Mount Ellinor

So, what I thought would be a “pop culture” easy hike ended up being a bit of a butt buster. I’ll just start with that. I was lulled into a false sense of security, especially over the first two steady, soft, forested miles. But let’s chat about the rest of the hike before the elevation gain slapped me awake first. Hiked 3/13/2015, lucky Friday the 13th!

View of Mt. Washington from the summit of Ellinor

View of Mt. Washington from the summit of Ellinor

  • Distance: 6.2 miles round trip (lower trailhead)
  • Elevation: 3300ft gain
  • Weather: 50’s and overcast
  • Commute from Seattle: 2:30 if no traffic
  • Did I trip: stubbed a toe, kicked a rock, but never fell. Like a boss.

Thanks to some top-notch last minute planning from Zanna, we ended up setting up at the Skokomish park campground on Cushman Lake. It’s about a 20 minute drive from the Ellinor trailhead, and since we didn’t want to drive there and back from Seattle in a day, we camped out! I hadn’t spent a night out since December, so it was a very welcome mini-vacation.

Rocky trail curving around a corner

Rocky trail curving around a corner

We got to the campground at night, where Zanna had already set up with Benny (her dog). I had my first taste of freeze-dried food (Santa Fe Chicken and Rice by Backpackers’ Pantry) which was surprisingly decent. I’d have it again. I also have some Chicken Vindaloo for next time, and have heard that the Stroganoff, Chana Masala, and Alfredo packages are pretty good too. I’ll have to experiment.

Zanna looking over our camp setup

Zanna looking over our camp setup

Rather than pitch a tent, the forecast was looking clear so I went for the hammock. Sleeping bag and pad inside bivy (just in case) in hammock, and I was sound asleep within minutes. It took me a while to figure out how to sleep in a hammock when I got it two years ago. I’m still not very good at it, I think because I don’t like sleeping on my back. But on an easy trip, it’s fantastic. My hammock was a bit too angled this time around, which I’ll have to keep in mind for next time.

The pleasant forest trail (taken on the way back)

The pleasant forest trail (taken on the way back)

Except for the five minutes around 2am when I woke up. Why did I wake up? Was it… oh, eerie, the wind just picked up. Was that the plink-plink of raindrops? Shit, come on, don’t rain now. How will the hammock hold up? Where’s the rain cover for the screen on my bivy bag? I’m too lazy and cozy to pack up and move into a tent. So I’ll just hope for the best. Luckily the drops lasted a few minutes and that was the closest run in I had. And it was warm enough that this time I didn’t wake up covered in frost like the last time I bivvied.

Snack break, looking over the Hood Canal

Snack break, looking over the Hood Canal

The lower trailhead is a 6.2 mile trip, whereas the upper is only 3 miles. But much steeper. We opted for the lower trailhead. The first two miles lured me into a false sense of security. The hike was so popular, I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. But as the flat, even trail stretched out, I started to worry that the last bit would be steep. The first two miles are through a peaceful, open green forest, on a soft dirt trail. Pleasant would be a good word for it. But don’t be fooled.

Glacier Peak

Puget sound, Glacier Peak and the Cascades

When the trail from the upper trailhead meets the main trail, that’s where the gain starts. At first you swtichback through a forest, and eventually you break out onto a rocky trail. A steep rocky trail. It was overcast, but you could still see the mountains. Amazing views of Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, even Glacier! And of course, if you look hard enough, you can see the skyscrapers of Seattle. Zanna asked a descending hiker how far we were from the top, and he responded “about a quarter mile, so maybe… half an hour?” You know what that means? That means damn steep! I was a happy hiker.

Encouraging rock left a quarter mile from the top

Encouraging rock left a quarter mile from the top

We followed the summer trail and essentially never hit snow. There was a ten-foot stretch of it just below the peak, but not enough to need any sort of traction. Once you’re on the peak, Mt. Washington is smack in your face, and you can even see Baker off in the distance. I wish I knew more of the Olympic peaks – I spend so little time over there, I haven’t learned any beyond being able to recognize a few looking over from Seattle.

Snacks while the true summit was too packed

Snacks while the true summit was too packed

The way down went much more quickly, but my knees suffered a bit. I was glad to have poles. Once back to the steady forest trail, it was glad to have a cool down to the workout and just stroll through the woods. We also left Benny’s leash along the trail by accident, and it was still there when we returned! We were thrilled no one took it. I didn’t think anyone would, but you never know.

Three hikers and a happy dog (true summit)

Three hikers and a happy dog (true summit)

On the way back, we stopped at the same coffee place we went to for breakfast again, but this time to get ice cream. Highly recommended if you need a bite to eat. No idea what the name was, but it’s right at the corner of 101 and 119 across from the gas station! A little coffee shop that has sandwiches, ice cream, and quesadillas too. I went there after Townsend too, since Woody and Tanna recommended it – it’s the perfect reward for a hike!

Steep open slope about a half mile from the top

The slope might as well be a stair workout (very well maintained trail)

Strava map and link are both here. If you check the elevation map, you can see how much of it is in that last mile or so! Almost 2000ft gained over 1.2 miles. It’s not quite a scramble, just very steep. Maybe the last 15 feet of elevation could be a scramble, they’re pretty close. But if Benny doggie can make it, so can you!

Strava map

Strava map

Overall, it’s a very pretty hike. A bit of a butt-buster towards the end, which is great if that’s what you’re into. I like working for my views, and I’m always willing to get my butt kicked.

Descending

Descending

Benny did a great job. I was worried about him slipping on the snowy sections, but he had no issues at all. He never even got tired, despite running with Zanna on her mountain bike for hours the day before. Bundle of energy, that guy. I had never actually hiked with a dog before, but he was easy and listened to Zanna very well. It must be nice having some company on every hike you do.

