<6 miles / 800’+ elevation gain
In my latest blog about hiking in the Hoh Rainforest I mentioned my friends and I had overslept causing us to miss an opportunity to go snowshoeing. After a day of visiting the western side of Olympic National Park, we decided to go to sleep extra early and not miss the same opportunity twice. On Sunday morning we woke up around 6:00 am anticipating a day of fun in the snow starting with watching the sunrise from Hurricane Ridge. After loading the car and a quick breakfast we were on our way up the dark and winding Hurricane Ridge Road. As we gained elevation, the height of the snow became increasingly higher and the temperatures began to drop. By the time we reached the parking lot the temperatures were in the high teens. The sun was just beginning to peek behind the ridgeline of the Olympic Mountains. As we had nearly missed it slipping into the Pacific Ocean the previous day, we had almost missed it rising into the clear, blue sky. This was the perfect setting for a day of snowshoeing!
After putting on what seemed like a million layers, and still feeling freezing cold, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed down Hurricane Ridge Road. As we made our way down towards Hurricane Hill, we decided to take a detour and explore the Wolf Creek Trail. As the trail got closer to the ridgeline, the tree line opened to a view of the Olympic Mountains. At one point we crossed a wide open field of snow along the side of the mountain. There were several tracks going in many directions making it fun trying to choose the path of least resistance. We took the trail until it seemed to disappear into the trees. We turned around and started our slow trek upwards back towards the main trail. With this being only my second time snowshoeing, I was surprised by the extra amount of effort it took to climb in elevation. Once we back at the trail intersection, we decided to continue along towards Hurricane Hill.
Once we arrived at Hurricane Hill there were several other hikers around. Unfortunately, some of them were feeding the birds in the area and encouraging others to join in including my friend who is new to hiking. I always practice the Leave No Trace guidelines when I am in the wilderness and it’s disappointing to see others disturbing the natural environment. Once we continued on our journey, I educated my friend about the negatives of feeding the wildlife. I hope that someone educates the others, but I did not feel it was my place to do so. I did enjoy photographing the camp robbers as they dove into the area trying to nab up whatever was being offered.
Being new to snowshoeing, I was still pretty nervous to trek through the snow near steep ridgelines. I had decided ahead of time that I would push forward towards hurricane Hill as long as I felt comfortable, but would stop any time I started to feel scared. It wasn’t long before I stepped aside and let the others continue along the trail without me. I stayed behind taking in my surroundings and capturing images my husband and friends’ final ascent up Hurricane Hill.
The three of us met up back at the base of the hill and started our long trek upwards toward the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center. What seemed like such a short trip in was taking much longer on our way out. Snowshoeing is fun going downhill, but going up is simply hard work! As we made our final push into the parking lot we welcomed the much needed rest. Our car was the second one to pull into the parking lot that morning just as the sun was rising. Our early morning awakening was well worth it as we left the crowded parking lot and headed out of Olympic National Park.
On Saturday morning my husband, a friend, and myself woke up in a chilly KOA Kabin just outside of Port Angeles, WA. We decided to spend Friday night at the base of the Olympic Mountains in order to be closer to our destination when we woke up the next morning. Even though our destination was less than an hours drive away, no one in our party managed to set an alarm causing us to oversleep. At 11:00 am we arrived at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center to a very full parking lot. Our plan was to spend the day snowshoeing near Hurricane Ridge, but a park ranger explained that the wait to get a parking space was at least two hours. It was at this time we decided to visit the Hoh Rainforest on the western side of the Olympics instead.
The drive from Port Angeles to the Hoh Rainforest has always been one of my favorites, and I was excited to experience it during the winter. The route along Lake Crescent was serene with snow capped ridgelines with a clear, blue sky as its’ backdrop. Sometimes it felt like a winter wonderland on the north facing sides of the highway that hadn’t seen direct sunlight in months. Other times it felt more like spring with evergreens in every direction surrounded by an abundance of sunshine. With clear skies over the last few days, the roads were ice free and well maintained throughout the drive along Highway 101. Once our journey took us off the highway and we headed into the Hoh Valley, the roads became less maintained. By the time we neared the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center the road conditions had turned to mushy snow and ice. The few visitors in the parking lot were carefully making their way around the slick, icy surfaces. The surrounding Hoh Rainforest was blanketed with several feet of snow.
The trails were snow covered, but easily hikable without the use spikes or snowshoes since there is little elevation change. I was happy to have my trekking poles to help me navigate through a few slick areas near the beginning of the trail. We decided to hike along the Hoh River Trail for a few hours with plans of returning to our car early enough to catch the sunset on the Pacific Ocean. The hike in the snowy Hoh Rainforest (which I’m calling the Snoh Rainforest) was quiet and peaceful. The sun kept trying to peek through the thick, mossy trees, but was never around long enough to warm up the snowy forest floor. Before returning to the parking lot, we took a little time to play in the snow.
We arrived back at the parking lot with little time to spare in order to catch the sunset. We carefully drove along the valley floor headed west out of the rainforest towards the coast. From slushy, icy roads to safer ground once again, we made our way back through Forks, WA along Highway 101. After exiting a few miles north of Forks, we drove along highway 110 headed directly west. The sun shined on our faces through the windshield as we headed straight into its’ light. The road finally curves towards the north along the shoreline and the Pacific Ocean comes into view for the first time. We could see the sun nearing the horizon as we made our final leg of the journey through the Quilete Reservation. The timing was perfect as we jumped out of the car and headed to the beach just as the sun was setting. It was breathtaking as the sun made its’ final appearance for the day dipping into the Pacific Ocean as we watched from La Push Beach.
Even though it wasn’t our plan when we woke up that morning, this day had been perfect. We made our way through the darkness back towards our cozy cabin. Finally back at our temporary home for the evening, the decision had been made that the following morning we would wake up extra early to watch the sunrise from Hurricane Ridge. This commitment had us in bed quite early that evening, but we were sure to set our alarms this time.
Last fall my husband and I spent one night in the Spray Park wilderness area in Mount Rainier National Park, WA. Just after breakfast a black bear came very near our site at the Cataract Valley backpackers campground. A few moments later two black bear cubs were following the same tracks.