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10/23/10 - Wild Sky at Hurricane Hill

Winter is teasing Hurricane Ridge even now. There's already a touch of snow on the lodge roof and a fair bit more fresh on the distant mountain tops. There's still a lot of autumn color, but now that is starting to fade. We started our latest hike with the mountains shrouded in white cloud and a light sleet, but the clouds parted and swirled. The sky was gray, nearly black, then white, then gray again, then blue. It was quite a show. It made up for the lack of marmots, now sensibly drowsing, we presume. It won't be long before the dominant shade is white, and getting to Hurricane Hill will require skis or snowshoes, so this might be a good time to say goodbye to autumn.

An unprepossessing sky

Autumn colors



Light and mist

Quickly moving shadows

Harvest gold - it looks better here than on one's refrigerator

Early snow

More autumn color

More wild sky

The glow of the sun

Keywords: autumn, hurricane hill, hurricane ridge, marmots, winter


10/08/10 - Obstruction Point

This may be our last trip to Obstruction Point this season. It's October, so it might snow any day. The signs of autumn are obvious now. Most of the great fields of snow have melted, and most of the flowers are gone. Parts of the trail remind us of Edgar Rice Burrough's Mars with brilliant red foliage at our feet.

Obstruction Point also seems to be chock full of marmots, particularly in the Marmot Meadow perhaps a half mile before the parking area. Interestingly, this seems to be a bad year for the red algae or bacteria, or perhaps archaea, that mottle the melting snow fields. This year they are still almost white.


Scenery

Welcome to Barsoom

Red Planet Earth

More Red Planet

The lakes

Melting snow



This looked rather Christmassy. Everyone seems to be jumping the gun this year.

A reminder of summer

One of our marmot friends

Keywords: autumn, flowers, marmots, obstruction point


10/04/10 - Klahane Ridge

The Switchback Trail to Klahane Ridge is always a challenge, but the views are always worth it. The colors have been changing a bit, and there are only a few alpine flowers left. Like Hurricane Hill, Klahane Ridge is chock full of marmots this year. We saw at least two of them out catching a few rays and enjoying the view, an inspiration for us Kalebergs.

There's just a bit of snow left.

Some scenery

More scenery

An alpine meadow, a magic carpet

There is nothing like a good rock in the foreground to set off the vista in the background.

Safety orange

Can you spot the marmot?

Another marmot

A well camouflaged marmot

A bit of paintbrush remained

As did a few asters

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill, klahane ridge, marmots, kale


10/02/10 - Sightings

Hurricane Hill is chock full of marmots lately. They seem to be all over the place. Could it be that the park service has removed those coyotes, or is it just the year of the marmot? (They aren't all golden anymore either, possibly due to the high price of gold.)

We also saw a helicopter by the road side. They've been moving some old logs up from near Lake Dawn to Lake Angeles as part of the restoration effort. There probably wasn't a place to land at the pick up site, and we know there isn't one up at Lake Angeles, so they used one of the overlook pullouts.

Sorry, we have no action shots. The last time we saw one of these working helicopters it almost dumped a ton of gravel on us out towards Cape Alava, so it's probably just as well.




Keywords: hurricane hill, lake angeles, marmots, flying


07/29/10 - Obstruction Point

Obstruction Point Road has been open for a bit over a week, and we Kalebergs were not far behind. The road itself is in good shape, though dusty and vertiginous. The scenery, was spectacular. The hiking trail is still partly covered with snow, but the portion we take was not hard going. The snow that there is was soft.

Other hikers had seen marmots, but we didn't see any. We did see lots of wildflowers: phlox, pink paintbrush, lupines, asters, and, of course, the melting snow. Some of the lakes below are stil covered, though some have melted through. Now that Obstruction Point is open, we can say with certainty, the high country is open.


A view from the parking lot

That little lake seen descending the stone staircase

Snow on the trail

The mountains

It's sort of like this.

One of the lakes

The snow ridge

Pink paintbrush

Lupines

We're not sure of what this is, and we're not ashamed to admit it.

Phlox

Keywords: flowers, high country, obstruction point, marmots, kale


10/21/09 - Hurricane Hill In Gold

Obstruction Point Road is closed, as is Deer Park. We were up at Hurricane Hill and had the mountain nearly to ourselves for a bit. Even the marmots and grouse seem to have vanished for the year. The grasses have turned golden, and there are splashes of brilliant color set off by the somber greens of the forest. Was it really 97 degrees and so very green up here back in July?

Corn lily stalks

The golden fields

Fields and mountains - still on the top of the world

One of the views

The clouds like the valleys.

