I took off into the Olympics again last week, hoping to do some cross country travel. I have done very little of this in the past, but am wanting to get into some more remote areas of the park. I found a brief description of an off trail route between Gladys Divide and Lake of the Angles and then over to First Divide and it seemed to be something that would be within my comfort zone. So Monday morning I launched out from Staircase and headed up to Flapjack Lakes to spend the night. About a mile and a half in I realized my camera was missing so had to turn around and head back to the truck, where I found it sitting on the bumper. The rest of the day was uneventful and I setup at the lakes and went for a swim; the water in the lakes was nice and warm. The flies were merciless though and put a bit of a damper on the enjoyment.
Tuesday morning I packed up and headed to Gladys Divide. There is a small lake down on the Hamma Hamma side and that was the first destination. I slowly picked my way down the steep slope to the shelf the lake sits on, and found that it was mostly a large dried mud flat. The lake only had a trickle going into it, with no discernable outlet, and was in the final stages of evaporating away; and its smell was not too pleasant. The route description called on dropping down the Hamma Hamma valley for a while and then climbing up and over a notch in a southern ridge from Mt Skokomish. I headed down the valley, but the slide alder and other brush was so thick that I was making little headway and eventually gave up and headed back, disappointed and unsure of my next move.
I headed back to Gladys Divide and then Flapjack where I re-setup camp, cooled down in the lake, and made plans to day hike up to the divide the next day and then strike out for Black and White Lakes from there, a trip I knew others had made.
From Gladys Divide I spotted a trail that took off on the Hamma Hamma side of the divide heading roughly NW around Mt Gladys. I followed this intermittent trail as it climbed the ridge toward the summit. Near the summit I crossed over a notch and ended up following a ridge that headed to the SW rather than the westward ridge I should have followed. After discovering my error, and backtracking half a mile or so back to the summit, I descended along the west ridge to a low spot and then climbed a bit to the east. Murdock Lakes appeared down below me, and I think another trip along the ridge is in order to spend some time there.
From this point I lost all semblance of a trail and ended up traversing across the south face of this steep ridge, slowing heading down and to the west, eventually coming out onto an area that appears to have been burned long ago and is now covered in huckleberries. From atop a small ridge I spotted the Black and White Lakes and made my way down to them and then found the trail that took me back to Flapjacks and another swim, a third night and the quick trip out Thursday.
Although I was unable to complete the route I had planned, I did manage to put in a few miles off trail and enjoyed it. The weather was great, in the 80’s every day and mostly clear. There was some haze on Wednesday, with smoke from the Queets fire visible over Black and White Lakes. The biting flies were fericious and drove me into the hammock for much of the time I was in camp. But all in all the trip was great and beat having to work for a living.
|Basecamp setup on Flapjack Lake.|
|Sitting on my rock overlooking the lower lake, looking up toward Gladys Divide, which is hidden behind the hill to the left.|
|Looking down from Gladys Divide into the Hamma Hamma basin. Mt Skokomish is at the end of this valley, and the traverse goes up and over a notch on the southern ridge coming from Mt Skokomish.|
|This was a very popular flower with a caterpillar, a butterfly and several other large bugs all feeding on it.|
|Murdock Lakes are midway through the traverse, on the Hamma Hamma side. I want to go back here and explore someday.|
|The Sawtooth Ridge looms over Flapjack Lakes and the climb to Gladys Divide.|
|One of several meadows on the upper half of the climb to Gladys Divide.|
|I am guessing that there was some form of mining at some point near the lake below Gladys Divide. This old rusty shovel and a rusting can give evidence of a different kind of activity in the area.|
|Black and White Lakes as seen from the ridge to the east of the lakes. Don’t know which one is Black Lake and which is White; or if the name is a general one that applies to both. Or how they got their name.|