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08/26/09 - Great Year For Grouse

You can really see the change in color up at Hurricane Hill. The grasses are getting golden, and most of the flowers have passed into straw. The mountains are spectacular as ever, and there are grouse all over the place. You just have to keep an eye on the tall grass.

Passing green


More scenery

Watch out. They'll eat your shoelaces.

A grouse: one of many

More scenery, and if you look carefully at the rocks you'll see a marmot.

Even more scenery

More grouse

A young grouse

Late flowers and the mountains

The last of the corn lilies

Keywords: flowers, hurricane hill, high country, grouse

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



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

04/30/09 - Elwha Update

Spring is coming to the Elwha Trail which starts at Whiskey Bend. There are more people, more trilliums and even some other flowers around. The male grouse are lekking, setting up bachelor pads to attract les femmes. Their deep, booming cry, almost a glottal stop, apparently does something for the ladies. There must be a good number of grouse about judging from the sound of things.

An obligatory trillium shot

Looking downstream

A local orchid

Keywords: elwha, flowers, spring, trillium, grouse

04/06/09 - Snowy Mountains and the Elwha Trail

The Elwha Trail out of Whiskey Bend is clear and dry, and right now it is offering nice views of the snowy peaks towering over the river. The grouse are lekking, and we can hear their deep booming from the trail. It will be a while before the high country opens for hiking, but the middle country is ready now.

Keywords: elwha, grouse

09/21/08 - Hurricane Hill As The Summer Ends

We really appreciate the the Hurricane Ridge webcam. Even when the weather is cloudy and rainy down in town, it is often quite nice up at the ridge. Without the webcam, there is no way to tell, but with the webcam, we often decide to drive a mile up and above the clouds to get some sun in the Olympic Mountains.

Just a few days ago it was cloudy in town, but the webcam showed fairly good weather. We drove up Hurricane Ridge Road which is almost completely repaved now. We pulled into the parking lot on the ridge, and the conditions were nearly whiteout with thick white fog. Despite this, we decided to press on to the Hurricane Hill trail which starts about a mile and a half past the lodge. We made our way, cautiously, to the far end of the big parking lot. The road dropped and the fog lifted.

Hurricane Hill was spectacular. The white fog had returned at the start of the trail, so we couldn't see any mountains until we made our way up to The Hamper, noted for all its dirty sock plant. Then, the views began with high, snow topped mountains rising out of a sea of cloud. Clouds pressed in from the Pacific, spilled through valleys, and washed up against mountain sides. Not everything was perfectly visible, but the views were spectacular none the less.

Some final summer flowers and early autumn color

One of many blue grouses (grice)

Another blue grouse

Autumn color and a sea of clouds

Mount Olympus (we think)

The sea of clouds

Brilliant colors

Keywords: autumn, flowers, hurricane hill, birds, grouse

08/31/08 - Hurricane Hill

We were up on Hurricane Hill, looking for the last signs of summer and the first signs of autumn. We found both. There were patches of late blooming lupines, a blue grouse, and corn lilies, but there were also the seed pods, asters and golden grasses of fall.

We were pleased to see that the corn lilies were in bloom. We had been up on Hurricane Hill earlier in the year, but with the road reconstruction and rain, we had not been up for a while. We were afraid that we would miss their subtle green blossoms. As you can see in our photo, we had time to spare. There is something to be said for a cool summer.

The scenery, as usual, was spectacular.

The grasses are turning golden.

Lupines are still around, if you know where to look.

These are the late season flowers in late season colors.

Pink paintbrush of summer

The corn lilies are in bloom.

A corn lily flower

Fall flowers and mysterious shrouds

White eyed lupine

Another mysterious shroud

A blue grouse

Keywords: autumn, flowers, hurricane hill, summer, grouse

05/12/08 - Elwha Trail Report

Whiskey Bend Road has been open for a while, but we've been cowering at sea level, at least until recently. Whiskey Bend Road is in great shape. It's a bit rutted, rather twisty, one and a half lane wide, and some bits of it have washed out over the years. In other words, it is no worse than any other year. The Elwha River Trail is also in great shape. The flowers are blooming, and the little waterfalls along the trail are rushing.

