Olympic Mountains Loop

Last summer Gary, John, and I planned a backpacking trip deep into the Olympic Mountains. We were set to go but we canceled due to poor weather. We wanted to have good conditions before tying up five days for a trip. This summer was come far faster than usual. By late June reports showed the wildflower show was already well along. The three of us managed to find five days where we all were free. On Thursday morning we headed south to Olympia then up to Hoodsport on Hood Canal. From there we drove along Lake Cushman to the end of the road at the 800' Staircase Ranger Station and campgrounds. We arrived at about 8:30 am and were ready to head out by 8:50 am. None of us had hiked from Staircase and we managed to miss the sign for the hikers lot. Seeing no obvious trailhead we hiked across the big paved bridge to start. As we found out five days later, this was not such a bad thing. Realizing quickly that we were on the wrong side of the Skokomish River we checked the map and found that both sides work.

Nice trail along the left side with some big trees. At about one mile we reached the suspension bridge across the river. It looks to be pretty new. The first 3+ miles of the trail is on an old road. Gently graded but a bit rocky. It has been quite a long time since I have done more than the standard four day trip. Word that the bear wire was not up at Marmot Lake led Gary and I to purchase bear canisters for our food. We have always hung our food. John just happened to have purchased one recently. There were very few in stock in Seattle and I had to make a number of calls and take a quick drive to REI just before the trip. The canister and five days of food did weight a bit more than I'm used to carrying.

The Skokomish trail gains very little elevation for the first 9+ miles. It hikes very fast. We could sometimes see the river but often times not. We passed the junction to Flapjack Lakes at about 4 miles. The trail narrowed and remained gentle after the old road ended. At 5.3 miles is Big Log camp and a side trail to Black and White Lakes. At about 6 miles we reached the bridge over the Skokomish River. Across the bridge is a junction. Left heads off to Six Ridge. Right continues up the Skokomish Valley. Next came Camp Pleasant. It's right down alongside the river. A signed bridge then marks Eight Stream. We took a longer break at Nine Stream. This point is closer to ten miles in. The stream was an easy rock hop. We pumped water and had a lunch break. It was 1:10 pm.

We initially planned to camp at Two Bear camp some 11.5 miles in. About 1.5 miles before First Divide, the first of a number of passes we would cross. With a lot of daylight left we began to consider going over First Divide and down to Home Sweet Home on the Duckabush River side. The only problem was the heat. He were experiencing very hot weather with recent highs near 90 degrees. We met some backpackers who had had a hard time in the heat. Fortunately, as the trip progressed the highs would be declining. Still, it was over 80 degrees and climbing as we began the steeper and more open section to First Divide. The first 10 miles gained about 1300'. The next 3 miles would gain about 2700' more.

As usual I lagged in the heat. We reached Two Bear camp at about 3:30 pm. 11.5 miles with 3100' of gain was a good first day. We were still undecided whether to set up camp or go on to Home Sweet Home. We took a long break. Pumping water at the creek in camp and taking it easy. A few hours later we cooked dinner. Still, we were undecided on where to camp. The sun had lowered and we decided to head on. At 6:25 pm we were back on trail. There were still some wildflowers in the meadows along the trail. A few weeks earlier the show would have been better. On the other hand, it was only early July and the berry situation was very good.

We had plenty of ripe berries each day along  the route. Low bush and high bush blueberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries, blackcaps, and more. Way earlier than normal but a sweet treat. Now mostly in shade I did much better on the climb. We passed the Mt. Hopper Trail just below First Divide and reached the 4688' divide at 7:02 pm. Nice views and the meadows of Home Sweet Home were just 500' below us. After a break on top we headed down. At the junction we took the short side trail to the campsites. The largest one was taken by four folks. There was room for all three of our tents and they were fine with us fitting in. We looked around and found another spot. Up went our tents and we were all soon ready for bed.

For the day we hiked about 13.5 miles with 4500' of elevation gain.

Really Big Hiking Bridge
Big Cedar
Suspension Bridge
Skokomish River
Narrow Bridge
Now On Trail
Colorful Fungus
Big Log Junction
Bridge Over Skokomish
John & Big Tree
Deciduous Trees
Shady Trail
Cascading Creek
Nine Stream
Brushy Trail
Twiling's Monkeyflower
Tiny Mushrooms
Dinner @ 2 Bear Camp
Heading To First Divide
Old Beargrass
Tarn Below Divide
At First Divide
John & Gary @ Divide
Home Sweet Home
Fireweed Along Trail
View From Camp
John At Camp
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Day 2

Trips - 2015