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05/10/24 - Elwha to Altair

We made our way from Madison Falls to the Altair Bridge. The river had been active this winter, so a great log had blocked part of the detour. We had to scramble a bit on our previous hike, but this time it seems the park service had done an admirable job dealing with an immense log.

Still trilliums

The park service cut through this immense log.

The hike was much easier this time.

Along the Elwha


The Elwha from the Altair Bridge

A snake on the trail

Mountains and greenery

More green by the trail

The forest

A toad lily

More forest

The Elwha from the parking lot

Some ground


Keywords: elwha, trilliums

04/02/24 - Elwha to Altair - Early Spring Flower Edition

Spring has been with us for over a week now, so we've been out checking for trilliums. They often show up along the Elwha on the trail detour section that runs behind the old campground and is the only land route from Madison Falls to the rest of Olympic Hot Springs Road.

The river had a wild winter. There was a whole new pattern of trees and drift logs lining the river. Some sections were more accessible than last year. Some were less. A great chunk, the base of a fallen tree, had torn from the hillside. This made the trail a bit tricky to follow, but all the action had opened up new river views.

Spring is definitely here. We saw trilliums, fawn lilies, toad lilies, violets and many other early bloomers. Even better, the mules are back in town. The mule camp was deserted when we headed out, but there were mules waiting for us on our return.

The fawn lilies are back.

More flowers

A wild orchid

More fawn lilies

Another fawn lily

Trilliums, too

Lots of fawn lilies

The striped leaf is a fawn lily leaf

Yet another fawn lily

Toad lilies, for variety

A glimpse of the Elwha

A trillium

The river lined with fallen, drifted logs

Another view of the river

The Elwha from down close

More drift logs along the Elwha

Trail work

A mountain peak

A mountain cloud

More of the trail

Fawn lilies again

A cooperative caterpillar

The mules are back in town.

Keywords: elwha, spring, trillium, winter

11/14/23 - Late Autumn on the Elwha

We took the short walk from Madison Falls to where the Elwha chewed through Olympic Hot Springs Road. The mountains were snow capped and the last of the autumn color was fading.

Keywords: autumn, elwha

10/22/23 - Along the Elwha

We took a short hike along the Elwha, so this will just be a quick report. It's as pretty as ever. The mules are still around. The fall colors are coming in.

Some of the mules resting in the sun

A view down at the Elwha from along the detour

Down by the Elwha


In context

Another bit of the Elwha

Where the detour returns to the road

More of the Elwha

More of the mushrooms

Some snow in the mountains

Some fall foliage

A bit of the trail

Some autumn leaves

Keywords: elwha

10/10/23 - Elwha to the Gap

We took a short walk from the Madison Falls parking lot to where the Elwha River cut off Olympic Hot Springs Road. The fall colors are out and the river is running higher as the autumn rains pick up. We were pleased to see that the mules were still in residence. When they leave, it's a sure sign of coming winter. It was an easy walk, but it was all we were up to.

The Elwha crossing Olympic Hot Springs Road or what's left of it

The Elwha

The Elwha again

Another look at the Elwha

Olympic Hot Springs Road continues.

A mandarin duck

Mountain mist

More mist in the mountains

A look back at the river

These trees were barely saplings just a few years ago.

Fall colors

More color

The forest

The road

The mules

Fall color seen through the forest

Across the river

Keywords: autumn, elwha

06/16/23 - Butterfly Season

We hiked from Madison Falls to the Altair Bridge over the Elwha River. It's basically summer now, so we're watching the elderberry flowers, and we can't help but notice all the swallowtail butterflies. This is a great year for them.

Turk's cap lilies

The summer forest

Along the trail

Paintbrush - a summer flower

More summer flowers

More of the trail, very green now

Elderberry flowers

A glimpse of the Elwha

Trilliums and tiarella past bloom

Yet another stretch of trail

A proper view of the Elwha

From the Altair Bridge looking north

From the bridge looking south

A butterfly showing off

Still showing off

Visiting a turk's cap lily

Close up

Keywords: elwha, flowers, summer

05/03/23 - Elwha Spring

We were back along the Elwha. The river is fuller and wilder, and the spring flowers have been progressing. There were lots of trilliums and lots of water.

The trail

A local snake

A local orchid

It turns out these are fawn lilies, not columbines, but we're not going to correct all our old posts.

More fawn lilies

A trillium - We're pretty sure of this one.

