Marmot Pass Day Hike

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

11.5 miles round trip / 3489′ elevation gain

It’s hard to believe, but the weather forecasted for another sunny and warm winter weekend in the Pacific Northwest.  As usual, this meant it was time to plan another day hike.  As I mentioned in my last few day hiking posts, my husband and I have been joined by a new hiking partner.  Since I have been holding our new partner back with short hikes with low elevation gains, I decided it was time to challenge myself.  Letting our new friend choose the hike this week, we began our day on the Edmonds ferry headed west towards Marmot Pass in the Olympic Mountains.  I always love starting my day hikes with a 360° view of the Puget Sound surrounded by mountains.  As we made our way along the Olympic Peninsula across the Hood Canal bridge, I spotted a glimpse of two dolphins jumping out of the water in unison.  As we passed the turn off to the Lower Big Quilcene Trail, which my husband and I had just hiked a few weeks before, I was feeling nervous about pushing my abilities.  I was on my way to my longest day hike with the highest elevation gain I had ever attempted with nearly three miles of snow hiking!

We arrived at the trail head and started our journey along the Upper Big Quilcene Trail #833.1 just after 10:00 am.  The trail begins by slowly ascending as it follows the meandering Big Quilcene River.  The shade provided by the old growth forest canopy kept a cold chill in the air for the first two and a half miles.  The close to freezing temperatures kept a slight frost on the forest floor and parts of the trail as icicles hung from logs along creek crossings.  We welcomed the colder temperatures as the trail began to ascend at a steeper grade keeping our bodies quite warm.  After a few miles, the trail breaks away from the river and begins climbing across scree fields.  As we started to hike upon our first scree field we heard a loud cracking sound followed by yelling in the distance and noticed a small group of hikers stopped ahead of us.  The group was looking up towards the ridge line, and at that moment a very large rock bounced off the trail what seemed like only a few steps away from one of the hikers.  Moments later a much larger rock, that very easily could have been disastrous, came flying by the trail in the same section.  After a few nerve racking minutes we quickly raced our way across the scree field to catch up to the other group of hikers.  With fear in their eyes, we discussed with the group where the large rocks came from and what caused them to move from their once quiet resting place.  No matter the cause, we all decided it was best to move along the scree field as quickly as possible to seek comfort among the trees.  Once we reached the safety of the surrounding trees, we rested and tried to relax before heading back up towards the pass.

Crossing a boulder field along the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Crossing a scree field along the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

View from the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

View from the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

The feeling of comfort didn’t last long since shortly after leaving the scree field behind us, the trail began to ascend into areas with small patches of snow.  As I have mentioned before, being a Southerner most of my life I am not too comfortable hiking in snow and ice.  Although the feeling of anxiety was beginning to rise, I was more prepared for the icy conditions having packed my newly purchased ice trekker chains.  I chained up and we continued our way up the trail which eventually became completely snow covered.  I was feeling fairly confident with the safety of my chains for the first section of the snow, but the trail soon became very steep.  The combination of snow, ice, and steep conditions threw me out of my comfort zone and anxiety took over.  At that moment I decided that an 8+ mile hike was respectable, and I could turn around feeling proud of what I had accomplished thus far.  I made my way back down the trail until I felt comfortable enough to stop and rest.  As I rested I watched my husband and friend make their way along the snowy switchback which looked very similar to the one I had just climbed.  After a short conversation with hikers making their way down from the mountain pass above, I gained the confidence I needed to push forward and try again.  I made my way along the steepest section of the snow covered trail with an inner dialog telling myself to take one step at a time and not to look down.  Realizing it wasn’t as scary as it seemed in my head, I gained more and more confidence and continued quickly up the trail with Marmot Pass now in sight just past a large snow filled meadow.  At this point I was lightly jogging upwards and finally made the last push to my final destination.  I had made it!  I welcomed the breathtaking views that surrounded me including Mount Baker and the Cascade mountains to the east with the Puget Sound waterways below.  The Olympic mountains extended from Marmot Pass with long, craggy peaks to the north, west, and south.

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

The view from Marmot Pass looking east, Olympic National Park

The view from Marmot Pass looking east, Olympic National Park

The view from MArmot Pass looking west, Olympic National Park

The view from Marmot Pass looking west, Olympic National Park

Looking up at Buckhorn Mountain from marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Looking up at Buckhorn Mountain from marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Even though I made my way quickly up the trail in hopes to catch my husband and friend at the pass, they had already started to make their way south to explore the ridge line.   I enjoyed watching the two of them as they made they way along the snow covered ridge backlit by the midday sun.  I kept a close eye on them concerned they would choose another way down the trail without our paths crossing.

