Gladys Divide to Black and White Lakes

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.

Appleton Pass

One of the joys of being retired is being able to spend more time in the Olympics.  I took advantage of that last week and headed for Appleton Pass.  It had been a few years since I had been up there and I wanted to do some exploration of the meadows between there and Spread Eagle Pass.  I left the Boulder Creek trailhead late Monday morning and headed for the pass.  This was my first trip up since the old road to the hot springs had been replaced.  This first 2.5 miles of trail is now broad and gentle with several new bridges.  After the Boulder Creek campground the trail becomes much narrower and very brushy in places, although it is a pleasant trail; especially since there were no people on the trail above the hot springs, except for one couple day hiking up close to the pass.

I made it up to the pass by mid-afternoon and set up my hammock near Oyster Lake, collected some water from the spring below the lake, and then circled around to the peak on the far side of the lake.  The skys were clear and the views spectacular; Olympus was majestic.  Tuesday was spent exploring the meadows and hanging around the lake, soaking in the views and doing a little reading.  And Wednesday morning I packed up and headed out, stopping at the hot springs for a quick soak.  It was a great trip and, once past the hot springs, very isolated.

This is one of the new bridges just below the hot springs.  When you are on the bridge you can look down and still see the old footlog that you used to have to cross.

The upper falls on the south fork of the Boulder creek.  It is just below the log across the creek.

The meadow below Appleton Pass is brushy, but is very colorful.  The trail is easy to follow, but there are times you have to push your way through some dense shrubbery.

Mt Olympus from atop the outlook near the pass.  The outlook is easy to get to and it offers outstanding views.

I am not positive, but I believe the meadow is Soleduck Park, home.  This is also visible from the lookout point as well as the way trail to Spread Eagle Pass.

Mt Appleton as seen from the lookout.

Down the Boulder Creek drainage.

Oyster Lake.  This shot is taken from the ridge that winds up to the lookout point.  My campsite is just into the trees behind the bare spot above the lake.  The trail running down to the bottom of the picture leads to a small spring that provides fresh water.

Sunset over the lake.

The meadows were full of bear grass in bloom.  I watched a deer take the top off one of them in one bite.

Oyster Lake again, this time from the trail and campsite.  You circle around the ridge to the right to the viewpoint behind the lake; about a 15 minute trip.  

This lake is to the east of the way trail to Spread Eagle Pass, over the ridge that is to the left of the trail.  I didn’t make it all the way to the lake, but someday will go back and camp there.  

You can just barely see the trail climbing through the meadow on the left toward Spread Eagle Pass.  Once over the pass you would traverse for a bit before coming to Cat Lake.

It was hard to get a good picture, but there were hundreds of butterflies along the shore of Oyster Lake Tuesday evening, seemingly drinking and making baby butterflies.

Oyster Lake has a decent population of tadpoles.  These were clustered in the shallow area near where the outlet would be if the water was high enough.

The lake also had at least 10-12 frogs that seemed to spend their time hanging out on the beach or at the edge of the lake.  Also saw a couple of salamanders.  

I saw this guy, along with his twin and mom walking down the trail from the pass on Tuesday morning.  When I went down the trail Wednesday morning, he was laying motionless in a switchback, not even blinking.  Was he dead, or just hiding in plain sight?  I hope the later, but I got as close as 5 foot away and saw nothing to indicate any life.

As I rounded the switch, there was mom and twin heading down the trail away from me, periodically looking back, maybe to see it they were successfully leading me away from the other fawn.

Retreat at Cedar Lake

Earlier this week I took off for 3 days and went to one of my favorite places in the Olympics, Cedar Lake.  I started from Deer Park and made the long descent to Three Forks and then back up the Gray Wolf to where the shelter used to be; it is just a burned pile of timbers now.  From there a way trail heads off up the Cedar Creek drainage a couple of miles to the lake, which sits in a moderate sized basin.  The lake is about a third of a mile long and surrounded on three side by steep walls.  It has a couple of small campsites when you first come to the lake, and I grabbed the first one because it has the best hanging place for my hammock.

