Tag Archive | hiking at Olympic National Park

Hood Canal 2017: Staircase

Day 3, Monday, July 3, 2017

On Monday morning, Lelani joined us fairly early, and we decided to do a day trip up to the Staircase area of Olympic National Park. Lelani, Brent, Joel and I were going along; Brandon and his daughter stayed back at the cabin to relax. We packed up some lunch and snacks, and headed out.

We stopped at a viewpoint for our first look at Lake Cushman, which was going to be one of our destinations for the day. Lake Cushman is huge, and stunning! We looked down at it, and the clouds, and then continued on our drive.

Lake Cushman beneath the clouds

The Staircase area of the park is located down a gravel road, and we drove along the edge of Lake Cushman for awhile. The giant rocks on the edge of the lake are amazing!

The view of Lake Cushman

We arrived at Staircase, and after we paid our fee (with my annual pass, of course), we embarked on a 2.2 mile hike; the Staircase Rapids hike.

Olympic National Park

The hike travels along the North Fork of the Skokomish River, both along sections of rapids (an aptly named hike!), as well as quieter sections of the river. Lelani and I were so into the scenery along the trail that we accidentally missed the turn where we were supposed to turn right to head over the bridge. We eventually turned around after realizing our mistake, but stopped along the edge of the river to look back at the view of the bridge along the rocky bank of the river.

The North Fork Skokomish River, with the bridge in the distance

When we got back to the bridge, the boys were wondering where we were, and standing on the bridge waiting for us. Oops! It is a beautiful bridge though, so it was worth seeing from a distance!

We crossed the bridge, and took photos. Then we spied the rocks in the river, and decided to go climb on them for a spell. While sitting on the rocks, near the bridge, in the river, we had a snack and entertained ourselves. This picture of Lelani giving me the side-eye at my antics is one of my favorites!

 

We finished our hike, climbing on the giant log, and crossing a couple little creeks, and making it back to the trail head. It didn’t take too long, as it was only a 2.2 mile hike, but of course Lelani and I did add a little distance with our detour.

Me at one of the overlooks

On our way back, we wanted to do some more sitting on the huge boulders along the side of the road, so we parked and found a nice big rock to sit on. And then we drank beer… What good hiking party doesn’t pack a cooler with some nice, cold beers! We cracked them open and watched the teenagers on the next rock over jump off into the water! It did look fun! Just sitting and talking with my friends was very relaxing, as we discussed travel, music, concerts and whatever came to mind.

 

Our drive home was uneventful, with another stop at the farm stand for ice cream! Interestingly, I’m not even that into ice cream, but this was some good stuff!  What a day, and it wasn’t even done…

 

Olympic National Park: Ozette Triangle Hike

In early June, I headed out to the Olympic Peninsula to hike the Ozette Triangle hike. It is a 9.2 mile loop hike, that can be done either as a day hike or as a multi-day camping trip. I did a day hike, but there are two campgrounds, and one day I would like to go back and camp there.

The ferry to the Olympic Peninsula

The ferry to the Olympic Peninsula

 

Olympic National Park!

Olympic National Park!

From the starting point, you can choose either of two spurs – the one to Cape Alava (3.1 miles) or the one to Sand Point (3.0 miles). If you are camping, the spur you choose will probably depend on which campground you are planning to stay at – one allows campfires and the other does not. The hike is mostly flat, so there isn’t going to be much difference in elevation changes, although the Cape Alava spur has slightly more up and down.

The boardwalk on the spur trail to Sand Point

The boardwalk on the spur trail to Sand Point

The spur to the beach is mostly on raised wooden boardwalks through boggy forest, but I was surprised at the fact that there weren’t any mosquitoes. Perhaps they get worse later in the summer, and in the evenings. There were shady parts and sunny parts, depending on the number of trees in the immediate vicinity. It was very peaceful.

As I got closer to the beach, I started hearing the waves– I’m sure in the winter on a windy day, the sound would be very loud. I love the sound of waves on a shore, and the waves of the northern Washington Coast are wonderful.  To me, it is a truly peaceful sound…

The beach at Sand Point

The beach at Sand Point

I walked south on the beach a little ways, to find a beautiful sandy beach, with some driftwood at the tree line. I even found an intact sand dollar! The day was gorgeous, sunny, and hot! An absolutely perfect day!