Some color, but fading already

Maybe we'll do this on our mantel for Christmas.

Keywords: hurricane hill, marmots, autumn, grouse


09/28/09 - Fall Color in the High Country

Autumn is a great time to explore the high country of Olympic National Park. If nothing else, the colors can be spectacular. The alpine flowers peak early in the summer, but then the vegetation dries and withers. In the fall the foliage gets a second chance with its brilliant autumn colors.

We drove out to Obstruction Point to see if this year's dry spell would deprive us of our anticipated reds and golds. As it turned out, we had no reason to worry. The trail crossed quite a few patches of bright red. It was like walking the Field of Mars.

We also had a great marmot sighting. One of the little guys was right by the road. We just had to stop and roll down our window for an amazing close up view. All told, 2009 has been a great year for marmot watching.


One of our local golden marmots

The same guy, on the lookout

Some scenery

More scenery

Lingering snow

Bright red

More autumn color

One of those garden show rock gardens

The trail through the Field of Mars

Keywords: autumn, flowers, high country, marmots, obstruction point


09/22/09 - Klahane Ridge and the End of Summer

The summer flowers are gone on Klahane Ridge, but the trail still beckons in the fall. The views are as spectacular as ever, and the thinning vegetation makes it easier to spot wildlife. We saw one of the marmots that lives in the rocks near the crest of the ridge. We wanted a photo with him in the classic marmot pose, but the poor guy just wanted to eat what greens were left. This mean we took eight photos of him with his head down, but we snared a passable shot on the ninth try.

This is either a marmot or Sasquatch Junior on a bad hair day.

Amazing views

Clouds from the sea

Keywords: klahane ridge, autumn, marmots


07/19/09 - Hurricane Hill Update

We were up at Hurricane Hill and the critters were out in force. We saw at least two golden marmots and a blue sage grouse with her chicks. This has been a great year for spotting marmots. The roses are out, and lupine lines the trail. We checked on the corn lilies which are in the meadow on the trail spur that leads down to the Elwha Ranger Station. They have their flower spikes, but haven't bloomed yet. That's something to look forward to.

The view

A baby blue sage grouse

Mom blue sage grouse

A golden marmot, in profile

Another marmot

Corn lilies getting larger

Turk's cap lily

Roses!

Larkspur

Keywords: hurricane hill, marmots, grouse


07/12/09 - Obstruction Point 2 - Flowers and Animals

The trails leading from Obstruction Point have a lot to offer besides spectacular scenery. If you can take your eyes off the mountains for a moment, you'll notice that you are surrounded by dozens of different kinds of plants, and right now it seems that most of them are in bloom. There are lupines, asters, glacier lilies and paintbrush in red, orange and pink. If you are lucky, you might see one of the local golden marmots, or a blue sage grouse, a chipmunk or deer. So, don't let the drive daunt you. This may be your chance to see Obstruction Point at its most varied best.

These look like miniature lupines with silvery leaves.

Our friend, the marmot

Pink paintbrush

Lupines and friends

This reminds of the silverswords at Haleakala on Maui

More blooms

More paintbrush, but another shade

A young deer

A blue sage grouse taking a sand bath

Keywords: obstruction point, trails, high country, flowers, animals, marmots, grouse


06/29/09 - First Rose On Hurricane Hill

The flower season is progressing in the high country. We spotted the first rose, along with more marmots, on the Hurricane Hill trail. The alpine flower season is nearing its peak. Take advantage of some of the wonderful weather and see for yourself.

The first rose

Keywords: high country, hurricane hill, marmots, weather


06/24/09 - The Hall of the Mountain Goat

Our most recent journey up the Switchback Trail was more menacing than usual. True, the ridge was no higher than ever, and the trail no steeper. True, the light clouds portended no stormy disaster. It was only the hastily posted mountain goat warning stapled to the trailhead sign that gave us a clue as to what awaited us.

We had further warnings on our ascent. One hiker had turned back in defeat. Tales were told of a jogger who had been followed by the angry beast. Still, our experiences with mountain goats had generally been uneventful, save for the loud clicking and whirring of our digital camera. This time, however, was different.

We met the goat after climbing a full thousand feet. Mount Olympus now loomed over Sunrise Point. The goat was on the trail above us and proved to be a cool customer. He took note of us, nibbled some greens, then made his way down the trail towards us. Nimbly, he took the switchback. Viciously, he nibbled the vegetation. We tried moving forward, then forward again. The goat hissed in warning. We had gone too far.

The goat would not be moved. He, for the goat was a billy, would not let us pass. We retreated and contemplated our failure. Cabrito, we have savored, but this fellow was beyond our limited capacity. We started our retreat, but then fate intervened in the form of another pair of hikers, better adapted to the rigors of the trail than we. We pointed out our nemesis.

