Day 2, Part 1
After 'car camping' at a no-frills motel in Port Angeles to avoid being rained on we awoke to cloudy skies but no rain. Of course, this is Port Angeles so the Rain Shadow plays a big role in the precipitation. Had we stayed in a tent near Lake Crescent it would have been a wet night.
From the motel we went directly toward the eastern end of the Spruce Railroad trail.
At the last junction before reaching the trailhead we noted a notice posted to a sign. The notice informed us that the trail we had been planning to hike was officially closed until further notice because of trail work being done.
Well... we decided to take our chances at this trail head instead of making the 30 minute drive to the western trail head. Glad we did!
At the trail head we encountered a caterpillar/bulldozer and a Forest Service truck. Considering it was a week day there was a high liklihood that construction would be in progress and we would be asked to hike the other end of the trail. Fortunately, that wasn't the case.
The Forest Service employee we talked to indicated the construction had just finished up and although the trail may not be officially posted as open, there wasn't any reason why we wouldn't be able to do the hike as planned. This was great news because the highlights of the trail are much closer to the eastern trail head than the western trail head.
The trail highlights that we were seeking included "The Devil's Punchbowl" and at least one Train Tunnel.
We were able to visit the Punchbowl and both entrances to the first tunnel. In addition, we were able to enjoy the newly constructed trail (wheelchair accessible, probably) and a couple nice new steel/concrete bridges.
Photos below, followed with more trail detail information.
The trail has a couple minor hills, but is mostly flat. My GPS indicated that we only changed elevation by 58 feet over 5.5 miles of trail (round trip). That sounds pretty flat... I believe we had a bit more elevation gain than that, but probably less than 200 feet, cumulative.
The first quarter or half mile of the trail is very wide and well constructed... probably wheelchair accessible. The bad news is that this section of trail doesn't go down to the lake, nor does it have any views of the lake. It's only reward is the forest views and a bridge or two with a typical creek running underneath it.
At the end of this freshly constructed trail, it veers rather steeply downhill to the left, toward the lake. This section is definitely not wheelchair friendly. Steep, dirt, tree roots and narrow.
The trail then levels out near the lake.
We then came to an unexpected junction. Up to the right or down to the left. We chose down to the left. We took the uphill to the right trail on our way back to the car... it leads to the eastern opening to the tunnel. You should check it out... doesn't matter if you do it on the way in or on the way out. Just do it.
Heading down to the left we finally reached the Lake... and Devil's Punchbowl, with a cool bridge crossing the 'bowl' at lake level.
A short distance later there is another trail heading uphill to the right... this will bring you to the western entrance to the tunnel. Go check it out too. Both tunnel entrances are accessible, but both are also intentionally sealed with huge, sturdy walls. We didn't get close enough to touch them, but they appeared solid and sturdy... no way to peek behind them or to get further inside.
Back on the main trail, we continued on for a ways. There were some nice lake views and nice views of the surrounding hills, but nothing too noteworthy and we turned around at about 2.5 miles. We discussed the option of one of us continuing onward to the western trail head and the other person would drive around to pick up the hiker. Ultimately we opted to stick together... a good choice.
The rain started when we had about 1.25 miles of hiking to go. It rained moderately hard... and that was ok since we had expected to be rained on most of the hike. We really lucked out!
In my opinion, we probably didn't miss anything super cool by not hiking all the way to the western trail head. However, somewhere along that section there is reportedly a trail junction that will take you to the top of Pyramid Mountain. That may be a better choice for hikers looking for something with more elevation, obviously.
All in all, the Spruce Railroad hike, beginning at the east Trailhead is definitely worth visiting!
Our next destination was supposed to be the Elwha River (former) Dam site. Unfortunately, when we drove out there we were disappointed to find out the entire area is closed due to continued 'removal' 'construction'. No access, no view, no nothing! --face palm--
Back to Port Angeles for lunch at Subway before returning to Port Townsend to pick up the second vehicle and then onward to find the Skokomish High Steel Bridge! Report coming soon...