The Elwha

Trilliums and tiarella not yet in bloom

Red winged insect - click for a better look

Another trillium

Dicentra - probably


Another bit of the trail

Another bit of the river

The old pavilion at the old campground

High water

High snow

More high water

And more high water

Keywords: elwha, flowers, spring, trillium

04/21/23 - Spring Progress Update, Elwha Edition

We walked from the parking area at Madison Falls, up along the Elwha, to a bit past the Altair Bridge. We were pleased to see more trilliums and a few columbines in bloom. We're a month into spring, but it still feels like we are behind. Still, it's nice to see a few of our favorites return.


A trillium

Another trillium

A columbine leaf

Even better, a columbine

The trail, perhaps a bit greener

Another trillium

The Elwha River

Another sign of spring, a mushroom

Back along the road

More forest

A country road

The Elwha from the Altair Bridge

A view of the misty mountains

Maple branches

Along the Elwha

Yet another trillium

More of the trail - Is it greener?

A mossy rock

Along the trail

Another columbine

Yet another columbine far from the main cluster

More misty mountains

Keywords: elwha, flowers, spring, trillium

04/14/23 - Elwha Flower Followup

We took a short walk south along the Elwha from Madison Falls to check out the slow progress of this years spring. We didn't get all the way to the Altair Bridge, but we did see some emerging columbine leaves, a few trilliums, a few flowers and an interesting bird.

A toad lily

Columbine leaves

The Elwha

An interesting bird

Another look at the Elwha

Flooding along the trail

The road otherwise

Still lots of snow in the mountains

More flowers - violets

Yay, a trillium

And another

And another, not yet in bloom

A young trillium

Another columbine leaf

And another

Those little yellow flowers we never look up in our plant book

The mules are back in town!

Keywords: elwha, flowers, spring, trillium

04/05/23 - Signs of Spring - Elwha to Altair - Trilliums and Columbines

Our search for signs of spring took us to the Elwha River. We parked near Madison Falls and followed the road past the mule camp where we saw our first sign of spring: the mules were back. That was promising. We headed onto the detour trail and saw our first yellow violets of the season along with some of those pale pink flowers that bloom so early. Then we saw our first trillium. It was the only one we saw, but we're pretty sure more will follow.

Further down the trail, we saw the skunk cabbage with its faint smell of sulphur. We checked out the river from the Altair Bridge. It was relatively low. The snows have not yet begun to melt. We could see snow on the peaks, some of it fresh.

On our way back, we spotted another sign of spring. We saw our first columbines. To be fair, we saw their leopard spotted leaves. They weren't ready to bloom, but when you are desperate for signs of spring, that's close enough.

Yellow violets

Little pink flowers

The harbinger trillium

The trail

The river

The road

Skunk cabbage

The river from the Altair Bridge

Currant flowers

Snow covered hill across the river


Flowing water

Columbine leaves

Another columbine leaf

Another leaf

White flowers and

blue flowers along the road

Keywords: elwha, flowers, spring, trillium

11/16/22 - Sunny Day Elwha

We weren't up to much, so we took a short walk from the Madison Falls parking lot along the Elwha to where the road washed out and admired the fall foliage, the rushing river and the brilliant day. The mules were gone for the season. Then, we took the little trail to Madison Falls.

Olympic Hot Springs Road past Madison Falls

Across the Elwha

Late fall foliage

The Elwha

The gap where the road was cut

Another view across the river

And another

Yet another

The tree of gold

The road again

Madison Falls

Almost bare trees near Madison Falls

More of such

Keywords: elwha

10/24/22 - Elwha to Altair - After the Rain

At long last, it has rained. We had a long dry stretch, all of September and most of October. Hurricane Ridge Road was closed for repairs, but they promised to re-open it on the 21st. Naturally, we expected the rains to come on that date and the road to the Ridge to be closed due to snow. Our forecast was accurate. On the 21st, the rains came. It snowed on the Ridge. Hurricane Ridge Road did not reopen, but we, down near sea level, had lots of long awaited rain.

We decided to head out from Madison Falls and check out the Elwha River as far as the Altair Bridge. There were wonderful puddles, wet dirt and wet pavement. We weren't the only ones enjoying the puddles. We spotted a frog beside one. Even the park service mules looked happier, though we can't be sure. The river looked a lot less tired. It seemed like the foliage was waiting for the rains to change to its autumn colors, and now that the rain had come there were browns and reds and golds. The colors were muted by the drought, but they were there.

At the start of the trail

Autumn color

A glimpse of the river

A proper view of the Elwha

Wet pavement never looked this good.