Trail run someday?

Trail run someday?

Anyway, I’ll definitely go back to repeat this hike. I bet it’s even more spectacular on a clear day when you can see Seattle and the volcanoes clearly. I hear great things about Mount Rose, too, which is another I’ll have to check out. And I bet Ellinor is even more amazing when the peaks are covered in snow. So much to do, and of course the forecast for the next two weeks looks like solid rain. Maybe winter is finally here!

Not my finest, but it had to happen

Not my finest, but it had to happen

Boulder Lake/Olympic Hot Springs

With a week between hikes, I was itching to get out again. I spent a few hours agonizing over the fact that we were sacrificing a sunny day for a forest hike: guys, I turned into a hiking snob somewhere along the progression of this blog. Maybe I can trace my gradual adoption of hiker elitism through these posts. Either way, it needs to end now. So I reminded myself to just be thankful that I had friends who wanted to hike, and were willing to drive my (snobby)? ass all the way to the Olympics. 2/22/2015, a full day of driving, hiking, and hot-springing.

Carpets of moss

Carpets of moss

  • Distance: 10.2 miles to the lake, 13.5 if you explore the lake and go to the far hot springs
  • Elevation: 2800ft gain, 4300 highest point
  • Weather: 40’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: 2:30ish with ferry, 3:30ish if you drive around
  • Did I Trip: No but someone almost dropped their leg (and beer) into a frozen lake

The ferry!! I didn’t know you could drive onto ferries. I had no conception of how this worked or that it was even possible until we were there. It’s expensive, but I don’t think I had ridden a ferry since going to Georges Island back in Boston a decade ago. So that was a neat start to the day, chilling on a ferry with hundreds of Chilly Hilly riders getting ready for their bike race.

Wide trail

Wide trail

The road the hot springs trailhead is easily passable, and drops you off about 2.5 miles from the springs. We decided to hit the springs on the way back. Obviously choice, I mean really. Who wants to hike to a frozen lake after getting out of hot springs? Boulder Lake is six miles down the trail, so we got started. The first part of the trail is down a wide, old road, with a few ditches and trees to climb around but nothing challenging, and very little elevation gain.

Moss

Moss

Moss EVERYWHERE. I mean everywhere. This is one of the greenest hikes I’ve been on, and it’s February. Does it look any different in the summer? Does it get greener? Is that possible? I don’t think it’s possible. Look at those carpets of moss. It gets green after the split to hot springs and Boulder Lake/Appleton Pass, and I started to come to terms with a sunny forest hike.

Relaxing in the sun by Boulder Lake

Relaxing in the sun by Boulder Lake

There are a few small creek crossings to manage, but nothing tricky. Elevation gain starts towards the last two miles of the hike, but by then you’re almost at the lake! Which was completely frozen over, but still gorgeous. Boulder Peak looms over the lake, and the only lousy part was that the sun was right behind it, meaning pictures were hard. Dammit. We set up snack time on a log that jutted over the water, and hung out for a half hour or so. There was a couple that had camped up by the lake, and I’ll admit I was as little jealous. I ran around taking pictures of everyone and everything, and desperately tried to get a time lapse without too much glare (I failed after many valiant attempts).

Emilie along the dirt trail

Emilie along the dirt trail

After some smores “snack mix” (more like dessert) and smoked salmon, we turned back to head to the hot springs! Woo! Just over three miles to get there, and the way back went much more quickly than the way up. We cut through a campsite to get to the springs, and started walking down the road where we saw steam and smelled sulfur – all I could think of was how much I wished I could eat eggs then and there. Don’t worry, you forget about the smell quickly!

We passed five or six before taking a larger pool that was off the road up a small path to the right. I was told more recently that there are some secret springs past that one(?) or somewhere around there, and another one inside a small cave, which I haven’t heard of. I know the Goldmeyer hot springs have some caves, but the Olympics? Secret cave hot spring would be awesome, I’ll have to do some more research.

Snow capped peak along the trail - Appleton maybe?

Snow capped peak along the trail – Appleton maybe?

We got out of the springs around sunset, and it was completely dark by the time we got back to the car. Which had a note under the windshield wiper. Shit, did we get a ticket? No, it was for an espresso shop. Who advertises that at a trailhead? I guess.. I guess I’ll go stop by sometime? Turned out there was a note on the back, which I read with increasing volume as I started to comprehend what it said: “Hello – my family and I were hiking up to hot springs and found your key on the trail. I put it under your tire for you, no worries, nothing missing.”

Note from our favorite person of the day

Note from our favorite person of the day

My friend Andy (the driver) had thrown his backpack across a ditch at one point (only about 1.5 miles into the trail), broken a bottle inside it, and unpacked everything. We’re guessing that’s where his key had fallen out, and we had NO IDEA until we read the note on the car. Thank god, because finding it in the dark on a Sunday night would not have been ideal. You can have faith in people sometimes! We still have no idea who did it – I posted a trip report, but no one has mentioned it. And we can’t thank them enough. It was a great day, and thanks to that family, we could end it that way too.*

Here’s a link to the strava map, and a quick screenshot. The offshoot to the south is the hot springs. As a side note, if you have Strava, you can see slightly more detail (and follow me!)

Strava map

Strava map

Can’t leave here without sharing the outhouse. It reminds me of Shrek. Unfortunately (forunately?), I did not get to explore the inside.

Classy outhouse

Classy outhouse

*Well we missed the ferry on the way back and had to drive down and around the Sound. But I slept through that and woke up one exit from my apartment, so who cares? Kidding, thanks for driving guys, and Lucy you are my new favorite road trip DJ.