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.

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