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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


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


04/08/17 - Walla Walla - Bennington Lake

We were out in Walla Walla, so we made a point of dropping by Bennington Lake. It's actually a water control project run by the Army Corps of Engineers, but its also a gem of a park and a great place for a walk between wine touring and fine dining. This year we had great views of two ospreys flying by the lake, and, as usual, the scenery was stunning.

Dried grass and ark wood

One of the trails

The water works

One of the ospreys

Possibly the same osprey, possibly the other

The scene later as the sky darkened a bit

More wonderful sky

Trees and the sky

The trail

Grasses and sky

More ominous sky

Keywords: trails, walla walla


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


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


01/22/17 - Marymere Falls and Barnes Creek

So many trails are closed this winter. Most of the Elwha River trails are closed while the flood damage is repaired, and the Spruce Railroad Trail is closed for the next step in its upgrade. The loop to Marymere Falls is one of the few trails still open, so we've been getting there fairly often. For a while, the trail was covered with snow. The Barnes Valley doesn't get a lot of sun this time of year, but the snows have melted, and the snow melt and recent rains have fed the river and the falls.

Marymere Falls, a healthy roar

The steps from the lower to the upper falls observation points, in National Park Modern

They've been rebuilding the bannisters along the trail

A view of Barnes Creek

The footbridge over Barnes Creek

Another view of Barnes Creek

The forest

Another view

and yet another

Keywords: elwha, marymere falls, spruce railroad, trails, winter


12/26/16 - The Elwha River and a Bobcat

Like many, we have been waiting for Olympic Hot Springs Road to reopen so we can return to the trails out of Whiskey Bend and revisit the hot springs themselves. To see how things were going, we parked at the Madison Falls parking lot and walked along the road, now closed to motorized traffic. The river was winter beautiful with snow on the hills and a cold gray light. The new temporary one lane bridge is in place and a fair bit of work has been done on the road.

We had some wonderful views of the river itself, but then, on our way back, we saw something else, a bobcat in the open field not far from the parking lot. We had seen a bobcat here before, but only briefly as it bounded away in the distance. This bobcat was closer and calmer. We were barely 50 feet away, close enough for an excellent view. It was a real treat in the face of a snowy winter and with so many trails closed in the park.


The Elwha River

Another view of the river

The river and snowy mountains

Across the river

The new bridge

Yet another view of the Elwha

Across the bridge

Through the woods

The bobcat

A closer view

And an even closer view

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spring, trails, winter


10/12/16 - Second Beach

With the Elwha Valley trails and the Spruce Railroad Trail closed we’ve been getting back to the west coast beaches. We had explored Rialto Beach and made our way to the coast at Third Beach, so this time we checked out Second Beach, which is probably our favorite. The day was bright, and the tide was low, so we made our way through the forest, down the bluff and then south along the beach to the sea cave and tide pools. It was an easy, relaxing walk, though we were both tired on the climb back.

The view to the north with the Hole in the Wall

Our first look at the beach

Sea stacks - Second Beach has a lot of them

Another view of the sea stacks

A sea stack reflected

Anemones - the green ovals - but no star fish

Another sea stack reflected

The driftwood where the trail meets the beach

The treasure tree, nicely fed

Forest trail …

… and more forest trail

Keywords: beaches, second beach, trails


05/24/16 - Marymere Falls Loop Reopened

The Marymere Falls trail loop has reopened. It was possible to reach the overlooks with views of the falls, but the lower part of the loop was damaged last fall. It has since been repaired with a long section of new handrail. With so many roads and trails still recovering from winter damage, it’s good to see a part of this popular trail reopened.

Marymere Falls

New handrails

Barnes Creek where the waters of the falls join it

Keywords: marymere falls, trails


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


02/20/16 - Sol Duc Falls and Beyond

With Olympic Hot Springs Road closed, we haven’t managed to take any of the trails out of Whiskey Bend or visit the hot springs themselves lately. Instead we drove west past Lake Crescent and took the left turn at the top of the hill onto Sol Duc Road. The resort is closed, but the trail to the falls is open and free of snow.

The trail heads through old growth rain forest and in about 20-30 minutes gets one to the spectacular Sol Duc Falls. With the recent rains the falls were roaring and the bridge covered with spray. We continued on the far side of the river and headed up the canyon towards the little bridge over Canyon Creek. It was a wet, rocky trail and arduous.

