Hiking: Olympic National Park
Hiking is one of my absolute favorite past times. There is so much to gain from a walk in the woods: the solitude of being alone with nature or the chance to catch up with a friend, the physical exertion that makes you want to give up at times but ultimately produces heaps of endorphins, the feeling of success and often the breathtaking views you get at the top, a new appreciation for a simple PB&J sandwich as your ravenous appetite gets fed on a break. Hiking allows you to overcome challenges, view rare beauty and it even changes your brain chemistry, lowers stress hormones and increases your sense of happiness.
My love of hiking is one of the top reasons I chose to live where I do. There is ALWAYS an option to go hiking, probably at a new place every time, if desired. Years ago when I moved here and started hiking, one of my good friends suggested I start a hiking journal so I could remember where I went. I dismissed the idea, saying that pictures and my memory would suffice. Now as I am realizing how horrible my memory is and how many of these hikes have jumbled together into one big lump in my mind, I wish I started this journal long ago.
So, I am starting now. And since this blog could use some more fitness related posts, I would love to share my adventures here! I am also a firm believer that a good beer pairs pefectly with a tough hike, so I’ll share the nearby breweries I went to after! Happy trails!
Hike: Olympic National Park Backpacking Trip- 4 days, 3 nights
Hiking Buddy: Kara
Date: July 26th-29th
Total distance: 40.1 miles
Permit required: National Parks Pass ($25); Wilderness Camping Permits ($8 per person/per night)
Beer pairing: Buoy Brewing-Helles German Lager
This was my first backpacking trip ever and since we wanted to see as much diversity as possible, we decided to drive to different parts of the park in between camping. I absolutely fell in love with Olympic National Park because of the fact that it’s vast landscape includes mountain ranges, rainforests, and beaches.
Day 1: Hurricane Ridge; Elwha River
Total Mileage: 8.65
We left Portland at 6 am and arrived at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors center around noon. Here we bought our wilderness camping permits and spent a good amount of time chatting with a ranger, who was very helpful in planning our trip. We then drove to Hurricane Ridge (45 minutes) and took the Hurricane Hill Trail (3 miles out and back), which was partially paved, fairy popular and very well maintained. Despite the crowds, this was one of the highlights of my trip. I loved being able to see the vastness of the mountains before we dipped into the woods for a few days. This was also a nice start to our trip, as we didn’t have to carry our heavy packs. It was a clear day and the view of the Olympic Mountain Range was stunning.
We got back to the car and had to drive out of the park and then back in to get to the Whiskey Bend Trailhead (1 hour drive), where we would strap on our packs and complete a 5.65 mile hike along the Elwha River to Humes Ranch to spend the night. We got a little lost on the trail but it allowed us to check out Goblins Gates, which was where the river was forced through the high narrow walls of Rico Canyon; well worth the tiny detour. The trail was mostly flat and after passing through an open meadow, we found a perfect campspot right along the river. With just enough time to cook dinner and have a sip of whiskey before dark, we were pretty beat and enjoyed an early bedtime.
Day 2: Elwha River; Mt. Storm King; Hoh Rainforest
Total mileage: 14.45
We woke up early and hiked out of Humes meadow (5.65 miles) and back to the car. From there we drove to the Storm King Ranger Station to park the car, leave our packs behind and do the 3.8 mile round trip hike up Mt Storm King. The elevation gain was 1780 feet but with many switchbacks, the hike wasn’t too terribly challenging. Just before the peak, we encountered a rope system to help get up the steep edge-only slightly scary! The peak has a small area for sitting and enjoying lunch and a vast view of Mt. Crescent, which we immediately jumped in to cool off when we got to the bottom.
Next was a drive to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center and a 5 mile, flat hike to our camp at 5 mile island.
Day 3: Hoh Rainforest; Third Beach to Toleak Point
Total Mileage: 11
We woke up early and enjoyed a peaceful walk back out of the rainforest (5 miles). We were on a bit of a tight schedule since our next hike was on the coast and had to be timed by the tides.
We got in the car and drove to Third beach, where we were lucky to find a parking spot. From the parking lot, we descended for an easy 1.35 miles through the forest and arrived at third beach. This is a popular day spot. After walking along the beach for just a short time, we saw a target sign on a tree, which marked our first climb with the help of a rope up a steep bluff. This was absolutely terrifying for me and I had no idea how many more we would face. If it weren’t for my fear, this would have been one of my favorite hikes of all time. The trail is super cool and a great mix of forest, beach and adventure time.
At 2.8 miles, after a nice hike through the forest and we descended back down a rope to the beach. This was the portion of the hike that could only be done at low tide and was impassible otherwise. We walked along the beach to Scott’s Bluff, where another bullseye marked yet another rope climb. After a quick jaunt in the woods, it was back down some sketchy ropes and ladders until we were back on the beach, then about 2 more miles to Toleak Point. When we arrived, we were pretty beaten up emotionally. Those steep climbs up and down left me anxious and the wind was so intense that we had trouble finding a spot to set up camp. (I should add that once we reached our destination, we saw several families with young kids, all of which tackled the same rope system we did. So, it’s possible that I am a huge wuss and it wasn’t that bad.) Needless to say the scenery was amazing and it felt like a huge accomplishment to be at a place so beautiful, yet unreachable to many. After spending some major time popping all my foot blisters, we watched the bright orange sunset and went to sleep.
Day 4: Toleak Point to Third Beach
Total Mileage: 6
We ate breakfast and were joined by a cute raccoon, then packed up our stuff and pumped ourselves up to do the same treacherous hike back out. The way back was slightly better, but still scary. We stopped to check out the remains of a whale (it was so cool!!!) and made decent time getting back. We were happy to be done, and quite exhausted when we got back to the car. We completed our trip with a quick swim in Lake Quinalt and a drive to Astoria for a well earned beer and heavy meal at Buoy Brewing.