Sunday, July 8, 2012

Olympic National Park - Hurricane Ridge

Summer has been slow in coming to the Pacific Northwest this year.  While all our friends on Facebook have been complaining of triple-digit temperatures and power outages and huddling in shopping malls and other public buildings for air conditioning, I've been wearing blue jeans and fleece pullovers.  After being at sea for a few months, I returned to port in mid-June and was pelted by hail and cold raindrops the size of grapes.  I was actually shivering from the cold as I greeted my family on the pier.

Well, we finally have some semblance of nice weather, and we took advantage of it this weekend by going up to the Hurricane Ridge visitor center in Olympic National Park.

Before we moved here, my wife bought me a book, Best hikes with KIDS: Western Washington and Cascades.  I've been drooling over it and wanting to try many of the hikes it describes.  This was the first hike we've tried from this book.  Each hike in the book has cute little icons to tell you the difficulty and seasonal availability of each hike.  I didn't want to do anything too strenuous for our first hike of the summer, so I picked #163 Hurricane Hill.  This hike has the easiest of the book's three difficulty ratings, and in the text it says,
Day Hike
Easy for children
Late July-October
2 1/2 miles
700 feet elevation gain

Overall, it was an enjoyable hike with spectacular scenery.  However, it's a good thing I didn't try taking my family on any of the "moderate" difficulty hikes.  This one was a challenge for my family.

The first time I visited Hurricane Ridge before my family moved here (pictured above), it was mid-June and there was still a substantial amount of snow up there.  That time, I couldn't even drive past the visitor's center because of the rest of the road out to the Hurricane Hill trailhead was snowed-in.

This picture was taken in nearly the same spot, but at least 6 feet lower in altitude because I'm not standing on top of a huge snow bank.  This time, it was 64F and sunny, and most of the snow had melted. We stopped at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center first to look at trail maps and check out the scenic overlook.  Then we drove out to the end of the road where there is a small parking lot at the trailhead for the Hurricane Hill trail.

Lotis at the Hurricane Hill trail head.
Do trusty, well-traveled stuffed animals count?

The trail was well-defined, paved in many segments and hard pack dirt in others.  There were a few patches of snow we had to trudge through, but it wasn't bad.  It's 1.6 miles from the trail head to the top of Hurricane Hill.

The first 0.8 miles are pretty level.  The last 0.8 miles are a pretty steep incline and switchbacks.  The boys started complaining that "the batteries in their feet were low" and that they wanted to go home.  We distracted them with a snowball fight along the way.  Eventually, we resorted to bribery and offered to let them pick something out in the visitor center gift shop if they made it to the top.  That kept them going for a while.  As it turned out, my wife and eldest son ended up stopping and waiting on a park bench while my youngest son and I made it to the top.  I was running out of steam and slowing down toward the final stretch up to the top, and my youngest son went charging ahead of me yelling, "Common, Daddy!  You're almost there!  Do it for the gift shop!"

View from top of Hurricane Hill (5757 feet) 
looking north to Port Angeles, WA.
My youngest son at the top of Hurricane Hill.

The view from the top was pretty amazing, and I'm very proud of my youngest son for making it all the way to the top with me.

We also got to see a family of two adult and two baby mountain goats at the top.  A park ranger warned us that the mountain goats can be aggressive, so make a lot of noise to let them know where you are and scare them off.

This is the view looking back down the way we came.  I kept expecting to see Julie Andrews come running over each meadow, arms outstretched, long black dress twirling around her as she belts forth, "The HILLS are ALIIIIIIIIVE with the SOUND of MUUUUUUSIIIIIIIIC!"

The meadows and hillsides were all dotted with blotches of purple, pink, yellow, and red wildflowers.

In addition to the mountain goats pictured above, we also saw many black-tailed deer, marmots, and one black bear from a long distance away (moving speck on the next ridge over).  The deer were everywhere and didn't seem to mind people on the trail.  It's like someone told them the humans have to stay on the path.

As has become a standard operating procedure for us, my boys complained, moaned, groaned, and gnashed their teeth about being torn away from their video games to get in the car and head off to a national park in the morning.  By the end of the day, as usual, when it came time for bedtime prayers and I asked them what their favorite part of the day was, they both said going to Olympic National Park.

Trip stats for the day:
3.84 miles
1 hour 55 minutes moving time
30 minutes 6 second stopped / resting time
2.0 mph average speed
4.6 mph max speed
~900 feet of elevation gain.  The parking lot is around 5000 feet, and the top of Hurricane Hill is 5757 feet, but there was a little bit of up and down along the way.
There were NO facilities available anywhere along the trail.  There were outhouses back at the last picnic area before the trail head.

1 comment:

Sagey said...

Just to defend myself, I don't think the hike itself was that hard, but it is at a significant elevation difference from our normal at sea level life. Both ES and I have asthma and I think the air just got too thin for us, should not have left the inhaler in the car. :-)