We climbed maybe 500 feet to the crossing, but this trail is noted for its high rocky steps, stony pathways and lots of running water. We made it a bit of the way past the bridge over the creek towards Deer Lake but soon ran into snow on the trail. We really weren’t up to dealing with that, so we called it a hike and headed back down. Deer Lake, another 1100 feet up towards the high country will have to wait.


Rain forest

One of the minor water features

Sol Duc Falls

The falls seen from the far side

One of the little side falls

One of the many trickles of water keeping the trail from drying out

A boardwalk, not all that far from the bridge over Canyon Creek

Some rocky steps, not at all atypical

Canyon Creek

Melting snow feeding one of the side streams of Canyon Creek

The view across the Sol Duc Valley

Keywords: sol duc, trails


12/27/15 - The Spruce Railroad Trail is Open

This was a real surprise to us. The last time we visited the trailhead a few weeks ago there was a huge pile of dirt instead of a parking area. This time the trail was open, and a lot of people were there for a hike. The trail had been closed since last July, and with so many trails closed this winter having the Spruce Railroad trail open was a real treat.

Of course, the trail is quite different this time. They've turned another half mile or so into a road, cut into the hillside and maybe 16 feet wide at points. The old intimate experience of nature just isn't possible with this kind of road cut, but they did manage to smooth the descent to the lake side. The original rail line probably looked pretty raw in its day, so we're hoping things grow back over the years.

Otherwise, the lake is as beautiful as ever, and it's great to have the trail open again.


The Spruce Railroad Trail is open.

It's pretty wide and looks pretty raw.

There are some nice lake views though, and the descent is easier.

Here the new trail meets the old one.

They haven't gotten rid of the waterfalls yet.

Here's some of the old trail, mud and all.

A view of the lake in the direction of Storm King.

More of the old trail

Twisted growth

Another little waterfall

More ferns and running water

Keywords: spruce railroad, trails, winter


11/04/15 - Return to Whiskey Bend

This has been a bad year for trails in the park. Whiskey Bend Road closed way back during the winter. The east end of the Spruce Railroad Trail closed back in July. Then this fall the whole Elwha area, including the recently reopened Olympic Hot Springs Trail, was closed due to flooding. The good news is that not only have the floods subsided and the hot springs trail reopened, but Whiskey Bend Road is open as well. They had to rebuild 90 feet of the road along one of the latter hairpins, but we drove out to Whiskey Bend the other day and found the road in great shape.

We took the main trail out past Michael's Cabin, then headed down towards the Elwha River. The winter sun was low and bright, but the forest was as pretty as we had remembered it. We made it down past Hume's Ranch to the river overlook. The river channel had moved farther across the flood plain to the far side, and there was a lot more plant life on the flat land. We spoke to a trail repair volunteer, and she told us that campers now had to walk farther to the river to get water. There had been some change in the watershed as well. A lot of the little streams that had run downhill to the river had dried up.

The little waterfall on our way down was running nicely, so the area isn't totally drought stricken. Still, it was sobering to hear about the changes. Now that the road is open again, we'll head out and explore a bit more. We're hoping to head towards Lilian Camp some time in the near future. Here's hoping for a wet and snowy winter, even if it crimps our plans a bit.


The trail was full of bright light and dark shadow.

The Elwha River looking towards Dodger Point in 2015

The Elwha River looking towards Dodger Point in 2013

The Elwha River looking downstream in 2015

The Elwha River looking downstream in 2013

The little waterfall

Light and shadow trail

The Elwha from a trailside lookout in 2015

The Elwha from a trailside lookout in 2013

One of our favorite views

The trail again

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spruce railroad, trails, waterfall


10/23/15 - Autumn Phlox at Hurricane Hill

This has been a strange year. We hiked up to Hurricane Hill the other day and couldn't help noticing that there was phlox blooming by the trailside. Phlox are usually one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, not long after the snows have melted, so seeing it in the autumn was a surprise. There was enough of it to scent the air here and there. As we said, this has been a strange year.

Phlox in bloom

A real surprise

Also, a dramatic mushroom

The scenery is getting paler.

The view

A bit of frost in the shade

Still some color here

More snow in the distant mountains

A last harebell

More phlox

Pine cones

Keywords: autumn, flowers, hurricane hill, spring, trails


08/16/15 - In Search of Water

This has been a dry summer, and it shows. Rivers just aren't flowing the way they usually do at this time of year. They're about a month or so off, with the current August flow more like the usual flow in late September. The trails are dry, too, with crumbly dirt and lots of loose pebbles.

