Okay okay I know this is wildly overdue and I’m mostly posting it because I love the pictures but also because it’s one of the biggest bang-for-your-buck hikes out here if you’re okay with the mileage. I took a week of funemployment between jobs to try and shake the burnout, and this was the start of it. There was only one downside. It’s been weeks and I’m still not sure this trip was worth the traffic jam trying to escape Seattle. 99 south? Narrowed to one lane. 99 north? One lane. Oh, and an accident. That means 45th and 50th were both at a standstill, because those feed onto 99. I-5 south? Accidents, plural. I-5 North? I don’t know, because I never made it that far. After nearly an hour trying to get more than 10 blocks from my apartment, I gave up and drove through Ballard, then through downtown, then to I-5 south because getting to the ferry was supposedly an hour longer. Good lord. It’s a bummer I’ll never be rich enough to get helo-extracted from my own neighborhood and plopped in the mountains.
- Distance: ~13 miles
- Elevation: ~4,000ft (6,988ft highest point)
- Weather: 60’s and sunny
- Commute from Seattle: 2:30 regardless of driving down and around or ferry
- Did I Trip: No but Amber tripped enough for all of us
I made it to the trailhead after maybe a 4hr drive. I had been planning on doing Marmot Pass/Buckhorn mountain, and Amber and Andy would meet me later to trailhead camp. I just wanted to be not in the city, so I left early and read my book in my sleeping bag waiting for them. Andy was dogsitting Rudy, an adorable Australian Shepherd I figured would love a good hike. I don’t want to commit to a pet just yet, but I do like other people’s pets, and Rudy was a bad ass. And I love taking pictures of people’s cute dogs being bad asses.
Finally you start getting breaks along alpine meadows, with wildflowers scattered across the hillside. And succulents!! I had just planted several species of sedum in my garden, and here they were in the wild! Turns out they’re very common on lower elevation rocks and cliffs in the Olympics. I had no idea, I always considered the Olympics mossy and jungley and there I was staring at older, thriving versions of what I was (and still am) desperately trying to keep alive in my garden. The last area with running water is a campsite around 5 miles up the trail, where we all refilled and gave Rudy (secretly a mountain dog, given how happy he seemed the entire time) a good drink before continuing on.
At Marmot Pass, the views opened up for real. It’s amazing and I want to run every single loop around that valley. The trails are nicely graded and just cruise along open rolling ridges, it looked incredible. We took a quick break for more water and Amber fed me her snacks because I brought next to nothing. I had stuff, just not appetizing stuff like peppered salami and cheddar cheese. Andy, Rudy and I went right at the pass and continued up some annoyingly steep scree (there’s a boot path for most of it but it doesn’t help with the kitty litter situation) to a broad, open ridge that we followed to Buckhorn. At first it looks like the east side (think Vantage or Ancient Lakes) and then it turns to reddish rock and starts to look like Mars. Someone had outlined a trail for the last section, probably to prevent people from taking random paths and eroding the hillside. The summit looks intimidating, but is almost entirely a hike with a single third class ish move where you might have to use your hands. We figured we’d play it by ear with Rudy and just bail if he wasn’t happy, but he basically led the way the entire time, skipping up the lone scramble move as if it didn’t exist.
At the summit I hopped onto the summit boulder while Andy poured some water for Rudy and pampered him with treats while he lay in the shade. That dog freaking LOVES Andy. If Andy was more than 10 feet away and Rudy couldn’t follow he’d whine with his huge (adorable) puppy eyes and nothing could distract him. We didn’t want to leave Amber waiting for too long, so we didn’t spend long at the summit. Rudy had no trouble going right back down and had an easier time on the kitty litter than we did (we joke that dogs have four wheel drive given their four legs while us humans have to stumble around on two).
Back at the pass, Rudy jumped into some shade while we poured him some water and had our own snacks (or ate Amber’s superior snacks in my case because I am a child). We chatted with some trail runners (jealous) and some backpackers (jealous) and I nagged everyone to get started back to the car, because I had to get back early enough to not hate myself hiking up to Royal Basin that night to meet a new round of friends for a climb. Rudy led the way down yet again (endless source of energy) though his paws were a bit sore from the rocky sections and he was definitely happier on the soft dirt trail. They’re like people, they have to build callouses and get into shape too. We definitely felt bad, but that tail was still wagging. I get it. I’ll go have the best day of my life and my body will be wrecked for the next day or two. I wonder if dogs get endorphin rushes like people too.
I high tailed it to the Royal Basin trailhead as soon as I was back at my car. I had wildly miscalculated the distance between starting points, thinking the usual marmot pass trail was just down the road from the royal basin trail. True, sort of – there is a trail to marmot pass from that same road, but it was not the trail to marmot pass that we had hiked. Ooooops. But I’ll save that story for the next post! For now, huge thanks to Amber and Andy (and Rudy) for kicking my week of funemployment off to a great start!