It’s June as we drive as far northwest in the Lower Forty-Eight as we can. We pass within shouting distance of Seattle, home to the Seattle Seahawks -the best team in football not named the New England Patriots! Bah da boom! Later this month, Jordan Spieth will win the US Open at Chambers Bay at nearby Tacoma. For us, it’s then across Puget Sound to Bremerton, then Sequim and eventually to Port Angeles on the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the night.
Heading north on two lane route 3, we see a sign that says if there are five cars behind you, it’s the law that you have to pull over and let them pass. How cool is that! We have seen more fir trees and pines per square inch then we have ever seen anywhere in the United States. Healthy, towering year round firs are packed together as if giants were boxing plants for shipment. I’m guessing that the downside to such density is that flames can whip through such tightly bunched arbors like, well, wildfire.
Hannah and I immediately take to Port Angeles – its modest size; its modest homes on modest streets at modest prices. A three bedroom, 1.5 baths, 1080 sq. ft. goes for $125K. In town many houses are priced for under $200K. With winter lows seldom below 25F, Port Angeles receives a mere 4 inches of snow each year; summer highs are rarely ever above 80F. We are talking amore!
Over wine, we look to Vancouver Island in the Great Nice North of Canada. Port Angeles feels like an outpost where the creative and middle class flourish. We pass a restaurant called Oven Spoonful and an optometry boutique called Specialeyes. It seems a place where one can be playful and check the serious business of growing up at the backdoor for just a little while.
Come the next morning we are nourished by another fantastic Quality Inn breakfast (Any breakfast of toasted biscuits and rich decaf is my idea of a primo breakfast. I am a simple man with simple pleasures.) Packed up, we drive on winding roads to our destination of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and the Hurricane Hill trailhead just 45 minutes south of town.
Along the way, Bambi and her daughter dip their heads onto the center of the road licking what I am guessing is salt. They are nonplussed about the cars passing by and look up nonchalantly as I snap this picture. At the end of this 17 mile drive to the mile high Visitor Center, there is an expansive parking lot with but 20 cars today; we then take a narrow road for 1.5 miles to the trailhead of the Hurricane Hill Trail.
Paved all the way to the top, the Hurricane Hill Trail is similar to other paved signature trails in major national parks. Both the Angel’s Landing and Observation Point Trails in Zion National Park are paved much of the way. It is apparent that hikers are not always thrilled with the pavement as the grass on either side of the trail is now worn dirt and easier on the feet.
Though there is no threat of precipitation today, that doesn’t mean there aren’t clouds dominating the mountains of Olympic National Park. With a 700 feet of elevation gain, the trail rises steadily over the next mile and a half. Even on this first week of June Thursday during the preseason, there are many seniors on the trail through the subalpine meadows. One woman we chat up, who is hiking with four friends in their 70s, tells us she hikes this trail regularly. Who needs a gym when you live in Port Angeles at the gateway to Olympic National Park?
Along the trail we see Bambi’s kid sister and Bambi’s niece (technically I believe Disney’s Bambi is a male, but really how many males do you know named Bambi?) who are not the least bit bothered by our presence. Check out the video below.
Over the last eight tenths of a mile the trail steepens as we are soon climbing into the floating clouds that cover the summit. The major mountains to our north and the sea to our south are totally obscured. We enjoy this cardio workout among the high mountain grasses and wildflowers.
At the top we are fog bound. Views of Mount Olympus will be saved for another visit. This panoramic photo gives us an idea of what we might have seen. With barking quads, we slowly inch down the mountain passing many other hopeful hikers. Spotting a standing marmot above her hole, I step as close as I dare so as not to spook her. Aggressive coyotes are the reason for the declining marmot population here in the Olympic high meadows.
Truth be told the Hurricane Hill Trail is a family hike. We hike it up and back in under an hour and thirty minutes. If you are planning a visit to the Olympic peninsula, come in June or September before or after the crunch of the summer tourist season.
An Olympic National Park ranger recommends the Marymere Falls Trail. Heading 20 miles west on route 101 towards the Pacific Ocean, we hug Crescent Lake along the highway as I grab the wheel at 10 and 2 to avoid being blown off the road by the monster logging trucks. Lunching at the Storm King Ranger Station at Crescent Lake, we have our first day in five that is warm enough to have a Dos Equis with our peanut butter sandwiches, potato salad, and orange slices.
The Marymere Falls Trail takes us a mile through the dense rainforest of northern Washington. With little elevation gain, we walk through a Disney forest of moss hanging off limbs that give the trees witch-like qualities.
Thanks to our grandson Owen who has mentioned that his Poppa is never in the videos of our travels, Hannah takes the iPhone video to document our trip to Marymere Falls. So here is the falls one more time thanks to Owen.
With two family hikes today at the Olympic National Park, we drive inland some ten to fifteen miles from the Pacific to Forks, Washington, as Twilight approaches.