Some Fine Hiking Experiences

Hike #91, May 1st 2002 For our first hike of the season, we chose hike #91 from the Mountaineers "Olympic Mountains Trail Guide", 3rd edition. We got off to our chronic late start, and at 8:45am greeted the usual suspects at the Bagel Haven in Port Hadlock. We supplemented our bagels, cream cheese, and coffee with a banana, and headed south down Hwy. 101. We turned on Duckabush Rd, headed for the Duckabush Trailhead, and finding it with no problem; this is an accessible and popular hike. It was quiet enough yesterday, with only one pair of backpackers and one day hiker ahead of us, when we signed in at 11:00am. The sky was overcast but the forecast led us to carry sunglasses, and leave our rain gear behind.

The first thing we did was acknowledge that we were starting our weekly hikes much later in the season than necessary; this trail would be fine to tackle earlier in the year. Immediately following that guilty realization, we congratulated ourselves on waiting for May first; it is now peak trillium season. You can find snowy white fresh trillium all along the first three miles of this trail, sometime scattered and easy to overlook, but often in showy patches of 5 or more. Only the occasional flower was flushed with the pink that comes a little later in the season. Another delight from the start was the carpets of yellow violets; sometimes providing a counterpoint to the trillium, sometimes sparking brilliant green moss with gold. These flowers can be found along the first easy mile of the trail, as well as along the next 1000 ft. of elevation gain.

After two miles of gradual up and over the first "glacial step" (referred to as Little Hump), the trail zigzags steeply up Big Hump. Here you find the showy white fawn lilies, a discreet but dense patch of chocolate lilies (only noticed on the return trip!), a scattering of fairyslipper orchids, wild strawberry blossoms, some early paintbrush, fabulous ferns and mosses, and trillium again when you descend the far side of Big Hump down to Five Mile Camp. The camping area is right on river, and here the sun emerged for us at 2:00pm (a full hour early by my guess!), and we were spellbound for 1/2 hour by the thundering water. With the views clear, we rested at both trail viewpoints on the return trip, listening to wrens, woodpeckers, and the peculiar low booming of amorous grouse. Due to the ups & downs over the humps, the walk out took almost as long as the walk in (longer when you count our lazy rest stops!) A great walk to start the season!

Tunnel Creek Trail 9/1/2001: we found a very nice day hike to do with Mark (Michael's son here for the weekend). We needed something reasonably short and close by, due to starting the trail at noon, and picked the Tunnel Creek Trail near Quilcene. It is off  FS 2740, via Penny Creek Rd & FS 27. It is almost all in big trees, along or above the beautiful creek for about 2.7 miles to a shelter/campground. It was pleasantly cool and shady for this time of year, and no flies at all yesterday. Past the campground it gets very steep and zigzags, but the trail has been improved (I think) since the report of bad trail in the hiking book; there are cut log and strategic rocks to stabilize the trail and form steps. Still it is definitely steep! The Twin Lakes are small, and rather green and unprepossessing this time of year, but the woods and rocky outcroppings near them are lovely, and there are several fine views starting at the second lake and on up to the pass/ridge 1/2 mile beyond the lake. It was too cloudy yesterday for the full effect, but there are flowers and spots to explore at the pass, it is not one of those bare windswept spots. It is only 4.1 miles to the pass, so even with the steep parts we were in and out in good time.

Poet's Ridge August 8th-10th 2001: we car camped about 20 miles west of Lake Wenatchee, at Little Wenatchee Ford in the North Cascade Mountains. The campground is below this long navigable ridge, which runs between several mountains named for famous American authors. Access to Poet's Ridge is by a 1/2 mile zigzag signed trail to Irving Pass. From the pass we took two day hikes.

We hiked the ridge first to the right toward Irving Peak (after Washington Irving). There is no maintained trail in this direction between Irving Pass and Irving Peak. Five of us hiked this stretch as a bushwack led by my brother, who thrives on this sort of thing, and keeps up a stiff pace.

