Triple Header: Olympic Peninsula

The Olympics. So close and yet so far away for us Seattleites. To get there from the city requires a long drive, with the most direct route including a ferry boat ride. The best way to enjoy this part of the state is to plan for more than one day. This past weekend, I enjoyed three days of hiking: Mount Walker, Hurricane Hill and the Grey Wolf Trail.

Part One: Mount Walker

On Friday, my carpool driver and I hiked Mount Walker on the way to a friend’s beach house on the Peninsula. This added about an hour to the drive to Sequim, but gave us a chance to stretch our legs before the main event.

Mount Walker is short but steep, with an average 20 percent grade. I am happy to report that I hiked this with more exuberance than the first time I tried it. Regular hiking has definitely helped this slow poke get in better shape. Still, even though it was only two miles one way, I kept wondering with each switchback when I would see the peak.

It’s hard to tell from the photos, but from the south viewpoint at the peak, we could see downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens. It would be interesting to watch the distant New Years or Fourth of July fireworks from here.

As usual, you can find a pretty good description of this hike, along with driving directions at the WTA site: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/mount-walker

Part Two: Hurricane Hill

Before I get into Saturday’s hike, please enjoy the view from the beach house. The morning light shining on Mount Baker… what a gorgeous view to wake up to!

Hurricane Hill

We did Hurricane Hill as a snowshoe. The trailhead is at the far end of the Hurricane Ridge visitor center parking lot. I had not been here in the winter before so was surprised to see just how busy the place is with both skiers and snowshoers.

This trip is well worth it, with alpine vistas from start to end. The climb is relatively easy considering the payoff, but the bulk of the elevation gain is saved for the end, a wide and relatively steep and windy slope. There didn’t appear to be any areas with obvious avalanche danger, but the walk is along a ridge with cornices built up on the leeward side, so we had to be careful to walk toward the other side of the ridge. At the top, when you think the view couldn’t get any better, you reach the peak and have an amazing view of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Mount Baker in the distance.

We didn’t spend much time on the peak. The cold wind blowing ice in our faces helped us make that decision. After stopping at the peak for a few photos, we headed down to a more protected spot for lunch. Coming back down, some members of our party tried to glissade. Unfortunately, the snow was too sticky. It was fun to see them try.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

WTA hike description: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/hurricane-hill-snowshoe

Part Three: Grey Wolf Trail

I picked up a guide book my friend had sitting on her table. It described the first part of this hike as being as interesting as the wrinkles on the back of your thumb. As I walked the first part of the trail, I found myself looking at my thumb and then up at my surroundings and generally agreeing with that assessment.

That said, the trail quickly drops into a ravine where we found ourselves plunged into a winter wonderland with snow and ice covering the lower vegetation, surrounded by tall trees and accented by a river running through it. The trail, for the most part, followed upriver from here.

One of the “missions” of this trip was to determine if a rumor was true about a bridge being rebuilt, which would allow for longer hikes on this trail. Alas, not only was the bridge still out, the trail before the bridge is likely a bit sketchy for most hikers (some of our group stayed behind while the others went ahead to scope out the bridge).

One thing to be aware of is the potential for icy roads. Even though there was no snow in the surrounding area, the road to the trailhead was a nearly continuous sheet of ice. About two miles from the trailhead, we decided to park and walk the rest of the way since our cars were sliding around a bit too much on the ice.

WTA description:http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/gray-wolf-river

Advertisements