Still plenty of green

Park service buildings

The Elwha from the Altair Bridge

Another view from the bridge

A log caught below the Altair Bridge

More of Olympic Hot Springs Road

Another view of the river

Autumn color and misty mountains

Autumn fields

Mist and color

More of the wet road

The green forest thinning

A bit of trail

A dramatic bit of trail

That frog by the puddle

Another view, same frog

Mules in the field

The river at the parking lot

Keywords: autumn, elwha, hurricane ridge

09/09/22 - Salmon in the Elwha

The salmon are heading upriver to spawn. We took a walk along the Elwha starting at Madison Falls and kept an eye on the river when we could. Once again, we spotted some fish in a quiet stretch. This is great since one of the big goals of taking down the old dam was to encourage fish, particularly salmon, to return to the river. We also checked out the elderberries and said hello to the mules.

The Elwha River


Elderberries up close

Found on the trail

The Elwha seen from the Altair Bridge

A sunny field

Some salmon

A closer look

And another

Back on the trail

Saying hello to the mules

Keywords: elwha, salmon

08/03/22 - Elwha to Altair

We hadn't hiked along the Elwha River for a few weeks, so we parked near Madison Falls and made our way up the road, past the mule camp, around behind the old campground via the detour, then along the old road past the ranger station to the Altair Bridge. That was far enough for us.

The scenery was summery. The spring flowers were gone. Now was the time of leafy green trees, berries and drying grasses. The river is still running briskly. We may or may not have seen fish in the water from the bridge, but we definitely had a wonderful view. We tasted a few thimbleberries, checked out the elderberry blossoms and said hello to the mules.

The Elwha River near the old campground

The summer trail

Summer forest

The trail in the summer

Trail through summer foliage

A forest bird

Enhanced and enlarged

That bird again

A better bird image

An elderberry tree

Some elderberry flowers

The blue Elwha

The Elwha downstream from the bridge

Thimbleberry bushes


The summer road

Dry grass - The green stuff is horestail.

More summer forest

More summer forest trail

The forest again, and some trees

The Elwha near Madison Falls

Keywords: elwha, summer

04/02/22 - Elwha to Altair - Spring Is Here

We were absolutely exhausted but really wanted to take another good hike before the rainy days come, so we headed out from the Madison Falls parking lot and followed the trail. It's a good winter trail, but it's an even better spring trail. We hadn't gone very far before our first trillium, and then came the columbines. Trilliums like sloping ground, usually near water, so they'll grow on hillsides above streams. Columbines like a sunny spot on crumbling rocky soil, and there are only a few places like that on this trail. That's where we found them.

We headed on past other signs of spring. Skunk cabbage filled the boggy fields further up towards the bridge. There were currant blossoms, and there were a lot of new leaves and leaf buds. Even the larger trees were showing touches of green. Columbine season is short, so we'll have to come back soon, but we'll be back again and again as the season progresses. It's a pretty good summer trail too.

Our first trillium on the trail

Yellow violets

More yellow violets

One of the columbines

Another columbine

Another trillium

Some little white flowers that we see every year and never bother to look up in the wildflower book

The Elwha

Another view of the Elwha

Fern forest

The skunk cabbage bog

The Elwha from the Altair bridge

Wild currant

A touch of green in the trees

Most of the snow melted

Yet another trillium

Yet another columbine

A columbine in its place

The mules are back!

Keywords: elwha, spring, trillium

03/19/22 - Elwha to Altair Again

We took another hike up to the Altair Bridge. It is getting even more spring-like. This time, there was serious skunk cabbage and a few currants were in bloom. It's a slow spring, but it's starting.

The Elwha River

Another view of the Elwha

More Elwha

Overgrown logs

This used to be an easy way to get down to the river, but those logs washed ashore.

The trail

The road

A maple

View of the river

Skunk cabbage

and more skunk cabbage

Snow lingers on the mountains

Snow again

Currant blossoms

Even more skunk cabbage

Keywords: elwha, spring

02/18/22 - Elwha to Altair - Signs of Spring

We took a walk from the Elwha parking lot at Madison Falls and kept our eyes open for signs of spring. As it turned out, it wasn't our eyes that noticed the first hint, it was our nose. Between the ranger station and the Altair bridge, we picked up a faint whiff of sulfur like a leaky sewage pipe. In March, that could only mean one thing, skunk cabbage! (To be honest, it could have been a leaky sewage pipe, but come on.)

The forest

More green woods

A cluster of logs washed ashore and now blocking our usual path down to the river

The Elwha

More green

The Elwha from the Altair bridge

Skunk cabbage

and more skunk cabbage

Snowdrops, also a sign of spring

Keywords: elwha, spring

10/12/21 - A Side Trip to Madison Falls

After heading up to the Elwha Gap, we took the short side spur to Madison Falls. It's a short, easy, paved path to a pleasant little waterfall just minutes from the parking area. There was plenty of autumn color too.

Along the trail

A first peek at the waterfall

Madison Falls

Some autumn color

More color

That color again

Misty skies and mountains

Keywords: autumn, elwha, waterfall

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