I spent two nights at the lake, with a full day in between and thoroughly enjoyed it, except for the persistent mosquitoes; I have seen much worse, but there were enough to be an irritant.  While there I enjoyed a trip around the lake, a little exploring, a swim, and some reading and meditating.  It’s really great to get away to a place like that and just reflect on God, life, and whatever else comes to mind.

On Wednesday I was up fairly early and was on the way by 6:30.  On my first trip into the lake, about 7 years ago, a friend and I had traversed across from a tarn a bit below the Gray Wolf Pass, and I had decided to reverse that trip on the way out.  There is no easy path around the lake.  On one side it is all scree and rock, and sometime so steep that it is challenging, and I opted not to try that with a pack.  The other side is covered in steep meadows and some trees, but is very wet.  Much of it is just oozing water and is pretty slick.  I opted for that side, and of course fell down on one especially slick slope; glad to have gotten that out of my system early.  Once at the other end of the lake I climbed half a mile or so up a relatively easy grade before getting into a steeper section for the upper half of the climb.  I had remembered a bit of a trail coming down from the pass, but found no trace of one this time until I was nearly out.  But the climb was uneventful and offered good views of the lake and basin below.

From the pass there is an occasional track through the heather that leads toward the Gray Wolf pass, past three tarns, and ending behind a fourth tarn that is visible from the Gray Wolf trail a half mile below the pass.  Even without the trail, if you knew the basic direction to head it would be hard to get too lost.  It was probably not much over a mile, and was bounded by a steep ridge on one side and a sharp drop off on the other.  The traverse, while short, was scenic and enjoyable.

Once back to the Gray Wolf, I just followed the trail back to Three Forks and then trudged back up to Deer Park, about 3000 feet of up in 4.5 miles.  All in all, a very good trip.  And the only people I saw the whole time were between Deer Park and Three Forks; right at 48 hours with no people.

This view is taken from near the Deer Park trailhead, as you make the short initial ridge walk. In real life you can easily discern the valleys that the Grand, Cameron and Gray Wolf flow through and see Three Forks, where they all come together.

The inside of this rotted tree trunk on the Gray Wolf looks like a medieval torture chamber.

One of my favorite stretches of trail on the Gray Wolf.  It is only a few hundred yards long, but everything is covered with thick moss.  It just looks so inviting and soft.

The upper trail along the Cedar creek, and around the lower end of the lake basin, was covered in Avalanche lilies.  The wildflowers were beautiful and abundant throughout most of the trip.

Closeup of an Avalanche lily.
Lots of Asters of different sizes and colors.

The Columbine were out in full force as well.  They are hard to get a good picture of  because the flower usually is facing the ground.  

There is a tarn up above the lake that had a pretty healthy population of tadpoles, and one frog.  When I went by they seemed all to be sunning themselves in the shallow fringes of the tarn, hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of them.

Looking back at the lake from up above the south end of the lake, and the tadpole tarn.  Camp was setup near the middle of the clump of trees at the far end of the lake, right next to the exit stream.

At one point, while walking around the lake, I felt something on the back of my leg, and found this little guy taking a break.  First time I can recall having a pet butterfly, even if only for a few minutes.

At the end of this trail you can just see my hammock nestled in the trees.  The lake in ahead and visible to the right.  The creek is behind the trees to the right. While it would have been hard to put much of a tent in here, it is perfect for a hammock.  In fact, that is the spot I saw my first backpacking hammock and was convinced to give them a try.

The big rock in the foreground made a good platform to swim from.  The low point in the far ridge wall was my exit point the next day.

I am not a fisherman, but if I was I would have been eating good.  There were lots of trout in the lake, looking to be around 8-10 inches.

A look back at the lake from the pass out of the basin.

Looking the other way from the same pass, toward the Gray Wolf pass.  The trail heads down the valley in the lower center and then veers to the right.  You can just see on of the tree tarns that you skirt on the way out.