My husband and friend along the ridgeline south of Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

My husband and friend along the ridgeline south of Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Finally feeling relaxed, the sun filled mountain pass was the perfect afternoon lunch spot amongst several other hikers.  Even though we had climbed over 3500 feet, the air was warm from the direct sunlight.  Conversation with like minded people was pleasant and comforting after the long trek up.  I noticed my hiking partners closing in on my location at the pass, but they paused as they got closer.  Just as I had suspected, I could see them considering following the tracks of previous hikers who had chosen to glissade down instead of following the traditional trail.  It was at this point I decided to flag them down to make them aware of my location.  Once they realized I was the one waving and yelling in their direction, I packed up and made my way back down the trail.  The three of us were back together again just below the pass in the snow field after my partners had attempted to glissade down.  They were excited to see I had made it to the pass after all, and I was glad to be with my group once again.

We all shared a sugary snack and swapped stories about the last hour we’d spent apart before making our way back down the trail.  Feeling more comfortable than ever, the fears I’d faced before seemed to be a distant memory.  We zig-zagged along the snowy path sharing good conversation about our future hiking plans.  Before I knew it, the snow turned into patches and then finally disappeared altogether.  We moved quickly as the trail descended towards the parking lot.  Once again we swiftly moved across the scree fields back into the thick forested path.  Making great time, we crossed over creeks that were slightly higher from the days snow melted by the warm winter sun.  We knew once we had reconnected with the Big Quilcene River we were closing in on our last miles of the hike.  We climbed over two logs that blocked the path one last time as we made our final descent to the trails’ end.  Our aching muscles welcomed the sight of the parked cars along the forest road.  The sun was making its way behind the Olympic Mountain peaks as we drove along the Peninsula once more.  The sky filled with pink and purple clouds as the sun made its final appearance for the day.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect day in the mountains.

Teneriffe Falls (Kamikaze Falls) Day Hike

6 miles roundtrip / 1420′ elevation gain

With another beautiful weekend in the forecast for the Pacific Northwest my husband and I were anxious to get outdoors.  We woke up before sunrise Saturday morning and headed to Teneriffe Falls for a day hike with friends.  Even though our strategy was to reach the parking area early enough to beat the crowds, we barely arrived at the trailhead in time – parking in what appeared to be the last space!

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View from Teneriffe Falls (Kamikaze Falls) trail

Our journey up towards Teneriffe Falls began by hiking up Mount Teneriffe Road; a slowly ascending, wide dirt and gravel service road.  The road winds through the forested mountainside for the first mile and a half of our journey which allowed for an easy hike with great conversation.  After the first half of the hike we arrived at a fork in the road with a sign pointing us towards Teneriffe Falls.  As we made our way along Mount Teneriffe Trail it became much more steep, slowly switching back and forth towards our destination.  We made our way along the narrow, rocky trail opening up at times showing panoramic views and abundant sunshine.  As we neared Teneriffe Falls the trail became very steep and finding a viewing spot among the crowds was not easy.  After soaking in the view and snapping a few photographs we were ready to find a resting spot.

Teneriffe Falls (Kamikaze Falls)

Teneriffe Falls (Kamikaze Falls)

We headed back down the trail a few yards below the Teneriffe Creek waterfall, and were thankful to rest our aching muscles from the climb we had just made.  Once chilled from the cold mornings air, we were now happy to have the shade of our forested surroundings cooling us from our heated exhaustion.  We enjoyed the sound of cascading water in the distance as we refueled for the return trip down Mount Teneriffe.  Once well rested with renewed energy it was time to leave the sound of the the rushing waterfall behind.  Our journey downwards was easy as we swiftly made our way across the rocks and boulders along the trail.  Within no time we reached the wider portion of the trail back on Mount Teneriffe Road.  We passed many hikers throughout the day also enjoying the outdoors in the unseasonably warm weather on the last day of January.  As we reached the parking area we were glad to hand over our parking space to adventurers just about to start their own journey for the day.  The memories of the warm sun atop Mount Teneriffe that morning lingered as we made our way back into the foggy Puget Sound area that afternoon.

Lower Big Quilcene River Day Hike/Trail Run

View from Puget Sound ferry looking north

View from Puget Sound ferry looking north

9.4 miles round trip / 800′ elevation gain

With the weather looking more like spring in the Pacific Northwest, my husband and I decided to head over to the Olympics for a day hike.  We woke up early enough to make the short drive to Edmonds just in time to catch the ferry and may our way across the Puget Sound.  As the ferry headed west thick clouds hung over the Olympic mountains, but as we looked back to the east a panoramic view showed blue skies surrounding the Cascades.  The one hour drive around Hood Canal towards the eastern Olympics had our car winding through small patches of thick fog under cloudy skies.  As we made our way into the glacier carved valley alongside the Lower Big Quilcene River the grey skies disappeared and finally let the sunshine in.

