten foot high ramparts of snow at the far end of the parking lot. This year, the area was almost snow free, so it was only a small surprise that the road to the Hurricane Hill trailhead was open. The big surprise was that the trail was relatively free of snow. There were some patches and a long stretch, a section of the trail shaded by evergreens was still covered. Still, we made it to the summit.

The trail is open early. We usually don't make it to the top of the hill until late June or even early July, but this year is different. The alpine flowers are already coming out, and not just the glacier lilies. The trail is scented with phlox. The paintbrush is out and the lupines are starting to bloom. Even the marmots are up and about. If you are planning a trip to Hurricane Ridge, it might make sense to plan to come early. The high country can be hard country, so it pays to sieze the day.


The trail is quite clear here.

This shaded corridor is the most snow covered part of the trail, but passable.

The views are spectacular.

A view from the summit

Another high country view

Lupines

Phlox

A marmot

Another marmot

Bachelors, out grazing

Paintbrush

Keywords: flowers, high country, hurricane hill, hurricane ridge, marmots


05/26/14 - Lake Angeles Trail in Bloom

The trilliums are passing, but the Oregon grape is in bloom along with the pacific dogwood, tiarella and a few other flowers. This is the second wave, but it is coming right along. We've made it past the half way point to the lake, but we have a good bit of getting in shape ahead of us. Still, the high country beckons, so next time, excelsior.

We aren't sure what this is, but it's pretty.

Some latter day trilliums

Mahonia aka Oregon grape

Wild water at the crossing

More wild water

Pacific dogwood

... and more dogwood

Tiarella

... and more tiarella

New growth on the salal almost looks like flowers.

A sylvan collage

Keywords: flowers, high country, oregon, trillium


10/20/13 - Olympic National Park Is Open Again - Hurricane Hill

The park is open again, and about time. As soon as we got the word, we were heading up Hurricane Ridge Road, and we weren't alone. There was a short line up at the entry station and a short wait where they are still repairing the tunnels, but it didn't take us long to return to the high country. Hurricane Hill was spectacular. There are a few spots of snow on the ground, but the trails were clear and the air almost crystaline. The grasses are turning golden brown. It was only two weeks, but it was way too long.

The fields are golden brown

More color, more mountains

A spot of snow below

That snow on the north face is there until next summer.

The side spur

The Strait of San Juan de Fuca

A view north

Golden hills

Some autumn color

Fields, snow and mountains

Mount Baker, a distant meringue

Keywords: high country, hurricane hill, autumn, trails


10/01/13 - Marymere Falls

We were lazy today, so we took a short hike at Marymere Falls which flows into Barnes Creek not far from the south shore of Lake Crescent. Despite the government shutdown, the Barnes Creek parking lot was open, though the ranger station and bathrooms were closed. The rain forest and the river, however, were in full operation and, with today's peep of sunlight, quite beautiful.

We have never seen Marymere Falls so full and flowing, even at the peak of spring melt. The recent rains have filled the watershed, and the falls put on a real show in consequence. You can even check the video (Play), as seeing is believing.

We saw a bit of snow on the higher peaks over the Barnes Creek valley, but the real snow is in the high country. Hurricane Ridge reports ten inches of snow, most of it fallen in the last day or two. Winter has come early this year, so barring a pineapple express, we may not be up on the ridge until the snowshoe and ski season starts.










Keywords: barnes creek, high country, lake crescent, winter, marymere falls


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