Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lake Ozette- Part 2 Cape Alava to Sand Point

If you missed it, click here for Part 1, otherwise, read on.

Part 2

We arrived at Cape Alava in a fog bank, at low tide.

The ocean was near but we couldn't see it.  The beach was rocky - racing across the beach to splash in the surf like you see people do in commercials and in movies would not be an easy task here.  We were content with taking a snack break instead.

There was a rather large group of people gathered on the beach where our trail deposited us.  They were a group of college freshman out on an 'orientation bonding' type of adventure.  Unfortunately, I don't recall which college it was - one of the schools east of the Cascades.  They had started further north and were heading to some point further south of Sand Point.  We spent our beach journey leap-frogging them at various points.

Sea-stacks galore.  We could have walked to many of them with the low tide, but we didn't.  Mostly because we quickly realized the beach walk was going to be the slowest and most difficult part of this hike.

Trying to walk on the beach was a rather inefficient process.  Each step required careful placement to prevent a rolled ankle.  In addition, the usual momentum from each step was greatly reduced as the lack of solid ground caused repeated slipage as your toes dug in and down instead of remaining firmly planted as we are used to.

 We encountered a number of downed trees on the beach, such as this one.  Sometimes it was easier to go around it on the water side, other times it was easier to climb over it and other times it was easier to crawl underneath.
 Hiking Poles were helpful to keep your balance - even one pole was of great assistance.
 As mentioned in the previous post, many reviews of this trail suggest wearing regular tennis shoes instead of hiking boots - claiming that the tennis shoes provide better traction on the boardwalks.  While that may or may not be true, I was very glad that I had my hiking boots for the 3 miles of beach walking.  The solid construction, great tread and high uppers all performed really well in these conditions.  With tennis shoes it's certain that I'd have stopped repeatedly to empty out the sand/debris.

 The beach hike between Cape Alava and Sand Point takes you by the Makah "Wedding Rocks" where you can view some ancient petroglyphs, if you keep your eyes open.  Surprisingly they aren't flagged or signed.  I knew they were around but it was mostly luck that I stumbled upon them.

 We passed very close to a number of Sea Stacks near the high-tide mark, including one with a natural hole it it.

 Eventually Sand Point came into view.  We saw something on the top of it (before we knew it was Sand Point) and thought it was a tree but then realized they were actually people.  We eventually hiked up to the top of it, of course.

We weren't exactly sure where the trail back to Lake Ozette connected with the beach.  The map seems to indicate that you'll pick up the trail if you continue past Sand Point a short distance, but there was a large marker just north of Sand Point.  Before we explored either option we asked a few people who passed by.  Each of them gave a different answer.  Ultimately, for the sake of minimizing our mileage, we chose to try the northern point that had the large circle on a sign... and that proved to connect with the trail we wanted.

With that issue resolved, we went back down to the beach for some lunch and to watch the tide gradually come in.  Finally we could see the ocean and the breaking surf (although the 'breaking' part of the surf was quite a ways out from where we were).

Again, here is the route we took.  Since we were going counter clockwise, our beach walk proceeded from the north to the south.  Note that Wedding Rocks is labeled on the map.  Don't forget to look for it in real life because there isn't a sign to remind you.

I've heard that south of Sand Point the beach turns from gravel to real legitimate sand for a mile or more.  Unfortunately, we were too preoccupied with mileage and finding the trail to do any exploring down that area.  Have to save that adventure for the next visit.

Click here for Part 1.
Part 3 coming soon!

Happy Hiking!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lake Ozette Triangle 2013 Part 1

Lake Ozette is located on the northwestern coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and provides access to the Pacific Ocean via a 9.1 mile loop hike through the Olympic National Park (yes, you'll need to pay a fee to visit unless you have a pass).  Hiking the Ozette Loop is one of the most popular and well known trail in western Washington due to it's unique qualities.

  • This 'loop' is really more of a 'triangle' when you look at it on the map since it consists of three primary sections:  Lake Ozette Ranger Station to Cape Alva, Cape Alva to Sand Point and the Sand Point back to the Lake Ozette Ranger Station.
  • The hike is mostly flat - it has a few short ups and downs, but the topography between Lake Ozette and the Pacific Ocean is free of any sizable hills.
  • The entire loop can be done as a day hike or as a camping trip.  Campsites available on the ocean or at the lake!
  • The hike lets you experience the lush greenery, beautiful boardwalks and a three mile hike on the beach.
  • The beach section passes by 'Wedding Rocks' where a number of Makah petroglyphs remain for you to ponder over.
Unfortunately, a trip to this area involves a pretty long drive. Also, pets are not allowed on the trail.

Those of you short on patience may be interested in jumping into the details via one of the following links:
WTA Lake Ozette Hike info
Olympic National Park
Lake Ozette via Wikipedia
Lost Resort (a great choice for trail head camping since the National Park Campground may already be full, and yes, they do have cabins).

