Whiskey Loop Hike and a Dam Removal

Port Angeles, WA

Our first hike in Olympic National Park was a 6.3 mile lollipop loop trail beginning at the Whiskey Bend Trailhead.  To get to the trailhead we drove west on US 101 a few miles from our site at Elwha RV Park and turned south on to the Olympic Hot Springs Road just before the highway crossed the Elwha River.  After four miles on this paved road we again turned left on to Whiskey Bend Road, a narrow, dirt road that goes sharply uphill for another five miles ending in a loop that is the trailhead.

 

The main trail for this hike is the Elwha River Trail.   We hiked the Elwha River Trail across the hillside through dense forest for about .9 of a mile until we came to a junction with the Rica Canyon Trail, clearly marked with a small sign. Turning off on the Rica Canyon Trail we began a very steep descent on this narrow, sometimes overgrown, path to the river.  After a half mile the Rica Canyon Trail ends at the start of the misnamed Geyser Valley Trail but, before taking it, we hiked out the short Goblin’s Gate Trail to see this narrow rock gorge that constricts the churning Elwah River.  At Goblin’s Gate there was a nice rocky overlook where we sat eating lunch with a great view of the water rushing through the narrow channel.

Lunch with a view

We returned to the Geyser Valley Trail and continued upstream along the river to Humes Ranch, set atop a grassy field.

Two hikers we met sitting outside the Humes Cabin

Grant and Will Humes built a cabin and barn on the site in 1900.  They made their living hunting cougar and guiding camping parties into the Olympic Mountains.  Grant returned to their native New England in 1914, but Will continued to live in the cabin until his death in 1934.  The barn is gone but the cabin has been restored by the park service.

The cabin is at the end of the loop so we began the hike back on the Humes Ranch/Long Ridge Trail going uphill across a forested hillside that had many streams flowing sharply down the steep embankment.

Before long we came to the recently restored Michael’s Cabin. The story goes that Michael’s Cabin was named for “Cougar Mike,” who kept the local mountain lion population under control.  We were a bit disappointed to find that Cougar Mike never lived in the cabin. In fact, the cabin was built in 1937 on land formerly owned by Mike.  The two men who built the cabin used it as they traveled the area maintaining trails and keeping the phone lines intact.

Michael’s Cabin

We continued on the Humes Ranch/Long Ridge Trail until it re-joined the Elwha River Trail leading back to the Whiskey Bend Trailhead.

As we drove up the Whiskey Bend Road, we stopped briefly at an overlook for the former site of the Glines Canyon Dam.  We say “former site” as the dam was removed between 2011 and 2014.  From our vantage point we could see across the river to the remains of the dam’s spillway on the other side.  There was no information where we were standing (on the east side), but we could see information displays on the other (west) side of the river.  So after our hike we drove around to the other side to visit that part of the remains of the dam.

View from the east side (Whiskey Bend Road)

Looking down from the east side

View back across from the west side

Below is a photo of the dam before removal.  The “You Are Here” point is the viewing area on the west side of the river.  The dam is just to the left of that in the photo.

OK, you want a little history of the whole dam thing, so you’re going to get it!

Glines Canyon Dam, built in 1927, was a 210-foot  high concrete arch dam built on the Elwha River.  The dam, as well as the Elwha Dam eight miles up river, was built privately to generate electricity for industries and major military installations on the Olympic Peninsula, including lumber and paper mills in Port Angeles.

But while providing electricity to the nearby communities, the Glines Canyon Dam blocked access by migrating salmon to the upper 38 miles of mainstream habitat and more than 30 miles of tributary habitat.  The Elwha River watershed once supported salmon runs of more than 400,000 adult spawning returns on more than 70 miles of river habitat.  By the early 21st century, fewer than 4,000 adult salmon returned each year.

Numerous groups lobbied Congress to remove the two dams on the river and restore the habitat of the river and its valley. The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992 authorized the Federal Government to acquire both dams for decommissioning and demolition for habitat restoration.

The Elwha Ecosystem Restoration project began removal of the dam, along with nearby Elwha Dam, in September 2011 and concluded in August 2014.  Now that the dam has been removed, the area that was under Lake Mills is being re-vegetated and its banks secured to prevent erosion and to speed up ecological restoration.

Area previously covered by Lake Mills

Numerous display panels on the west side observation point explain the removal process.  The photos below show the progression of the project.

If you’re interested in a neat animated video of the removal of the dam click here.

We’ll be in the Port Angeles area for the next couple of weeks and have a number of exciting hikes planned.  More on that later . . .

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North to the Olympic Peninsula

Port Angeles, WA

After a windy couple of days along the Columbia River Gorge, we headed west on I-84 and turned north on I-5 near Portland.  An uneventful drive of 200 miles put us 10 miles northwest of Olympia, WA in a small RV park attached to the Little Creek Casino.