Lower Big Quilcene River, Olympic National Forest

Lower Big Quilcene River, Olympic National Forest

The parking lot for the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail # 833 had only one other car as we arrived.  With plans to make our return trip a trial run we packed light bringing only the essentials.  The trail begins with a slight descent heading down towards the Lower Big Quilcene River.  Right away we notice the trail is very well kept and appears to have recently been worked on.  It has several river and stream crossings including what appeared to be very sturdy and recently built bridges.  As we hiked the sun spent much of its time hiding behind the ridgeline to the south of the valley.  At times the ridge would dip down and allow the sun peak down into the valley along the trail.  Once we made our way down to the riverside, the trails makes its way along the river slowly climbing into the valley.  After 2.6 miles we crossed through Bark Shanty Camp with a few backpackers camp sites along the river.  We continued our hike heading up towards Camp Jolley with plans to stop for lunch upon arrival.  We found a few logs with views of the Quilcene River allowing us to rest and refuel for our return trip.

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Lower Big Quilcene River Trail, Olympic National Forest

With the afternoon sun still trying to make its way into the valley, we headed back down the trail towards the parking lot.  After fifteen minutes of hiking, we stopped to prepare for a trail run for the remaining four miles.  This was a perfect trail for running with most of the way going slightly downhill.  The trail headed upwards only a few times and when it did it was hardly noticeable.  We made our way running up and down winding along the Lower Big Quilcene River with bursts of sunlight when the ridgeline dipped low enough.  The parking lot had several cars at the trailhead as we arrived mid afternoon.

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Lower Big Quilcene River Trail, Olympic National Forest

 

Heading east towards the Puget Sound with the sun was still making its appearance, we decided to skip the ferry ride and take the small road trip home.  We headed south towards the Tacoma Narrows bridge with Mount Rainier dominating the landscape to the east.  Our journey ended as we arrived home just as the sun made its final appearance for the day.

Mount Baker Snowshoeing / Nooksack Falls

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Mount Baker near Artist Point

Since moving to the Pacific Northwest I have been interested to try snowshoeing.  Growing up in Texas I was never really exposed to any snow activities.  I assumed snowshoeing would be just  like hiking in the snow; therefore, if I love hiking then I will love snowshoeing.  With an REI gift card burning a hole in our pockets, my husband and I decided we were going to rent snowshoes and head to the mountains.  We loaded up the car mid-afternoon and after a quick trip to REI we headed north towards Mount Baker.  Our evening was spent in a charming cabin in Deming, WA.  The only heat source for the entire cabin was a wood burning stove that warmed us as we spent the evening reading by the fireside.  We woke up the next morning chilled as the fire from the previous night had died out hours before.  We were filled with energy as we packed up for the less than an hours drive to the Mount Baker backcountry ski area.  Within an hours drive we went from a green, lush environment to a winter wonderland in the North Cascades.

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Mount Baker near Artist Point

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Mount Baker near Artist Point

 

We were geared up and hitting the trail by 10:00 am.  Right away snowshoeing was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  After reading trips reports from recent visits to the area I learned that when travelling up the trail we needed to stay to the right of the roped-off downhill ski area.  Following this guideline we spent the morning and afternoon snowshoeing around the snow filled valley watching the skiers and snowboarders fly down the mountain zig-zagging through the fresh snow.  Several feet of light and fluffy surrounded the area for miles in every direction.  At times we would follow tracks created by other people and sometimes we would choose destinations and create our own pathways through the snow.  As beginner snowshoers we decided not to attempt the hike to Artist Point and instead we spent the day familiarizing ourselves with the equipment snowshoeing around the valley.

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Snowy treetops on Mount Baker

 

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Wind blowing the snow from the trees on Mount Baker

 

Exhausted from our days efforts hiking through the snow, we headed to the parking lot to load up and picnic in the car before heading down the mountain.  As we left the snowy mountaintops behind, a sign for Nooksack Falls lured us off the highway for a short side trip.  We made the quick trip the the waterfall viewing point, but the perspective from the fenced area near the top of the falls gives you just a peak of Nooksack Falls.  I enjoyed the landscape looking downstream as a light fog hung over the valley in the distance.

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Nooksack Falls, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

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Nooksack Falls, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

 

The cold air urged us to head back to the warmth of our car and we continued our way back towards Seattle.  As we drove away from Mount Baker and the North Cascades all I could think about was when I’d be back again.  Soon I hope.