Instead of trying to squeeze the round trip hike plus round trip travel into one day, we opted to camp out near the trail head at Lost Resort the night before and then drive home after we finished the hike.

Coming from Skagit County, I opted to take they Keystone - Port Townsend Ferry across Puget Sound to save on the travel time (reservations not required but highly recommended).  In Port Townsend I met up with my dad for carpooling the rest of the way.  We were able to leave a vehicle in a Transit Authority parking lot right next to the Safeway Store on Hwy 101 in Port Townsend -- if you do this, be sure to call the Transit Authority (their number is on a sign in the parking lot) and let them know (it's free & you won't get towed).

We met up with Rachel and Steve in Port Angeles where we did a little pre-dinner grocery shopping & grabbed Subway sandwiches for lunch.  From there we followed Hwy 101 to Hwy 112 and then following the Hoko-Ozette Road to its end.

The rain started upon our arrival.

As we expected, the rain was rather brief.  We spent some time just hanging out letting the area dry out a bit before we set up our tent.  This was followed by dinner, a little exploration of the resort and some trail head scouting and a drive through the National Park Campground.  In our opinion, the Lost Resort is a better spot for camping.

Eventually the daylight faded and we went to bed, anticipating an early start for hiking.

Rainfall during the night was minimal and the temperatures were quite comfortable in the morning.

We awoke, had breakfast and were on the trail shortly after 8am or so.  Take note that the deli/restaurant at Lost Resort doesn't open until at least 9am (maybe later, check their website).

At the trail head you'll need to fill out an envelope with your pass info or to pay your entrance fee (cash or check).

There were already a lot of cars at the trail head when we arrived.  Clearly, most of these people were camping out on the beach.

Our hike started by crossing a bridge over the Ozette River, followed shortly by a trail junction.

We chose to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction and set out for Cape Alava.

We quickly encountered our first boardwalk and a bridge over a creek or wet area.

Please note that many websites and literature indicate the boardwalks are slippery.  The indeed can be, but we had very few instances of slippery footsteps.  We also had hiking poles with us just in case we felt we might need them on the slippery boards, but they really were not necessary  here (we did find them very nice to have on the beach though).

Also, some sources indicate the cedar boardwalks are being replaced with a less slippery composite material.  We only indicated one short section (maybe 100 yards in length) of the new material.  Everything else was native wood.

Here are a few photos from this 3.1 mile section from the Ranger Station to Cape Alava.

Here is "Ahlstrom's Prarie", named after Lars Ahlstrom who was at one point in time the westernmost homesteader in the country.  He is reportedly responsible for creating the causeway which this trial follows.  Also, since our visit out there I have learned that you can find native Washington 'Sundew' plants out here.  Sundew plants are unique in that they are carniverous - they attrack, capture and consume insects via a sweet smelling but very sticky substance produced by hairs on it's leaves.

We arrived at Cape Alava in good time.  We also were lucky enough to have the entire trail to ourselves for this first segment.

Unfortunately, we were too early for sunshine and we entered the beach in a dense fog bank... at low tide.

We could hear the ocean but we couldn't see the ocean.

Stay tuned for Part 2.... the beach hike from Cape Alava to Sand Point  (teaser:  we did eventually get to see the ocean).

In the meantime, here is our gps track for the day.  At this point in the story we have traveled the upper segment from the lake on the east side to the coast on the west.

Click here for Part 2.

Happy Hiking!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

High Pass 08-11-2013

This trip originally began almost a year ago when I spied a trail on the flanks of Mt. Larrabee while hiking to Yellow Aster Butte.  At the time of the YAB hike I really didn't have any idea what the trail's destination was but I correctly concluded that it originated from Twin Lakes.

Twin Lakes are located a couple miles beyond and a 1,500 feet above the YAB trail head.  Depending on your vehicle, it's either a white knuckle slow drive or a sweaty & dusty hike to the lakes.

The payoff, however, is well worth more than a thousand words.  Lucky for you, I'll use the pics instead words (mostly).

Here are a few of my favorite lake pics from this hike.  Really, these are taken basically from the road/parking lot or within the first quarter mile of hiking.  There is a topo map image at the end of this report if you are interested in getting oriented.

Here is a full zoom of the southwestern lake with Mt. Baker in the distance.  The extreme zoom really makes this a dramatic image as Mt. Baker appears much smaller in real life when viewed from this vantage point.  There is a campsite or five near where I took this picture and there are at least a couple others in the flattish area seen on the left side of the below photo.