The park has about 45 paved sites of varying lengths.  Our site was just long enough for our motorhome with no space left for the Jeep (we parked it in the nearby casino parking lot).  The short length of the site didn’t bother us much, but we did have a problem with the site being very unlevel.  We had to put two pieces of wood under each front tire to keep them on the ground.  The sites here are of various length with many as short as 30 feet and some over 60 feet (see the photo below).

The weather was a bit dismal during our stay, but we did have a chance to drive into Olympia to visit the state capitol building.  It may be a bit difficult to keep a building like this clean in the wet climate of the area, but the dark areas sure give the capitol a distinct Gothic look.

The capitol building was constructed in the 1920s and a picture hanging in one of the hallways shows how it looked when it opened in the early 1930s.

 

Free tours of the building are offered on the hour during normal business hours.  One was just beginning as we entered the building so we quickly caught up with it.  The bicameral legislature was not in session that day so we were able to visit both chambers.

House of Representatives Chamber

A 10,000 lb chandelier hangs in the rotunda suspended 50 feet above the floor by a 101 feet  chain.  It is 25 feet tall and could fit a full-size Volkswagen Beetle if put in sideways.

Across from the capitol building sits another imposing building, the Washington State Supreme Court building.

The capitol complex sits on a hill that overlooks Capitol Lake and West Bay to the north.

After three nights in Little Creek we continued our journey north on Rte. 101.  The two lane highway ran for a number of miles right along the Hood Canal.  Interestingly, Hood Canal isn’t a canal, it is a natural waterway.  Hood Canal was named by the British Navy Captain George Vancouver in 1792 in honor of Admiral Lord Samuel Hood.  Vancouver used the name “Hood’s Channel” in his journal but wrote “Hood’s Canal” on his charts.  The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (there actually is such an organization) decided on “Hood Canal” as its official name in 1932.

The road wound its way along the shoreline before heading inland to go around Mt. Walker.  It crossed a couple of old bridges that were a bit narrow for those traveling in a large vehicle.  Fortunately, there was little traffic during our trip.

After about a hundred miles we came to the largest city on the Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles.

As we drove through town  we could just see a bit of the Olympic Mountains peaking out of the clouds to the south.  Hopefully we’ll experience a clear day during our month-long stay and get a good view of the snow covered peaks.

We drove about ten miles west of Port Angeles and settled in to our home for the next two weeks at Elwha Dam RV Park.  We could only get a spot here for two weeks, so for the second half of our stay in Port Angeles we’ll move across town to the KOA.

Elwha Dam RV Park

Our neighbors

We haven’t seen friends Laurel and Eric (Raven and Chickadee) in a long time so we were pleased to find that they would be staying nearby as they make their way to a summer stay on nearby Lopez Island.  They are staying at a nice little county park, Salt Creek, about ten miles from us right along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The day they arrived we drove out at low tide to visit with them and explore some nearby tide pools.

Eric and Laurel

The sea bed in the tide pool area was literally covered with mussel shells.

Tucked among the shells were large numbers of anemones waiting for the sea water to return.

Once the water returns these little creatures open up into a wide variety of colorful forms.

Serious discussion about sea life

Eric and Laurel will be around for the next six days so we have some hikes planned with them before they head for the island.  More on that later . . .

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Along the Columbia River – Mosier, OR

Mosier, OR

After staying in Bend two extra days to let some rain pass through, we headed north on US-97 Monday morning.  The trip of about 145 miles began pleasantly, but soon became a bit of a struggle.  The first problem was of our own making.  We stopped for fuel in the town of Madras then drove right under a large sign over the road telling us to turn right at the next light.  But since we failed to see the sign, we drove straight through the intersection.  We didn’t see any route number signs along the way so we drove about 20 miles before we noticed we were on Rte 26, not Rte 97!  What a dumb move! We found a spot to turn around and headed back to Madras.  Oh well, we were not in a hurry anyway.  We returned to Madras, got onto Rte 97, and continued our journey to the north.  As we crossed the open high desert the wind began to increase from the west.  A strong crosswind in a high profile vehicle is never a good thing.   We came to a “Y” in the road and took the left on to Rte 197, the most direct route to The Dalles, where we would get on to I-84.  The scenery along Rte 197 is beautiful, but John didn’t get to enjoy it much.  He was hanging on with both hands as the road wound its way up and down some steep hills with the wind continuing to push us around.

After finally reaching The Dalles we hopped on I-84 heading west through the Colombia River Gorge.  Fortunately we didn’t have that far to drive, as we were now heading directly into the wind, which increased in intensity through the gorge.

Whitecaps on the Columbia River!

After what seemed an eternity we reached our destination, Memaloose State Park, where we had a reservation for two nights.  Memaloose is an interesting little park, tucked between the interstate and the river.  It is only accessible through a rest area on the west-bound side of the highway.  If you are coming east, you have to pass the park, drive about 3.5 miles to the next exit, and get on the westbound side.