Elwell and Piddles enjoying the view at Sand Point

Elwell and Piddles enjoying the view at Sand Point

The beach hike – 3.1 miles – is the hardest part of the hike. There is some hiking on packed or softer sand, but further north you are walking over rocks covered with kelp and barnacles, so you have to be careful. It can certainly be slippery.  Make sure to time this portion with a lower tide or else you’ll be doing a tougher hike through the forest above the tide line.

I love this wild beach!

I love this wild beach!

It was fun to poke around in the tide pools and find shells, and seeing the sea stacks in the distance was amazing. When the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can hear the sea lions on their offshore island perch. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t brought my binoculars.

I love this wild beach!

I love this wild beach!

There are Native American petroglyphs visible on the rocks as you travel from north to south, but I did the hike in the opposite direction and ending up missing them. Oh well, just a reason to return!

A Bald Eagle feeding on a fish at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

A Bald Eagle feeding on a fish at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

After three miles on the beach, it was time to re-enter the woods on another set of raised boardwalks. These woods are home to lots of animals, including bears and cougars, but I didn’t see any during my midday hike. On the way back on the Cape Alava spur, I passed a boggy meadow, which once was a homesteader’s farm. He pastured sheep and cows in the meadow, but there isn’t much evidence of its history now.

The whole hike took about 5 hours at a leisurely pace, with a couple of stops for snacks and beach combing.  I loved it, and will certainly return!

 

Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge

After stopping at the main Visitor’s Center at Olympic National Park, Jon and I headed up the mountain for a little hiking at the top of the ridge itself.  The top of Hurricane Ridge is 17 miles south of Port Angeles, but the road has a lot of twists and turns, so it takes about 45 minutes to get from the Visitor’s Center to the top of the ridge.

Hurricane Ridge is named for the strong winds that frequent the area, and snow is common even as late as July.  With the panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains, it is a popular hiking spot in the spring, summer and fall, and there are skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing opportunities in the winter.  People frequently see wildlife, including deer, elk, bear and a type of marmot that only exists on the Olympic Peninsula.  We were eager to see what everybody raves about!

As we began our drive the weather was cloudy but dry, and we stopped at a few of the scenic viewpoints along the way.  The view on a clear day is supposed to be spectacular, but with the clouds we couldn’t see out that far.  Then, as we were standing there taking some photos, we felt a couple of drops of rain.  Now, we both grew up in the Northwest, so a little rain won’t deter us.  We got back into the car and continued on our way.

Me on our way up to Hurricane Ridge - that smudge above my right shoulder is a raindrop on the camera lens.

Me on our way up to Hurricane Ridge – that smudge above my right shoulder is a raindrop on the camera lens.

Soon, we were almost at the top of the ridge, and the skies opened up into a huge downpour!  We ran from the car into the Visitor’s Center at the top of the ridge, and in a 20 second run we were soaked!  The pictures don’t do it justice, but believe me it was really wet!

You can't tell in this photo, but it was raining really hard.  So much for the view...

You can’t tell in this photo, but it was raining really hard. So much for the view…

The "View" from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center.  Awesome, right?

The “View” from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center. Awesome, right?

The torrential downpour changed our plan to do some hiking at the top of the ridge, so we had some coffee at the Visitor’s Center, and I got some awesome postcards of the view that I wasn’t going to see for myself…

I love these old style postcards - Hurricane Ridge View of the Mountains

I love these old style postcards – Hurricane Ridge View of the Mountains

There were no eagles flying around in the torrential downpour either!

There were no eagles flying around in the torrential downpour either!

Check out the bears!  We never saw any real ones - they were staying inside!

Check out the bears! We never saw any real ones – they were staying inside!

This is what Hurricane Ridge would look like on a clear day.

This is what Hurricane Ridge would look like on a clear day.

Well, not every day of sightseeing can come off without a hitch…  Sigh… The good news is, we have a reason to come again.  And I spotted a winery on the way out to the park – we stopped by on the way back!