Hoh River to Blue Glacier (Olympic N.P.) 08-11 – 08-13-17

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Hoh River to Blue Glacier (Olympic N.P.) 08-11 – 08-13-17

Post by bobcat » August 9th, 2017, 12:32 pm

The glaciers on Mount Olympus, with their terminal moraines below 4,000 feet, are the lowest elevation glaciers at that latitude on the planet. While they are currently in retreat, they have existed because of the large amount of snowfall that the area gets in winter. The surrounding forests, the largest old growth temperate rain forests in the lower 48 states get up to 170 inches of precipitation in a year.

During the record high temperature days, my wife took off with a pal on a previously planned trip. I had planned for an expedition to the Oregon Cascades, but fires and heat forced me to research further. When I saw that temperatures were going to drop steadily on the west side of the Olympics, I threw things together and drove up to the Hoh.
On the Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rain Forest.jpg
Hoh River, Spruce Nature Trail, Hoh Rain Forest.jpg
Walking under maples, Hall of Mosses Trail, Hoh Rain Forest.jpg
Elk in campground, Hoh Rain Forest Campground.jpg
I camped the first night at the regular national park campground; it was 90 degrees when I pulled in. The next morning, I was up early, bade farewell to the campground elk, and started hiking up the Hoh River Trail. The British Columbia wildfires made for a hazy horizon, but as I got farther, I could get glimpses of prominences like Cat Peak and Mount Carrie. The first 15 ½ miles is through spectacular old-growth (Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western red-cedar), and the trail is flat for the first 12 ½ miles. There are designated camping areas for the first 13 ½ miles where no reservations are required. Bear canisters are required, or you have to string your food up high. Some of the camping areas have bear wires in place; these also usually have outhouses. There are a few shelters as well. The milky Hoh River carries the melt of the Blue Glacier and meanders in braids and a few oxbows down the valley.
Big Sitka spruce, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Douglas-firs, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Mineral Creek Falls, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Dry gully, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Clide Creek Oxbow, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Olympus Guard Station, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Gravel bars, Hoh River, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Mossy roots, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Slide Creek and big cedar, Hoh River Trail.jpg
I camped the first night at about Mile 13, near the high bridge over the Hoh River Gorge, the idea being to day hike the steep part from there. Biting black flies were a bit of a problem, but it was a peaceful night although the fire haze blotted out the stars. The next day, I put on the little day pack and began the ascent to the Blue Glacier’s lateral moraine at 5,100 feet. The trail rises through still more old growth, and crossed the Hoh River Gorge on a high bridge, getting a glimpse of the Bailey Range above. Eventually, I passed the three remaining camps, Martin Creek, Elk Lake, and Glacier Meadows. Spaces at these have to be reserved in advance at the Hoh Visitor Center on the day you begin your hike. Just below Glacier Meadows is a deep rubbly gully that is descended via a 100-foot ladder. I passed sleepy Elk Lake, where 200 years ago the White and Blue Glaciers came together, and then hiked up through Glacier Meadows, finally enjoying a smorgasbord of alpine wildflowers. A mountain goat stood out on the ridge above and came down behind me to drink at a tarn. I surprised a sooty grouse and her chicks.
Hoh River Gorge from the High Hoh Bridge, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Confluence of Hoh River and Glacier Creek from the High Hoh Bridge, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Balancing rock, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Elk Lake Shelter, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Columbia monkshood (Aconitum columbianum),  Elk Lake, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Spreading stonecrop (Sedum divergens), Elk Lake Creek, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Scouler's corydalis (Corydalis scouleri), Elk Lake Creek, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Crossing of Elk Lake Creek, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Traverse above Jemrod Creek, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica), Jemrod Creek, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Looking down the ladder, Jemrod Gully, Hoh River Trail.jpg
When I finally reach the lateral moraine viewpoint, the Blue Glacier, occasionally creaking and groaning in the silence, was spread out before me. A group of climbers farther south along the moraine were descending to cross the glacier on their route to the summit (the West Peak) of Mount Olympus, which loomed out of the fire haze gloom. I could just make out Glacier Pass and Mount Mathias. I consoled myself by thinking that on a “normal” summer day in the Olympics, this vista could be totally socked in by clouds and it could be windy and freezing cold.
Purple bracted lousewort (Pedicularis bracteosa var. bracteosa), Glacier Meadows, Glacier Meadows Trail.jpg
Olympic paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora var. olympica), Glacier Meadows, Glacier Meadows Trail.jpg
Daisy, heliotrope, arnica, paintbrush, Glacier Meadows, Glacier Meadows Trail.jpg
Heather, Glacier Meadows Trail.jpg
Sooty grouse chick, Glacier Meadows Trail.jpg
Smooth douglasia (Douglasia laevigata), Glacier Meadows Trail.jpg
View to Mount Mathias from the lateral moraine, Blue Glacier.jpg
Looking to Glacier Pass, Blue Glacier.jpg
Crevasses, Blue Glacier, Mt. Olympus.jpg
Snow Dome, West Peak, terminal moraine of the Blue Glacier.jpg
Back at Mile 13, I picked up my backpack and hiked back to the Olympus Ranger Station at Mile 9.1, where I spent my second night out. Being the weekend, it became rather crowded with a quite a few groups camping out on the gravel bar. The next morning, I hiked out under the tall trees with the temperatures in the 60s.
Campsite, Olympus Guard Station, Hoh River Trail.jpg
Cat Peak from the Hoh River, Olympus Guard Station, Hoh River Trail.jpg
The hike is an easy one for its length because so much of it is on the level through the massive old growth rain forest: 37.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 5,200 feet.

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Re: Hoh River to Blue Glacier (Olympic N.P.) 08-11 – 08-13-1

Post by Chip Down » August 10th, 2017, 7:19 pm

Oh, how I wish I had explored ONP when I was younger, fitter, more adventurous, and had less responsibilities. But maybe 20 years from now I'll wish I had just gotten off my butt and done it in 2017. Of course, the same could be said for other places, like Mt Baker, which I've never been to.

So thanks a lot for putting me in a mid-life funk (partly sincere, partly sarcastic, but 100% pleased to see the TR).

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