The wild currant was out, as were a lot of the trilliums, but one surprise was a cluster of glacier lilies. They tend to blossom where snow has recently melted, so we can only assume that the trail was covered, in parts, until recently. We saw one blue grouse, which is unusual, and heard others lekking with their deep boom-boom-boom.

It's almost a cliche, but we've included two of our favorite overlook shots. One from early in the trail looking up the river valley, and the other from a bit farther down where an avalanche cleared a view of the snow covered mountains across the river. For those of you who like forest streams, we have some video of one of our favorites in action.

Glacier lilies, of all things

Enjoy a stream in a forest glade (click to play)

We always love this view of the mountains and river

A glimpse of the mountains

Keywords: trillium, grouse, waterfall

04/02/07 - Elwha Trail Report

Whiskey Bend Road is usually open all year round, but it has been closed for a while due to fallen trees and nasty ruts. It isn't much of a road by some standards, but it has a good solid one and a half lanes, and the dirt is pretty firmly packed and the drainage is good. In fact, it is so good that there are lots of neat waterfalls that flow down to and under the road. Just a few days ago, we noticed that the Park Service had taken Whiskey Bend off the list of roads that have been closed, and today we rode out in our trusty Honda and had a spectacular hike along the Elwha Trail.

The road itself, as we noted, is in good shape, and so is the trail. There were a number of recently sawn logs by the side of the trail, including one monster on the climb up after Humes Ranch. We only made it to the first crossing, about an hour or so hike from the parking lot. The little stream in the canyon was running full, despite two large trees which had collapsed across its path into the canyon. Our special surprise was the first trillium of the season, blooming early in the shelter of the canyon.

The first trillium of spring

Just pretty

On our way back to the car, there was a blue grouse sitting in the middle of the trail. We had been hearing the deep booming of the male birds lekking, that is, staking out good sites for their bachelor pads. We sometimes see blue grouse on Hurricane Hill, but rarely on a wooded trail like this one, but today was different. The grouse were definitely about and not one bit shy.We even saw another blue grouse crossing the Whiskey Bend Road on the drive down.

Keywords: elwha, flowers, birds, hurricane hill, spring, trillium, grouse, waterfall

Corn Lilies

08/18/06 - Corn Lilies and Blue Grouses

We were up on Hurricane Hill and spotted those strange looking plants on the left. Not the little yellow flowers on the ground, but the tall spiky plants with little white flowers on the spikes. Apparently, they are corn lilies, if our trail companions are to believed. They are blooming on the side trail that leads down to Whiskey Bend from Hurricane Hill.

We have been noticing blue grice, or perhaps grouses or grouse, alongside Hurricane Ridge Road, but it isn't safe to stop and gawk at them, so we just drive on. Now, we've spotted one on Hurricane Hill, as seen above, and we were glad to have a closer look.

Keywords: flowers, birds, high country, hurricane hill, hurricane ridge, grouse

Girl Grouse

08/29/04 - Blue Grouse at Hurricane Hill

The blue grouse are all over Hurricane Hill lately. If you want to tell the boys from the girls, check out the lady on the left and the lad on the right. He's the one with the golden eye and yellow feet.

The best spotting is towards the final third of the ascent with its "hanging gardens". There are just a few flowers left, but the high mountain foliage is starting to turn, and the grasses are in seed. Bring a rain coat in case a cloud drifts by, but it is not too late to enjoy the high country.
Boy Grouse

Keywords: birds, flowers, high country, hurricane hill, grouse

08/15/04 - Blue Grouse Chicks

We were up at Hurricane Ridge today. The temperature was in the 80s, but the air was dry. Most of the flowers have passed. There was one bunch of lupines, but the rest were harebells, yarrow and a few other late season bloomers.

We did see a number of blue grouse (or is it grice)? We even got a picture of a grouse and chick. You have to look carefully to spot them. They hide easily in the grass.

We thought we had seen a marmot, but it was just an ochre rock.

As for the snow. There is still a bit, sort of southwest of the Hurricane Hill summit. Don't expect to do much skiing.

The hike is still well worth taking. The plants are still green and loaded with seed pods including the white fluffy ones, the pea pods on the lupines, and the brown prickly ones.

Blue Grouse and Chick

Keywords: birds, high country, flowers, hurricane hill, hurricane ridge, grouse

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