They took our intelligence calmly. "The slingshot," said the woman. "The slingshot," replied the man extracting said weapon from his backpack. Armed, our party advanced. He chose a few pebbles from the trail, each no larger than a quarter for the most part. His first shot fell short. The second connected. The goat stopped his nibbling and looked about. A second pebble followed. The goat moved on down the mountainside, abandoning the contested stretched of trail.

The goat had abandoned the trail proper, but was still close by, threatening. We advanced. We consolidated our victory with one or two pebbles more. The goat wanted no more of us, and sauntered a few yards farther from the trail. The way was clear! Our victory was the ridge itself, and the view had never been better for having been earned in adversity.


Our nemesis, almost

Ominously nibbling beside the trail

Vanquished

The view

North face and south face

The bonsai garden

Phlox - the scent of victory

A fuzzy picture of a marmot

The marmot in context

The hillside is in bloom.

Bog orchids are in bloom by the roadside. We had to follow our noses.

Keywords: klahane ridge, animals, marmots, flowers, mountain goats


06/12/09 - The Marmots of Hurricane Hill

Not only is the trail to Hurricane Hill nearly free of snow, but there are a number of golden marmots there including a baby. The flowers are all in bloom, so this is the time to go.

A marmot at the summit

View from the hill

Lingering snow on the north slope

The trail is lined with phlox.

Another view

The flowers are out.

Flowers from the stone

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill, marmots


06/17 - Hurricane Hill Trail Open For The Season

The road past the lodge at Hurricane Ridge is open, and the the Hurricane Hill trail from the end of the road is almost completely snow free. There are a few patches in that wooded section, but the snow is melting fast. The flowers are blooming, and the scenery is spectacular. The high country is opening for the season.

We drove up to Hurricane Ridge on a gray, unprepossessing day. There was a foggy stretch from above Heart of the Hills to a fair ways past the tunnel, but then we were above the fog and the mountains views were clear. As an extra bonus, in addition to the mountains, the flowers and the trail, there were marmots.

We saw three Olympic golden marmots, unique to the region, and they were doing quite well, thank you. They were trundling around, digging burrows and checking out the tourists. One of them was rummaging about just to the side of the trail and seemed quite unperturbed by his or her audience. It is definitely time to head for the hills.

Can you spot the golden marmot?
(It's to the right of the trail).

Click on this, or any other, shot for a larger version.

The Olympic Golden Marmot

The alpine gardens are blooming.

The phlox perfumes the trail.

The lupines are out, already!

There is scenery too.

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


Mount Olympus from Obstruction Point

10/20/05 - Obstruction Point Road Before Winter

The road to Obstruction Point from Hurricane Ridge is still open.The trails are still clear, and the views are stunning. We didn't go very far, but Mount Olympus and its glaciers dominated our journey, and there was just a bit of left over snow from the previous season. We found these ice crystals (lower left) on the ground, shaded by one of the firs.

In a month or two, the ground will be covered with snow. On our drive, we saw a coyote hustling about, but the marmots have taken cover. There was one other car in the parking lot when we set off, and ours was the only car in the lot when we returned. We were quite relieved when the car started. It's a rough 7.5 mile hike back to Hurricane Ridge

Ice Crystals at Obstruction PointNo Snow On The Trails at Obstruction Point

Keywords: winter, obstruction point, hurricane ridge, marmots, trails


Golden Marmot

07/15/05 - Obstruction Point Marmots

They're back. We're back. Obstruction Point Road has been open for a few weeks now, and we finally made our way eight miles down the one and a half lane road to some of the most wonderful alpine high country accessible by car in Olympic National Park. We took our usual walk to the rim of the great descent to Moose Lake and promptly turned around and made our way back to the car. The air was thin, most of the snow had melted and all the flowers were out in bloom.

Also, there were marmots, the Olympic golden marmots, who looked well fed and were quite active. We could hear them whistling from some distance, probably warning the other marmots about us human invaders.

Pink Paintbrush Melting Snow and Lakes in the Mountains Obstruction Point Rock Garden

Keywords: animals, marmots, high country, obstruction point, flowers


Older Golden Marmot

08/30/04 - Marmots of Obstruction Point

The marmots are out in force. These are just two of the critters we saw out near Obstruction Point. We think the one on the right is a juvenile. He (or she) was sure playful.

If you do plan to get out to Obstruction Point, do so soon. It often gets snowed in by late September, and it is an amazing place.
Young Golden Marmot

Keywords: marmots, high country, obstruction point


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