Thursday, 29 September 2005

Seven Lakes Basin

Fungus This was a long one; 18.8 miles in one day with over 4500ft of climbing. We met people on the way round taking three days over this loop. “I hope you boys have got a flashlight.”

It was a long day: 16 hours from downtown Seattle until our return. There was no earlier ferry we could have caught. The trailhead is some 40 miles west of Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula, about two and a half hour’s drive from the ferry terminal in Bainbridge. We were on the trail, at about 9:30am, in the cold morning air. It felt like autumn was coming.

The trail emerges from the trees surprisingly quickly, so we had views from pretty early on, which made the climb far more bearable. The weather was superb, blue skys with a few wispy clouds above, but not too hot.

After a brief respite in a beautiful flat area full of ponds and ripe huckleberries the climb continued. We soon crossed over the ridge to views over the west side of the Olympic range, out to the Pacific.

We lunched atop Bogachiel Peak, which gave us views all around, over the Seven Lakes Basin to the North and South to the snow-covered summit of Mount Olympus.

The High Divide was a strange section; one side of the slope was south-facing an covered in tall pines, whilst the north side was open, covered with only grass and the odd stubborn and weathered tree. It’s a very pleasant section of the walk, being mercifully level and with views across the valley of the impressive glacier crawling down from Olympus. We soon spotted Heart Lake, but from our point of view, the heart shape was upside down. After dropping down from the High divide we soon entered thick forest and the rest of the walk was of close-up views of trees and undergrowth. There were plenty of varied fungi about in the damp autumn air. By the time we got back to the car, the light was fading.

It was a bit of a slog, especially towards the end, but absolutely worth the effort. You can do it one day, so do.

See all the pictures here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Heather Park, Angeles Lake Loop

Lupin Leaf The labour day holiday provided the opportunity to do two hikes in one weekend and still get a rest day. Monday was walk two, this time in the Olympics. There were two possible hikes we had our eye on, but we had to settle for the shorter one due to not arriving at Port Angeles until 10am. The longer walk was another 50 plus miles down the road. It would have been dark before we got off the hills.

The trailhead for the loop we settled on is cheekily just outside the national park. The turnoff is literally within a stone’s throw of the pay station.

The start of the walk is on an old logging road at a ‘gentle gradient’ which soon raised the heart rate. It was at least an hour’s slog before we broke tree cover for a view into the thick of the clouds which were stubbornly clinging to the mountain tops. We met two seasoned hikers on the way up who both commented, with some surprise, when we told them we were doing the loop that “That’s a long hike fellas.” We had been warned.

After zig-zagging through alpine meadows and patches of trees, we chose a spot for first lunch near Heather Park in a saddle on the ridge we were going to follow. The clouds parted briefly to reveal a snow-clad Mount Olympus in the distance. Beautiful, and worth the climb.

Here we faced a decision. The book and its map showed a trail up through the peaks to the south-east. The only obvious trail was down and west, then contouring below the peaks. Add this to the fact that we weren’t entirely sure where we were, due to a possible branch in the trail some half a mile back down the hill. The GPS was useless; whilst it gave an accurate indication of our position, the map we had was devoid of grid markings. We plumped for the obvious trail.

The next section of the trek was a slog. After dropping a few hundred feet down gravel we countoured (roughly) below the crumbling peaks for a while before we had to re-gain the height to a saddle. From there it was another disheartening drop down into cloud to traverse another scree slope, then climbing back up to 6000 feet to another saddle. This was the only busy part of the trail due to the proximity of the Hurricane Road trailhead. There was still a mountain goat on the ridge though. A pleasant surprise and impressively big and furry.

The walk out was quick. No-one fancied being in the forest as it got dark. Lake Angeles proved to be a worthwhile (and minor) detour. It was flat as a mill pond, so reflected the surrounding mountains impressively.

Easily the most spectacular hike so far, even without the views. Worth the effort.

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Denny Creek and Melakwa Lake

I90 flyover in forest Saturday, Labour day weekend. We hiked up along Denny Creek to Melakwa Lake, in the Central Cascades.

The trail starts from a busy car park and soon takes you under the I90 westbound carriage, rising from the firs on concrete stilts. It looked suprisingly good.

Whilst the I90 route to the trailheads around North Bend is very coinvienient, it was getting a bit samey. At one point we were further from the car to where we were a couple of weeks ago. With all this wilderness, that’s not right.

We soon found ourselves zig-zagging up through forest and rockfalls to Keekwulee falls and alongside the more hidden Snowshoe falls. From there it is a short pull up more switchbacks to the lake itself.

Melakwa is Chinook for mosquito, apparently. There were certainly a few of the little suckers about, and their prescence, combined with the overcast skys and occasional drizzle made our lunch break short and the idea of swimming was never realised. There are a couple of good looking camping spots between the upper and lower lakes, but the eponymous mozzies might be a bit of a chore in the evenings.

Coming down was worse than going up, due to the rocky nature of the path, combined with the lack of novelty, as we’d seen it all on the way up. It was still enjoyable to be out in the ‘wilderness’ for a few hours though.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Vancouver - A trip to the land of metric

Vancouver Marina A weekend in Vancouver. The trip up from Seattle was painless enough apart from the grilling by the Canadian border guard, who seemed annoyed that he couldn’t refuse us entry.

I can recommend The Victorian Hotel. It was cheap (for downtown,) central, clean, independent, quirky and quiet. Quiet is good. We checked in, abandoned the car and walked around town in the sunshine, admiring the views across the sound to the mountains beyond.

On Sunday we hired bikes and pootled around Stanley Park for a few hours in the sunshine. I was pleased to find a game of cricket in progress. The clouds were scraping the hills on the other side of the water, which is why we’d saved Grouse Mountian until the Monday.

Monday: rain. Not forecasted. It cleared after breakfast but the clouds remained. We stubbornly set off up into the hills anyway. We tried to find the Lynn Creek suspension bridge, a free version of the Capilano bridge but marginally smaller and in the next valley over. We actually ended up in the Lynn Headwater park, which was great. There was hardly anyone there. We set off on a short walk through the fir trees past huge ancient stumps left from the first time it was logged.

On the second attempt we found the suspension bridge, bounced our way over and watched a couple of nutters jumping over the waterfalls in the creek below. They’d obviously chosen to ignore the gory warning signs explaining the multitude of horrific ways you can drown under a waterfall.

After a picnic lunch in the woods by the bridge we headed home, stopping to admire the distant view of Vancouver from Crescent Beach. That was a strange little community. Very peaceful and more lifeguards than swimmers.

All in all a great, very relaxing trip with some of the best elements for a good time: good food, good sleeping, great views… and not getting mugged even when you accidentally walk though the crack-ridden areas after dark.

More pictures here.