Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hurricane Hill, Olympic National Park

Trail Sign to Hurricane Hill near the Parking Lot.

After hours of rain we were finally able to emerge from our tent nestled at the base of the road up the Hurricane Ridge. Our start time of 8am slowly got pushed back to 9am, then 10, on to 11 and finally we broke camp around noon. After the short drive from Heart of the Hills campground we checked the time and thought it best to abandon our planned 8 mile hike of Khlane Ridge opting for the shorter 3 mile ascent of Hurricane Hill instead.

Fall Colors on the north side of Hurricane Ridge.

Moss growing on a fallen tree near the trail.

Hurricane Hill is aptly named, in a region known for storms and rain no place is hit harder by these storms than the Olympic Mountains which rise up nearly 10,000 feet and ring the clouds dry. The first wind racked ridge to intercept these pacific storms is Hurricane Ridge, the highpoint of which is Hurricane Hill. The heavy rains have spawned lush rainforests nearby and canyons cut thousands of feet deep.

Elwha River Valley.

From the start of the trail the largest of these canyons, the canyon of the Elwah River drops 6,000 ft between Hurricane Ridge and the snow capped, glaciated summit of Mt. Olympus and its cohorts. This stunning background was our constant companion on the hike. The summits remained obscured permanently as the storm passed by and only the base of the glaciers showed and small amounts of snow.

Small trail side meadow.

The beautiful fall foliage of October was nearly equal in beauty. Small shrubs of orange, yellow, and red exploded out of an otherwise constantly green backdrop of evergreens stretching out mile upon mile down the slopes of the ridge into th Elwha Valley, then crawling back up to the snow line of the mountains.

Looking down into the deep cut valley.

The trail continued up a steady grade and we tried to move as briskly as possiable as Beylah shivered in the cold. Even in burly fleece, and decked in rainproof gear I felt a little chill as gusts of wind surged over the ridge nearly knocking us over. The steady stream of hikers coming back down from the summit looked equally frozen.

The west flank of Mt. Olympus rising from the river valley.

Two hikers descend out of the clouds.

The summit remained persistently obsured in clouds, which eventually we began to ascend into. Thick whisps rolled past us and more and more our views were obscured into a world of gray. The top was icy cold and so windy we elected to hide under some rocks in lieu of having our lunch in a comfortable location. We huddled together, splitting an orange, fully zipped up in our jackets and exposing as little skin as possiable.

A Cloudy Summit View

Rocks near the summit.

I can only imagine what went through the mind of the man who found us there hiding under some rocks, laying in the dirt. After snapping our photos we started our descent. Gradually the gray world of the clouds was left behind revealing the mountains and valleys again. The hike back was relativley short, only perhaps a mile and a half and the small paved parking lot became visable within 20 minutes of hiking. We passed several hikers near the bottom in mere running shorts and thin yellow rain jackets, thoroughly putting our shivvering near the summit to shame.

Freezing near the summit.

Sunlight breaking through to the west.

Back at the car we cranked up the heater and headed out for Seattle, taking the ferry over Puget Sound and arriving in the city just after 8pm.

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