In search of water we went to Barnes Creek and were pleased to see that Lake Crescent still has a fair bit of water. We started climbing the Mount Storm King trail to get a better view of the lake, but we didn't get far. The trail was crumbling, and it is a steep trail. If we were slipping on the way up, coming down would be treacherous. We turned around and took a look at Marymere Falls. It was nice to see some flowing water.

At the pebble beach we could see just how low the flow was in Barnes Creek. The river was much narrower and the beach much larger than usual. Then we walked a bit up the Barnes Creek trail and got a few glimpses of the river. We got our water fix, at least for now, but we're hoping for some real rain.


Water in the waterfall

A bright sunny day

Looking up Barnes Creek from the bridge

The forest and bright sunlight

More forest trail

Keywords: barnes creek, lake crescent, marymere falls, storm king, summer, trails


07/17/15 - Sol Duc Falls and Beyond

A lot of people visit Sol Duc Falls. They walk from the parking lot to the falls, then they head back. This is definitely worth while, but there are all sorts of trails that run past the falls. One of our favorites is the trail up to Deer Lake which starts on the far side of the bridge over the falls. It's a rocky, lumpy trail, so it is hard going, and Deer Lake itself was a bit beyond us. We just weren't up to a 1600' climb.

Despite this, we saw some wonderful woodland as the trail ascended into the canyon. Around 400 or 450 feet up we cross Canyon Creek on a well built wooden bridge. Then we continued our climb. If nothing else, we were lured by the few hundred non-rocky feet of trail a bit beyond the bridge. It was a short stretch, but after the lumpy trail below, a pleasant relief.

We made it up past the clearing, but turned around exhausted. We've hiked up to Deer Lake, and even beyond to the Potholes, before, but today they were out of our league.


Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc forest

One of the boardwalks

Devil's claw berries

Tiarella and a visitor

The falls on Canyon Creek

An old stump

Green

The trail

More forest

and even more forest

Keywords: sol duc, trails


04/07/15 - Mill Creek and Bennington Lake

We were out in Walla Walla to celebrate the Cayuse spring release and a friend's birthday. With all the good food and wine, we really needed a bit of stretch. So, we drove out to Mill Creek and Bennington Lake at the eastern edge of town and explored a landscape we found quite exotic. For one thing, it is much drier out here than back home in the North Olympic Peninsula, and the mountains are much farther away.

Mill Creek and Bennington Lake is an Army Corps of Engineers site, much like the Ballard Locks. The primary purpose of the site was water management, but there were picnic tables, bathrooms and lots of hiking trails. There was also the Mill Creek diversion dam, Mill Creek itself, and the Mill Creek storage dam itself, a large earthwork near the parking lot.

This may sound awfully industrial what with all the dams, but like the Ballard Locks, it has a lot of charm. A short walk gave us a good sense of the prairie and at a high point across the diversion dam there some wonderful views of the distant snow capped mountains. So much of the area is agricultural and off limits. Either that, or it is a vineyard. It was nice to have a place to go and just wander.


A dry country

Coneflowers

Lake Bennington

Public works

More public works and more trails

The view from a high point

These flowers had an amazingly sweet scent.

Looking down at the diversion channel crossing

Another view - Those are big concrete blocks.

Keywords: flowers, spring, trails, walla walla


03/04/15 - Storm King

The climb from Barnes Creek up to the Mount Storm King overlook is simply the hardest trail we hike on any regular basis. The first 500 feet, up to the relatively flat ramada area, is horribly steep with switchbacks and tree root staircases along the way. Well, we managed to climb up to about 1100' which wasn't all that far from the overlook at 1350', but it was all we could do.

There is a pretty valley overlook at about 900', but after that comes an area we think of as the chute. It's a relatively steep climb of more than 100 feet almost completely on a trail of small rocks and loose soil that make it hard to get a solid foothold. Going up wasn't too bad. Our hiking sticks made a big difference. Coming down was much harder. There is nothing like the ground shifting underfoot as one gets ready for one's next step onto unknown footing.

By dint of extreme, possibly ridiculously extreme, caution, we made it back without injury. Are we going to do this again? Of course, and maybe next time we'll get to the overlook.


The valley view after 900' of climbing

Madronas by the trailside

A teasing peek at Lake Crescent

Keywords: lake crescent, trails


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