Looking back at one of the little tarns on the way down.

Looking down the Gray Wolf valley, midway through the traverse.

I think I counted 7 foot logs across the Graywolf as well as one across the Cameron and another across the Grand.  This spot actually had two of them, with the one in the background broken at the end and apparently replaced by the other one.

All that’s left of the Gray Wolf shelter.  I don’t know when it burned, but the first time I came up this valley, probably 17-18 years ago, it was intact.

The footlog across the Cameron has broken in the middle, and both halves have rolled 90 degrees.  A little more challenging to cross, but still easily doable.

Quite a few Candy Sticks were sprouting on the Tree Forks trail.

A Lollipop Off the Dosewallips

For years I have been gazing at a map of the Olympics and seeing a loop in the southeastern part of the park.  This loop crosses Anderson, O’Neil and LaCrosse passes and can be accessed via the west fork of the Dosewallips, the Duckabush, the Enchanted Valley, or the Skokomish via High Divide.  Not sure why it has taken me so long to actually pull the trigger on this trip, but finally did it this past week, accessing via the Dose.

I parked the truck at the washout on the Dose and left just before 7AM and headed on up the road to the Ranger Station and then on up the west fork at Dose Forks.  My hope was to get over Anderson Pass and get started onto the O’Neil trail before stopping for the night.  For the most part the walking was easy and the miles just flew by.  I got to Honeymoon Meadows, having seen only 2 couples on the trail and a camp set up at the roads end, and stopped for a late lunch.  I had expected to have to ford just above Diamond Meadows and again at Honeymoon Meadows, but there were a series of big logs at the Diamond crossing, and a bunch of branches laid across at Honeymoon so I was able to keep my feet dry the whole time.

After lunch I charged on over the pass, where I encountered what appeared to be a small trail crew at rest, and then down to the O’Neil turnoff and followed that trail for a couple of hours.  There was an amazing number of huckleberries in the pass, and I ate more than my share of them.  Finally stopped for the night off to the side of the trail where the ground was not too steep and I could get my hammock pitched.

As I was eating dinner a young man from the Portland area came by.  He was doing the same loop, although in reverse and starting from the Skykomish.  we talked for a few minutes and he went on, hoping to get another couple of miles in, although it was dusk by then.  After a 20.5 mile day, I was pooped and in the hammock before 8PM.

Day 2 started early and hit the trail by 7.  About 15 minutes later I ran into a bear having breakfast.  It was pretty cool, except that he was in the trail, about 50-60 feet away, and not inclined to move over and let me go by.  After taking a few pictures and watching a bit, I started talking loudly to it, clacking my sticks together and even blew on my whistle for a bit.  Nothing.  Eventually he started toward me and finally seemed to recognize my presence.  He then turned around and slowly ambled down the trail, with me following behind and continuing to talk to him.  I followed for about 10 minutes before he finally got tired of me tailing him and turned off onto a branching animal trail.  Pretty exciting for me.

An hour further down the trail I started hearing elk bugling and shortly after rounded a corner opening out to a big cirque.  And there stood a big 6 or 7 point bull.  I got a few pictures before he saw me and ran off down the hill.  A few minutes later there was another big bull above me, and then several more down below.  I spotted at least 7 at one time, with the trees seeming to hide many more.  The hills were echoing with their calls.  I must have spent half an hour slowly moving around that cirque, watching and listening to them.

Eventually I got to O’Neil Pass and met a young lady who was making the same trip as the guy from last night.  We talked briefly and then went on, my expectation being that I would see both of them later in the day in the LaCrosse Pass area.

I saw another big bull just above Marmot Lake and then continued on down the Duckabush.  Part way to the ford I met another guy who was making the same trip I was except doing the loop in reverse.  He was going at a much slower pace though so did not expect to see him again. Obviously this is a popular loop to make.

