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Saturday getaway

This last weekend I needed some me time, so I hopped in my car and drove to the Olympics, and as often happens, my tires led me to Lake Crescent.  No grueling climbs up cliff-sides for me this time, just a quiet stroll around the Barnes Creek peninsula and to Marymere falls.

I parked at Lake Crescent Lodge, which brought back fond and not-so-fond memories of the summer I spent working in housekeeping there.  Being already intimately familiar with the lodge grounds, which look to not have changed in the last eight years (Eight years?! Am I getting old already?) I set off immediately down the Moments in Time Trail, a nature path that winds through secondary forest that nevertheless has some very large trees, around a meadow that is all that’s left of a vanished homestead, and past a small science camp, which used to be called Olympic Park Institute, but which the new sign by its entrance tells me is now named Nature Bridge. The trail is pleasant and easy, and comes out at a gravelly beach that affords the panoramic view of the lake you can see above.

There are multiple spurs leading to and from the Moments in Time loop; I left the circle via the trail that passes the Storm King Ranger Station, and followed it past the old log building, under the highway, and all the way to Marymere falls, roughly 3/4 of a mile away.

The first section of the trail is wide and level. Shortly after it passes the beginning of the Storm King trail, it climbs ever so slightly, then crosses Barnes Creek and it’s tributary on two bridges.

From here, the trail climbs briefly but steeply up an incline and steps to reach Marymere Falls.

 

 

More stairs lead from here to an upper viewing area.

After visiting the falls it was back to the lodge for me, where I sat in the sunroom to watch the drizzling rain that was now falling into the lake and gave advice about the park to a nice group visiting from Seattle. My dawdling walk gave me three hours of forest time, just what I needed for my Saturday getaway.


I think the coupons may be more valuable than the dividend.

Mt Storm King

Climbing the Storm King trail above Lake Crescent is not for the faint of heart–or at very least not for the weak of legs.  Those hiking this trail will want to park at the Storm King ranger station near Lake Crescent Lodge and take the Marymeer Falls trail under Highway 101.  After somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 a mile, just after a gigantic douglas fir, the Storm King trail splits off to the left under a large boulder.  There is a sign marking the trail.  From this point on you can expect a grueling climb.  In the remaining mile of your hike you will gain about 2,000 feet of elevation.

Steep is just the beginning of the adjectives you may want to use for this trail, which climbs up the back side of a ridge bordering the lake, so no water views for you until you get to the top.

Arora Ridge is visible for much of the ascent

A third of the way up, the trail gets less steep–almost flat, even–as it passes across a small shelf through open forest that would make a good campsite, then the climb continues without a break up to a knife-edge ridge spine where you can finally look out over the lake and wonder how you got so high in so little trail.

the forested shelf

the end of this hiker's line

This is where I stopped my hike on February 2nd, though I am told the trail continues for another .4 miles or so until it abruptly stops on the side of the mountain without really reaching a destination.  If you came to climb to the top of a mountain on this trail, I’m afraid you will be disappointed.  The view from the spine is a good one, if frustratingly cut off to the west by the forest you climbed there through, and a little dangerous as you have to stand or sit on the edge of a 400 foot cliff to enjoy it.

a lunch-worthy view

a view-worthy lunch: rice with smoked herring, apple with peanutbutter and nutella, homemade granola bars

maybe it's better not to look down

Some hikers might complain that the reward to effort ratio is too low to make this a worthwhile hike, yet I found it a pleasant one and would make the climb again.  Going on a sunny winter day, as I did, I found exactly what I was looking for: fresh air, open forest, lovely views, an achievable challenge, and solitude (I was the only person on the trail that day).  I would recommend this trail for cool-season hiking.  So much exertion on a south-facing ridge on a hot summer day would overheat me to great discomfort, and I am told the trail can be quite popular during vacation time.

Who needs benches?

a cheeky hiking companion

Made it to the top--I'm not quite used to such bright sun in February!

back at the lake, I pause to look at how high I was

Fall puts me more in the mind of cooking than camping, but while I have some applesauce bubbling on the stove, let me take a little time to talk about storing your camping gear over the winter.  Unless you do cold weather camping, all of your gear is going to be just sitting around for a while.  A little work now will make you a happier camper come warm weather again.

Tent — Make sure your tent is completely dry before putting it away for the winter (unless you happen to like the smell of mildew).  If you aren’t certain that your tent is dry, find a sheltered space like a garage, or your living room if you can work around it, and set your tent up there for a couple of days.  Your nose will thank you come spring.

Sleeping Bags — As with your tent, make sure your bags are completely dry.  Store them outside of their stuff sacks, suspended from a hanger, so they keep their pile (fluffiness) and therefor their insulating properties.

Sleeping Pads — Same deal as with sleeping bags: dry and unrolled.  Keep the air vent open so any latent moisture can get out.

Cooking Supplies — If you’re like me and keep a box of dishes and cooking implements specifically for camping, make sure you go through and clean every thing and take out any edibles that may have made their way into the mix.  There are few things worse than reaching into a box for a measuring cup and pulling out a moldy orange.

Clothing — Wash out all that old campfire smoke to make way for next year’s.  Watch out for crickets!

Have a happy fall, everyone.  Get out there and do something fun!

Raven

Presenting one of my favorite birds: the common raven.

As artist, author, and blogger, Ursula Vernon once said of distinguishing ravens from crows, if you wonder if it might be a raven, it’s just a big crow.  If you mistake it for a 747, it’s a raven.

Rain has returned to the Olympic Peninsula, marking the end of camping season for this camper.  I don’t mind a little rain while I’m camping, but an entire weekend of the stuff just leads to an unhappy state of continuous dampness.

I had planned on visiting Kalaloch last weekend, but when the weather forecast anticipated rain and high temperatures in the low 60s, I decided maybe it wasn’t the ideal time for visiting the beach.  It turned out to be a good decision; when I looked at the weather radar during the weekend I saw heavy rain stretching down the coast.

The weekend was not a loss, however, because we went on a day trip instead: to Lake Crescent to hike on the Spruce Railroad Trail along the north shore to a deep alcove of the lake scooped out of a cliff known as the Devil’s Punchbowl.  When the weather is warm, people like to climb up the cliff and jump into the punchbowl, but it was too cold for such activities this day.  When the hike was over, we went to La Poel, a day use area on the south side of the lake, to cook dinner over a camp fire.  It was just like camping, just without to sleeping.

Now, camping season may be over for me, but don’t expect my blog to go silent.  There are many, many things I have to write about.  I still have to finish my map of Mora campground for one thing.  Expect to see more drawings and write-ups on the plants and animals of the peninsula, and I will be highlighting some of the trails and day-use areas of the park as well.  Let’s start with the Lake Crescent area while we’re here.  Here are some pictures from my day trip:

There are a couple of landslide areas on the Spruce Railroad Trail, but they have all been compacted into an acceptable trail

Leaves of three, let them be. Watch out for poison oak (or is this ivy?) along the trail! It's the only place I've seen it in the park.

The trail runs along a never-complete railroad bed.

Two abandoned tunnels can be found along the way. Park rules prohibit going inside, but you can walk up and take a look.

I don't approve of graffiti in national parks, but this guy stole my heart with his cuteness anyway.

Devil's Punchbowl

Dinner at La Poel (pronounced "La Pwell")

As usual, click on the map to pull up a larger version.

 

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