I love being retired; I can go hiking just about anytime I want, especially during the week when the crowds are mostly working. I am prepping for my final leg of the PCT in August so felt like a challenging multi-day trip through the Olympics was called for. I went in at Staircase on Monday and up the north fork of the Skokomish, over First Divide and down to Upper Duckabush Camp for the night. Tuesday was up early and headed up the Duckabush to O’Neil Pass and then along the O’Neil trail to the Quinault, over Anderson Pass to near Honeymoon Meadows for the night. Repeated the early start on Wednesday and up over La Crosse Pass, down to the Duckabush, back over First Divide and to 9 Stream for the night. Then Thursday was an easy day back to the truck. Multiday? Check! Challenging? Check! Scenic? Double check. Probably has to rate in my top five trips in the Olympics. The flowers were gorgeous, other than on the Skokomish and Quinault there were no people, and the weather was great.
I could not find a recent report on snow conditions before leaving, but the webcams on Hurricane Ridge showed no snow so I took that as a promising sign. I debated about taking microspikes and an ice axe. I ended up taking the spikes and leaving the axe behind. First Divide was bare with a few small patches of snow on either side, but they were melting fast. In the 3 days between trips over the pass the snow had noticeably melted. O’Neil Pass had patchy snow starting at Marmot Lake and continuing for the first 4-5 miles past the pass. I spiked up for the last half a mile or so, mostly because I had them. Anderson Pass had a bowl of snow at the summit and a couple of tiny patches either side of the pass. I met a guy around the junction of the O’Neil Trail and the Quinault Trail who told me he had attempted La Crosse the day before and had been turned back because of snow. So I was apprehensive going up the next day but was able to easily make it over. There was patchy snow starting a mile from the pass and three large snow fields in the last quarter mile, and the microspikes were helpful. Just took my time ad kicked in good steps and was soon at the top. The south side of the pass was virtually snow free with only a couple of small patches.
The trail all the way around was in generally good condition. I counted 73 down trees (yes I counted them all) but only a handful were challenging to get around. In a few places the brush was hiding the trail, in a few other places the grass growing in the trail make it hard to see the trail, in a couple of places the trail had slid down a couple of feet, and in a lot of places the trail was muddy or wet. My feet were seldom dry. I had to ford the Duckabush at the Upper Duck Camp and also ford just above Home Sweet Home. Every other crossing, including the Upper Duckabush, had logs or rocks that allowed for semi dry crossings.
The meadows through the first 4-5 miles of the O’Neil trail were the most spectacular; they were just a riot of color. The meadows heading up to La Crosse were also pretty special; the Avalanche Lilies looked like snow in places they were so thick. Flowers were just about everywhere, but those were my two favorites. Passed one bear about 30 yards off, grazing in a meadow. He posed for his picture and then went back to eating as I left. I had a juvenile grouse practicing to be a hoodlum; it waited beside the trail in the grass until just after I passed and then exploded out; took awhile for my heart to settle down. Not much wildlife otherwise; a couple of deer, my first sighting of a blue grouse, and an assortment of squirrels and chipmunks.
I am physically tired after the trip, but enjoyed it thoroughly. Couldn’t have timed the trip better for flower viewing. A highly recommended trip.