I hit the bottom of the LaCrosse trail at close to 1 and headed up this 3.3 mile 2900 foot climb.  This was the only part of the trip I had never been on, but knew it was steep and dry.  So I dropped down into granny gear and slowly plugged my way up, finding it not to be as bad as I had feared.  Hit the top a bit after 3, had some snacks and started down.  About 1/3 of the way I re-met the gal from O’Neil charging up the hill, and she didn’t even seem to be breathing hard.  2/3 of the way down I met the guy from the previous night, not moving nearly as fast.  Visited briefly with both before continuing down the hill, past Honeymoon Meadows and on to Diamond Meadows for the night.

Slept in the next morning and hit the trail about 8:15 and cruised on down the 12 miles to the truck, getting there a bit before 1 to start the long drive home.  All in all a very good trip.  52 miles of some beautiful country in about 2 1/2 days.  Got to see a bear and some elk, ate lots of berries and only saw about 10 people.  The weather was good and the trail was in good shape.  The only thing missing were the wildflowers, which were well past their prime.

This little guy was playing sentry just past the washout.  

This is probably the lowest I have ever seen the Dosewallips.  The falls half a mile below the Ranger Station are normally booming.

The Dosewallips Ranger Station with a pet deer just in front of the sign.  

The low bridge at Dose Forks.

I get a kick out of seeing these insulators periodically.  Left over, I understand, from WW II when there were spotters up in some of the passes looking for Japanese planes.

Looking down from the high bridge over the west fork.  Not sure how far down it is, but it looks to be a 100 feet or so.

The current iteration of the high bridge.  It has been destroyed more than once over the years, but looks much more substantial than it has in the past.  I remember being able to bounce on it while crossing, but not now.

Honeymoon Meadows.  Pretty dry this time of year.

The privy at the shelter just below Anderson Pass, about 10 feet off the trail.  Not for those looking for privacy in their ‘quiet’ time.

Taken from just above the meadow a mile up the O’Neil Pass trail.  I assume the glacier at the top center is on Mt Anderson.

Hammock strung along side the O’Neil trail.  Not a lot of level ground in the area.  But it really doesn’t matter once you climb in.

My hiking partner for part of the second morning.

One of the big bulls in the cirque along the O’Neil trail.

A river of clouds flowing into the Enchanted Valley.  Glad I was higher up.

Marmot Lake nestled in its little basin.  Heart and LaCrosse lakes are on a shelf  up and to the left.

Not many flowers blooming this time of year, but there was a lot of fungus growing.

Just about the only fresh flower I saw on the trip.  All the  rest of them were fading or gone.

LaCrosse Pass, elevation 5566, high point of the trip.

This is the jumble of branches and small trees that you can use to pick your way across the Dose at Honeymoon Meadows.

Massive blowdown just below Honeymoon.  The river is in the foreground.  It happened several years ago, but the scar is still very visible.

Enjoying Cedar Lake

The weather forecast was amazing.  A three day string in the middle of September of hot and sunny with no significant calendar obligations.  How could I not go up into the mountains for a last fling.  I thought about doing a long loop and covering some new ground in the Olympics, but ultimately decided I had done enough long walking for the year and opted instead to find a place where I could just sit and enjoy the solitude.

Five years ago, in the midst of hiking the Grand Loop with a friend, we stopped over in Cedar Lake for the night.  It was a pretty lake sitting in a bowl near the Graywolf Pass. We made a trip back there a year or two later when it was still mostly under snow and very cold.  And the more I thought about it, the more I felt like that would be a good spot to go and just sit for a complete day, free from distractions, and hopefully from people.

I had to stop by the office briefly on Tuesday and so did not get to the Deer Park trailhead until about 11:30.  Cedar Lake is actually about 400 foot lower than Deer Park, but with a serious dip in between.  The first 4 miles or so is a 3400 foot drop down into Three Forks, followed by a 9 mile, 3000 foot, ascent up the Graywolf and then the Cedar Lake way trail. Overall the trail was in pretty good condition, although wet and a bit brushy in spots.  The Cedar Lake way trail was particularly wet and brush covered in places, although it was obvious that someone had been in there with a chainsaw recently.  That trail has some sections that are seriously up, but fortunately not for extended stretches.

