While the weather looked like it might be a bit iffy, the calendar ahead looked cluttered, so this seemed like the best chance for a while to get out and do a prep hike for the PCT next month. I chose to go up the Elwha because 1) I hadn’t been up it in a few years, & 2) it was cleared of down trees up to Hayes River. After the trek up the Skokomish and down the Duckabush a couple of weeks ago I was ready to hike with a minimum of fallen trees. So the plan was to hike up to Hayes River, or as far as I could get, run up to Hayden Pass the second day and then back to Hayes River, and then head out on day three.
Because of work commitments I got off to a late start and left the trailhead at 12:45, with thoughts of Hayes River pretty much non-existent, but the farther up I got the more promising that looked. I stopped for a late lunch at Mary Falls Camp and then charged on up the trail and did manage to reach Hayes River by about 7:15 and had the place to myself.
At Mary Falls I had a young man come through who had left Hurricane Ridge that morning, dropping down to Whisky Bend and was planning on going over Hayden, Lost, Cameron and Grand Passes then up to Obstruction Point and back to his truck. It appeared like he was planning on doing it in 2 days, which seemed pretty optimistic to me with all the snow in the high country. He was planning on staying at Hayes River that night as well. We talked a bit and then he charged off. I passed him a couple of miles later pulled off to the side of the trail eating. And then never saw him again, nor any evidence that he was in the snow around Hayden. Hopefully he made it OK.
The first 17 miles of the Elwha are pretty mellow with only a small climb over a ridge just south of Lillian Camp. The trail is well maintained and there is quite a variety of forest understory to see and enjoy. The Elwha is far away for the first half of the trip, but there are plenty of other small rivers, streams, creeklets and seeps crossing the trail. There is little in the way of mountain vistas along the trail, but it is really a pleasant journey and generally light and airy.
In contrast is the trail from Hayes River up to Hayden Pass. This trail is 8.3 miles long with a 4000+ foot elevation gain. Seldom is it steep, but it is pretty steady up. And the fallen trees were back. I hit about 35 trees from the start to the snow line at about 5300 foot. Most of them were easy to just step over, but there were two fairly substantial windfalls bracketing a small camp a mile up the trail that took quite a bit of effort to get around. Plus the trail was pretty heavily littered with fallen branches and I probably took an hour along the way throwing them off the trail.
Eventually the view opens up and becomes very nice, in spite of the intermittent cloud cover. And even better were the flowers in the numerous small meadows along the way. Lots of flowers, which made me happy. Started into snow just past 5000 foot with fairly continuous snow about 5300. I ploughed on through until I rounded a corner at about 5600 foot and could see the pass, but it was still a mile to a mile and a half away and across a long traverse. Time was running out and I did not have my ice axe along so I decided it was time to turn around and work my way back on down the hill to camp.
The trip back down was nice, except for the two blowdowns. I got back into camp in time to clean up and eat and then nestle into the hammock and watch the river flow by 20 feet away. Very pleasant. Very little in the way of fauna sightings apart from a millipede, a small frog, and a few small birds, plus lots of bear, cougar and marmot poop. No sign of recent human activity either, which partially made up for the lack of actual bear sightings.
Saturday I was up early and heading back down river. I had the place to myself until just before Lillian Camp when I ran into a couple, Blade Runner and Rummy Man I think, who were looking to replicate my trip. Visited with them briefly and then continued along, encountering 29 more people, 2 horses and 1 deer. All in all a very good trip; about 48 miles in 3 days. Ready for the PCT now.
|This is a view from high up on the Hayden Pass trail looking west and south, nearly 180 degrees worth.|
|This is a sample of the trail along the lower Elwha, broad and well manicured, easy enough for the newest day hikers.|
|Up near Hayes River is an example of the trail going through sections with only moss growing on the ground. Not enough sun hits the trail for anything else to grow.|
|Numerous small streams cut across the trail on the way up to Hayden. Some are easy to step across, and some spread out and become a bog.|
|This is an example of a bog that the trail is going through; if you look carefully you can pick out the trail going from bottom center to top center.. Pretty challenging to get through unmuddied, and not really worth the effort to stay dry. You’re gonna get wet, so why fight it.|
|Here the trail traverses across a small meadow with a nearby stream. Stopped here for a late lunch on the way back down. Just flopped in the middle of the trail and enjoyed the vista, the flowers and the stream.|
|Lots of small peaks across the way opened up along the trail. Not too sure of my geography, but suspect this is a part of the Baileys.|
|A view up canyon.|
|The low spot in the center is Hayden Pass. This is the view from where I turned around. The traverse does not look as long or steep as it did at decision time, but it was enough, along with the time, to turn me around.|
|I like finding these little millipedes. Don’t see too many, but did find two this trip.|
|Also found a couple of survey marks above Elkhorn Camp. The stamp on both said they were placed in 1929, although the second looked relatively new.|
|Remann’s Cabin. According to the sign on the front it was built in 1929 as a fishing lodge for some Tacoma area judge.|
|The photo doesn’t do it justice. A little creek braids down across a moss covered rock pile just above the trail. I would love to be able to transport this to my garden at home.|
|There are a few places where the forest understory is a mass of Vanilla Leaf and other small plants. |
|Should you be inclined to ford the Elwha and head up to Dodger Point, this is the place where you would do it. The river is probably 50 feet across here and several feet deep. Not too much appeal for me.|
|If you look carefully, the live tree in the back seems to be eating the dead tree in front. It disappears into the interior of the still living tree. Pretty strange looking.|
|Lots of Pinesap popping up through the moss.|
|Starflowers all over the place|
|A rose thicket near Elkhorn|
|Chillin out after a late breakfast near the river on the way out. Such a good trip.|