Hiking was fairly rough for me, with short but steep ups and downs, requiring use of the many available "veggie" handholds; thank goodness for trees! We saw fabulous flowers, including columbine, lupine, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, stonecrop, Davidson's penstemon, and more. We had good weather with fine views, especially after the heart-in-mouth scramble required to get onto the summit of Irving Peak. It was a short but strenuous day hike, with opportunities for extra exercise getting a bit lost on the return to Irving Pass.

The next day Michael and I hiked the same 1/2 mile trail up to Irving Pass, but headed west on Poet's Ridge. In this direction there is a maintained trail which goes to Poe Mtn, and continues along the ridge. At the summit of Poe we ate an early lunch then turned back in order to be back to the car at 1:00. The Poet's Ridge trail continues on to Longfellow peak (accessible as a longer day hike), then to Mt. Whittier (which would be an overnight trip). I don't know if the trail or navigable ridge continues past Whittier.

The ridge is fairly narrow (think North cascades, and steep sharp peaks) with small but often steep ups and downs between serious scrambles up to the mountain summits. The trip to Poe was not difficult, but I would not choose to do it with a heavy overnight pack or in rainy weather. The ridge is narrow and a bit unsettling for anyone made nervous by heights. The unnerving bits were short and just OK for me; enough to be an exciting challenge, but also enough to be slightly dreaded on the return hike out, and a relief to be past! It was truly gorgeous up there, with fine views of Glacier Peak, etc. We watched a pair of black swifts (uncommon in this region) feeding on the (many) bugs. Mosquitoes and black flies made dinner time at camp less than relaxing, but our big tent with lots of mosquito net windows gave us comfortable options.There are other campgrounds in the area, but we were warned that Soda Springs was more mosquito ridden and the least appealing.

Shi Shi Beach, July 2001: we returned to Shi Shi via Neah Bay after about ten years, to park in almost the same spot. Checking in first at the Makah cultural center, we purchased the necessary recreational pass for a modest $7, and paid $5 to park inside a fenced yard. Immediately upon leaving the car we heard a Swainson's thrush, and were surrounded by ripe thimbleberries. The access trail to the beach, about 3/4 of a mile long, was drier than ussual but still a challenge to anyone trying to stay clean! We tromped through the mud in our hiking sandals for the outbound walk to the beach, but managed to stay clean on the return trip with only reasonable care.

We at lunch on the small rocky point just north of the trail head, then walked south along the beach to Point of Arches. Our wildlife sitings were the highlights of this trip; we watched an otter feeding in the surf close to the shore for at least ten minutes, then watched a peregrine falcon standing astride his prey on the beach before us, feeding and plucking the feathers. Having already decapitated the gull, he soon took of with the heavy carcass, flying in low into the trees above the beach. Nearby a camper told us they had watched the same activity the day before; the falcon was taking regular meals home. Nearby nesting gulls spend part of their day hanging out at the spot where this freshwater creek as it drains across the beach.

After the hike we drove up to Cape Flaherty and walked the short boardwalk trail to watch tufted puffins (pufted tuffins, toased muffins) fishing, nesting commorants, murres, and pigeon guillemots. We drove away from a gorgeous sunset, and found a halibut dinner at about 9:00pm in Clallam Bay.

Kah Tai Nature Park, March 2011
Spring is here, and we having some lovely bits of sunshine between the rain showers. This week has had high winds as well. But the daffodils & crocus are up, the early cherry trees are hazy pink, and the birds have been going crazy for several weeks now! It was lovely dusk at Kah Tai Lagoon a few nights ago, with a great blue heron, many mallards of course, wigeon, scaup, and coots. Small flocks of common golden-eye ducks and buffle-head ducks are flying in so low over my head to land in the water:  they spend the night in the safety of the lagoon. Such small duck wings didn't sound like mallards as they fly, it is a much softer sound; this fast susurration of wings overhead is so lovely!


My morning walk at H.J. Carroll Park was all silver
the sun peaking through clouds after a wet night.

I walked in a quiet loud with birds,
and with silver sunshine lighting wet cobwebs
in green trees

I walked the labyrinth circled by cedar trees
listening through layers of leaves
to the duet of Swainson's thrush voices,
soon joined for a resounding chorus
from a cedar's top branch
by the boisterous
black headed grosbeak

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Sandra J. Stowell, mailto:,
July, 2017