The most exciting part of the trip was getting across the Cedar Creek.  I could have taken the easy way out and just splashed across, but I opted to try and keep my feet dry and found a log jam just upstream from the ford and worked my way across it, slipping in a hole once and scraping up a shin.

I hit the lake about 6 PM, setup camp, ate dinner and cleaned up a bit before turning in early.  Sometime during the night the wind kicked up and I spent the last half of the night playing rock-a-bye-baby in the hammock.  Fortunately it was fairly warm and so the wind was not an issue.  There was no moon out and the stars were brilliant.

I spent Wednesday exploring a bit, including a walk around the lake.  There was still some snow melting above the far end of the lake, leaving the water still a bit chilly.  But with the warm air temps that was no obstacle in taking a couple of quick swims.  But most of the day was spent in quiet reflection and contemplation, time alone with God; something I am not very good at doing at home because there always seems to be something else to do.

The day in paradise passed quickly and before I knew it dark started to settle in and I hurriedly prepared for bed.  No sign of people all day other than a passing plane.  Nothing to disturb the quiet and solitude.  Even the bugs were for the most part content to leave me alone.

The night passed, warm and still, and with morning came time to break camp and head back for home.  I was nearly packed when a guy wandered over from the other camp, just across the outlet stream.  He had apparently come in from the Graywolf Pass traverse late the previous evening.  He was looking for information on a traverse over to the Cameroon Pass area, but I had little to offer him other than speculation as to where the trail crossed out of the bowl we were in.

Heading back down the the Graywolf, I found a better way across the Cedar Creek.  There was a largeish log that crossed downstream from the trail; a log with no bark and slightly damp.  As graceful as I am, I opted to sit down, straddling the log, and then scooted across on my bottom.  Slow and undignified, but safe and dry.

I met a few more people on the way out, including what appeared to be a 5 year old boy slowing trudging up from Three Forks to Deer Park with his dad. I was pretty impressed.  He was already 2/3’s of the way up and dad said he had walked most of it.

One thing that really stood out to me on the Graywolf and Cedar trails, after 435 mile of the PCT through northern California was the amount of moss, mushrooms and water on the trail (yeah, I know that is three things, but all related).  It seemed like there was more of each of those three things than the entire 435 miles of northern California; so very lush.

All in all this was a wonderful trip; although with a 2 hour drive at either end and a trail with a single significant up and down each way.  Of course that helps keep the crowd down at the lake as well :).

Looking down from near Deer Park into the Three Forks area.

The Three Forks shelter down at the bottom of the Deer Park trail.

I know little about mushrooms, other than red ones with white spots are to be avoided.  But I was really impressed with the number and variety of mushrooms throughout the length of the trail.

Self protrait

The lake is nestled close up to the rocky bowl on one side.  I really liked the reflection of the rocks in the lake.

Home on the lake.  There are two primary spots at the lake, each of which has multiple tent spots, and even a couple of spots to hang at.  The outlet creek is just behind and below my hammock.

Up on a bluff at the far end of the lake.  The outlet creek and camp spots are in the trees by the lake and directly below the highest peak..

Still a bit of snow in the bowl.  The traverse from the Graywolf Pass comes in at the low point in the ridge, just to the left of the green patch above the snow.

Lots of fish in the lake if you are into fishing.

Other than a nail or two in trees, and lots of trails, this was the only sign of humanity I saw on my full day at the lake.

While eating dinner on a rock by the lake, I noticed this butterfly going for a swim.  I watched to see if a fish would snag him, but eventually fished him out with a stick.

A waterfall mid-way down the Cedar Creek.

Another interesting looking mushroom.

This tree, loaded with burls, was near the bottom of the Cedar Lake way trail.

A mossy rock with a contrasting pair of mushrooms.

A star in a tree.  

This stretch of the Graywolf trail is covered with a thick carpet of moss.  One of my favorite spots on the trail.