Turning around 180 degrees, the below picture is of the northeastern lake, looking off in the direction of the gated road which is also the route to the Lone Jack Mine.  In addition, there is a mine just above the water line, left of center in the below image.  More on that later. You can see that even in August of a dry & warm western Washington summer there is still snow lingering here and in fact, vehicle access to this location just became snow free in the previous two weeks.
The trail head is located at the northwestern point between the two lakes, near where the two above photos were taken. At this point in the summer, the flower show may just about knock you out within the first 20 feet of trail.
 The northwestern Twin Lake shown below, from the trail with some sort of hairy flower thing.  Yes, that must be the technical term for whatever it is.
 Before you know it you'll come to a trail junction.  Winchester Lookout to the left, High Pass to the right.  FWIW, the sketchy snow crossing that we encountered on the way to Winchester Lookout in 2010 was totally melted out as of today's hike.
 From the trail, looking through the trees to the southwestern lake.
 Here is a zoomed in view taken on the way back, after some of the clouds burned off.
My good buddy Steve came along for today's hike.  He was kind enough to also provide the transportation to the trail head... not sure if he quite knew what he was in for.  Thanks Steve!
The below photo shows Steve transversing the hillside trail just before it begins the descent down the north side of the Winchester Creek Valley.
We weren't quite familiar enough with the topography of the trail route so we were a bit surprised to find that we needed to lose a notable amount of elevation so early on in this trek, only to gain it again to reach Low Pass.
The rolling low clouds and flowers really helped to make it worth the effort.
This (below) is one of my favorite images so far this year.  That's Mt. Larrabee behind the tree on the left.  High Pass is just out of eyesight on the left, on the left flank of Mt. Larrabee.  Still a ways off, but the scenery is INCREDIBLE!
 The trail takes you downhill for quite a ways before leveling out.  We crossed a number of small snow fields.  All could have been avoided by going down and around the bottom of them with some extra effort, but we took out chances, using poles for stability and kicking steps into flat spots for added safety.

Eventually the trail crosses Winchester Creek, and then the switchbacks begin.  The map appeared to show about five switchbacks, but there were more like 15.  Here is a photo looking down Winchester Creek drainage to Steve and the switchbacks below. 
 We were surprised to see a family of four having lunch at Low Pass.  Until this point we had the trail to ourselves and expected to have it that way all day.  I pondered the likelihood of whether or not they were the same family I photographed on my way to Winchester Lookout in 2010 (image of them in that post of course, and I think they posted a comment).

Due to the clouds/fog, there wasn't a whole lot to take photos of at Low Pass.  We opted to continue on toward High Pass.

Kudos to Steve for encouraging us onward - I was ready to call it a day due to the clouds - but they did disappear... much like they often do.  I always say 'embrace the weather'... maybe I should do a better job of 'practice what you preach'.  :)

High Pass was glorious (and not that much higher than Low Pass)!  Here is the trail as we approach High Pass with Mt. Larrabee staring us in the face.

We took off our packs and ate lunch at High Pass.
Here is a zoomed in image of the snowmelt draining off Mt. Larrabee.  Neat how all the melt is under the rocks and it just suddenly materializes out of the mountain.
 From High Pass there is a trail that continues upward toward Mt. larrabbee and there is a trail that begins a descent down toward what may have once been a mine (possibly the Gargett mine).

Here is a full-zoom photo of some mining artifacts located quite a distance away, accessible via the lower trail (but you'll lose a lot of elevation that you'll need to come back up).

Remember that photo from the YAB trail which provided the incentive to do this hike?  Well, I suspect the portion of trail we saw from YAB is the section that continues upward from High Pass. Unfortunately, we opted to save that section for another day.  We did converse with a hiker who descended from that portion of the trail (with her three dogs) who informed us that part of the trail seems to have slid down the mountain and reported that it's passable, but beyond her comfort level being solo with 3 canines.

Half of the family we passed at Low Pass showed up a short while later to enjoy the High Pass views too.

 Our return hike was mostly uneventful, except the clouds had lifted for some better photos, the temperatures warmed up and the bugs came out.  The biting black flies most notably.  I ended up having to put on the lower leg portions of my hiking pants for the last mile and a half to the trail head.  It's amazing how much impact insects can have on sucking the fun out of hiking.

Here is another photo of the northeastern lake, with some better background scenery.

Here are some brave campers taking a QUICK dip in the northeastern lake.  Tral head is just to the right of the picture and you can see the parking area and a couple camp sites.
I tried to capture some of the lake color... difficult to do with a camera LCD screen in bright sunlight, but this looks pretty close to reality.
Once back at the trail head, we decided to scout out some locations to test out my new Grand Trunk Hammock.

We decided to test it at the eastern end of the northeastern lake which is where we also located the open mine.
 The hammock set up was a piece of cake.  The hardest part was finding trees the right distance apart for the rope we had with us.  You can read the detailed product review of the Grand Trunk Hammock if you are so inclined.  They can add an awesome new perspective to your hiking adventures!

Round trip from the parking lot to High Pass is about 5 miles and 1,600 feet of net elevation gain.

A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at the trail head and there didn't seem to be any place to purchase on at either the YAB or Twin Lakes trail heads.  Be sure you have yours... it's a LONG drive back to the Ranger Station in Glacier to buy one.

All things considered, this was one of the hiking highlights of the year!  I highly recommend this hike, if you can get there!

Happy Hiking!