Hurricane Ridge, Mount Walker, and Staircase

Hurricane Ridge had opened the weekend before I arrived, so drove up at 6AM, about an 11 mile drive up 4,000 feet along an interesting, scenic drive. If you’ve read any of any other posts, “interesting”means “pay attention to your driving.” It’s a long way down. There were three tunnels, if I remember correctly. I arrived before the Ranger station was open, but no matter, there was snow everywhere, so I stood on a picnic table to get a good picture, tried a few other spots and headed down.

I must have driven up before the deer were up, because I passed by several on the way down. When I stopped to roll down my window to get a picture, they would look up at me, waiting to be fed, then nothing forthcoming, go back to browsing. It is illegal and a bad idea to feed the wildlife, because human food isn’t the proper diet for them, and they come to rely on humans providing their food, and when the tourist season stops, ….

The next major stop was Mount Walker Viewpoint. It is 2+ mile, 2,000 foot ascent, or .5 miles by the narrow gravely road. It was very narrow. Several times the truck slipped on the steep gravel/rock road, so four-wheel drive. There are two viewpoints at the top, one to the north and one to the south. There were four eagles flying about the north viewpoint, but by the time I got my camera out, they had moved away. Still it was fun watching them soaring. Were they parents and children, I wondered.

The last major stop was the Staircase, named because to pass over, the explorers constructed a staircase of logs, rock and dirt for the pack animals to climb. There had been a fire a few years ago, so there were warning signs to watch out for falling rocks and trees. I haven’t mentioned the trees before, but sometimes on the roads cut from the rock, leaving a steep vertical wall of rock to one side of the road, trees fall only to dangle over the edge, sometimes pointing downwards. Eventually they will come down, but when?

I did the couple mile loop, a not-so-easy, easy trail. Cross the river on a bridge, then up the rock and dirt trail on the west side, with some good views of the cascades. Cross back over on another bridge, which had replaced one that must have been washed away. You can still see the metal brackets in the large rocks in the river. I’m guessing that bridge had been washed away. The new suspension bridge is higher up. The cables are anchored at each end by two large concrete blocks sunk into the earth far back from the bridge itself. Four other cables from the sides, two at each end and side, reduce the swing. Still I could feel the sway on the wind.

On the way back on the other side, I met Ian who builds tree houses and has been on the TV shows about tree houses. He was admiring a freshly cut cedar tree that had fallen across the trail. The section across the trail had to be removed so people could pass through. From the way he was touching the tree, I knew he worked with wood. My father worked in wood after he retired, and I recognized the look in Ian’s eyes. He was imaging what he could make with that wood.

The trail on the way back had been rerouted because the old trail had fallen away in the rain. Back to my trail to shower and rest for a day.

My Olympic Peninsula adventure was completed. I had driven 1,000 miles in the week since leaving Portland and hiked over 30 miles, the longest hike was around 6 miles, but 1 mile here, 2 miles there, 3 over there, and it adds up. I was happy, tired, and fulfilled.

 

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