Saturday, September 15, 2012

Olympic National Park - Elk Mountain

This is hike #9 in the Falcon Guide titled Best Easy Day Hikes - Olympic National Park.  It's also the second most difficult hike listed in the book, the most difficult being Mount Zion that I did a few weeks ago.

One of my O-gang shipmates expressed an interest in doing a "longer" hike this weekend.  We put the invitation out to the rest of the wardroom and ended up with a group of four of us plus one spouse heading out to Olympic National Park.  We offered up a small sum of cash to get someone to drop us off at one end and pick us up at the other, and it worked out really well.

First we drove up to the Hurricane Ridge visitor's center.  I stamped my National Park passport there.  I've also been using the National Park stamp on the pages of the day hike guide book to show when I've done each hike.  We used the facilities there and then headed out on the 7.5 mile dirt and gravel bumpy Obstruction Point Road.

Obstruction Point Road

I was surprised how many cars and people there were at the Obstruction Point trailhead.  There were probably a dozen cars in the parking lot and several people loading up their backpacks.  Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought this was a rare opportunity to get out on this trail that isn't accessible for a large part of the year.

Time Stamp at the Obstruction Point Trailhead

Beginning of the trail.  There is a fork in the trail here.  The trail going down to the right is the Badger Valley Trail.  The trail heading up the slope to the right above the trees is the Obstruction Point trail.

This is the view looking down into Badger Valley from near the trailhead.  You can see the Badger Valley trail leading down below the trees on the left.  The Badger Valley trail eventually goes back up to rejoin the Obstruction Point trail at the 2 mile mark.

Looking back the way we came.  The Obstruction Point trail head is just above the center of this photo, and you can see the trail going off to the right edge of the photo, looping up to the top of the ridgeline.

On top of the ridgeline with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to the southeast in the background.

There were a lot of these all over the top of the ridgeline.  I kept thinking I might hear a Who.  I'm still trying to identify them in my flower books.  In addition to these, we also saw a lot of pearly everlasting, gray thistles, purple lupines, and yellow daisies. 

Panorama shot from somewhere around Elk Mountain.  In the distance on the left side we could see a couple of lakes and waterfalls crashing down below the lakes.  In this picture, one of the waterfalls looks like a small white line.  I was glad I brought my binoculars, because the waterfalls were pretty cool.

Looking northwest from the top of the ridgeline, we could see the Hurricane Ridge Road sloping up to the left.  We could also see across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, BC, and beyond.  Again, I was glad I brought my binoculars to see the details in the far distance.  My little point-and-click camera doesn't do the view justice.

We stopped at Roaring Winds Pass to eat lunch.  It was 3.2 miles into the hike and at a dip in the elevation profile.  We had just come down from Elk Mountain and from Roaring Winds Pass would begin climbing again up to Maiden Peak.

Here is an annotated altitude profile of the hike taken from my GPS.

From the southern side of Maiden Peak, there's a pretty good view of The Needles.

The trail wraps counter-clockwise around Maiden Peak, and coming around the east side of the peak looking north a beautiful view of Port Angeles to Sequim opens up.  From here, the trail goes down into the trees and follows the ridgeline off to the right (northeast).

Although there were many small mountain wildflowers above the treeline, descending below the treeline brought a whole new slew of flowers.

Scouler's Bellflower

Scarlet Paintbrush


Mushrooms (I don't have any clue on identifying these yet).

Time stamp at the end.  We made it.  The last half-mile or so was pretty brutal uphill climbing to the Deer Park Ranger Station.  I was exhausted.  Apparently so were the rest of my group, because there was audible snoring and heads slumped over in the back seat within about 5 minutes of starting our drive back down the hill to Port Angeles.
In the car on our way down the Deer Park Road (which is another bumpy, winding, dirt and gravel road similar to the Obstruction Point Road), this was the view out the window looking back the way we came.  The last couple of miles of the hike were in the trees along that ridgeline from the left side of the picture going back up to the peaks in the middle of the picture.

My previous Garmin Forerunner 405 had died (battery wouldn't charge) and I had to send it back to Garmin to get it refurbished.  That's why my last several hikes didn't have this Garmin Connect map below.  This was my first hike out with the newly refurbished Forerunner.  The Garmin Connect page allows you to download the trek in XML and view it in Google Earth.  It's pretty cool to follow the path we took in a birds-eye view angled down to see the elevation dropping off on either side of the ridge.

Hike Stats:  When I'm searching for places to hike with my kids, I appreciate having some basic facts and figures about the hike for me to judge if it's doable with my kids.  With that in mind, I hope other parents considering this hike find the following information useful.  Note I did NOT take my kids on THIS hike, and I would not recommend it for small children.  There were spots on some pretty steep slopes, and it was a pretty long hike.
  • Date: 15 September 2012
  • Time of Departure: Met up with our group in the Kitsap Mall parking lot and headed out shortly after 8 a.m.  Arrived at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center to use the restrooms and check out the view at 10 a.m. on the nose.  Departed the Obstruction Point trail head about 10:43 a.m. 
  • Time of Return: 2:59 p.m. back in car at Deer Park trailhead.  Made a stop at the 101 Diner for milkshakes and arrived home about 5:15 p.m.  
  • Elapsed:  4 hours 13 minutes
  • Moving Time (GPS):  3 hours 5 minutes 
  • Stopped Time (GPS):  1 hour 8 minutes 
  • Mileage (GPS): 7.6 miles
  • Avg Speed (GPS):  1.8 mph
  • Elevation Gain:  1,266 feet gained / 2,149 feet lost
  • Max Elevation:  6,657 feet
  • Weather:   Clear and sunny.
  • Winds:  2-5 mph SW.
  • Air Temp: 57F at the Obstruction Point trailhead climbing to 60F at the Deer Park Ranger Station.  I was comfortable in a long-sleeve t-shirt and shorts except I got a little chilly during some windy parts on top of the ridge.
  • Trail:  Well-defined hard-pack dirt or gravel trail.  Some along the side of pretty steep and slippery slopes.  No trail markers, and there were a few spots where there were forks in the trail, but they were labeled with signs.  
  • Crowds?  Not crowded, but not alone.  There were about a dozen cars parked at the Obstruction Point trail head.  We passed well over a dozen people along the way going in both directions.
  • Hazards?  Some steep dropoffs.  No sources of water.  I've heard to beware the mountain goats that can be aggressive in ONP, but we didn't see or hear of any.
  • Geocaches?   Didn't bother looking - assumed there were none because it's a National Park.
  • Kit: Long sleeve T-shirt, shorts, new Merrell Moab Gortex hiking boots, flop hat, walking stick.
  • Route:  Followed the path of hike #9 in the Best Easy Day Hikes: Olympic National Park book.  Started at the Obstruction Point trailhead and ended at the Deer Park trailhead.  Had a shipmate drop us off at one end, drive around and pick us up at the other end. 
  • Facilities:  There was a privy at the Obstruction Point trailhead and a privy at the Deer Park trailhead, but nothing in between.  There are no sources of water along this trail.

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