The next day we intended to do some hiking up on the hills above the river but the strong winds that continued from the previous day forced us to change our plans.  We did drive up the side of the gorge on a section of the old Historic Columbia River Highway.  At the top of the first high hill we stopped at the Memaloose Overlook.  A plaque there explained the origin of the name “Memaloose.”

Memaloose Island was visible from the overlook.

From the overlook we continued west for about four miles to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint.  There are two trails there we intended to hike, however, the wind was just too strong with gusts over 40 mph.   But the view to the east was spectacular!

Below the overlook the road goes steeply down through a series of switchbacks.

Since it was too windy to hike along the river, we drove south on Rte 35 from nearby Hood River to see if we could catch a view of Mt. Hood.  We lucked out as about 25 miles from Hood River the cloud cover cleared and we were treated to a nice view of the mountain.

We turned around and drove a few miles back toward Hood River when we came upon the trailhead for Tamanawas Falls.  The wind down in the woods was minimal so we decided to take the two mile hike to the falls.

We had never heard of this trail but it turns out that this is a very beautiful hike.  The trail starts right out with a cool bridge that crosses the East Fork of the Hood River.

The trail followed the Hood River for about a half mile then turned and followed Cold Spring Creek up to the falls.

Two trees growing side by side fell in opposite directions

Many small falls dotted the creek as we hiked

A sign at the trailhead told us that a large rock slide blocked the trail near the falls.  We interpreted the wording to mean it was just “past” the falls.  Turns out it is just a quarter mile “before” the falls.  We came to a fork in the trail where the old trail went up to the right.  But a temporary trail to the left led us through the slide area.

Fork in the trail – the trail should go to the right, the temporary trail goes to the left

About a quarter mile past the rock slide we came to Tamanawas Falls.  This time of year the flow of water is at its max, making for an impressive sight.

Returning to the town of Hood River we rewarded ourselves with beer and pizza at the Double Mountain Brewery.  Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road) wrote about this place and we agree with their recommendation.  The beer was good and the pizza delicious.

Our next stop will be just northwest of Olympia, WA for a visit to the state capitol.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking to Tumalo Falls – Bend, OR

Bend, OR

Tumalo Falls is a 90 foot waterfall on the Tumalo Creek west of Bend. To get to the trailhead we took Skyliners  Drive about 10.5 miles from town and turn right on Forest Service Road 4601, which is clearly labeled for Tumalo Falls.  FSR 4601 is a gravel road about three miles long ending in a parking area at the base of the falls.

Just a short walk from the trailhead is a viewing area for the falls.  It’s a great place for a photo before heading up the trail.

About a quarter mile up the trail is another viewing area right next to the creek as the water tumbles over the falls.

Looking back to the parking area from the top of the falls

From the top of the falls the trail continues up following Tumalo Creek for another 3.75 miles to an area called Happy Valley.  Jim and Gail (Life’s Little Adventures) hiked this trail two years ago around the same time of year so we knew from their blog that we would run into snow blocking the trail before that.

Snow on the trail – Can we turn back yet?  No way says the nimble hiker!

More snow . . . Keep going!

There are two more sets of falls above Tumalo Falls.  When we arrived at the first set, we found a great area to view the river.

Turn around now? “Keep going,” says the nimble hiker.

It keeps getting deeper!

Just keep going . . .

. . . and going!

The third set of falls

We met another hiker who told us the snow was very deep above the third set of falls so we decided to turn around at that point.  We returned to the nice view point at the second falls to enjoy a little lunch.

Lunch with a view

This is a great hike with a little something for everyone.  We met a few families with children making the short, but steep climb up to the top of the first falls.  From there you can turn around or you can keep going as far as you like.  No matter the distance, the scenery along the creek is beautiful.

It’s difficult to believe that our month here in Bend is already drawing to an end.  We extended our stay here a couple of days to let some rainy weather pass through the area, but things are improving so we’re now continuing our journey to the northwest.  Next up is a short stay along the Columbia River.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking up Black Butte – Bend, OR

Bend, OR

Black Butte is an inactive volcano 5.5 miles west of the little town of Sisters, which is 18 miles northwest of Bend.

Black Butte, Oregon.jpg

Black Butte looks young, as it is barely eroded.  Mt. Washington, which is visible from the summit of Black Butte, looks much more eroded and older.  But Black Butte is significantly older than Mt. Washington which was eroded by glaciers.  Black Butte is east of the Cascade crest and does not receive enough precipitation to support glaciers, so erosion is minimal.

A steep but scenic trail climbs two miles to the panoramic summit, gaining 1,600 feet of elevation.  The trail begins to gain in elevation right from the start and doesn’t level out until you are on the summit.

Two of the many balsamroot flowers on the trail

Two of the Three Sisters and Broken Top come into view as we climb

The fire tower on the summit was build in 1995 to replace an older one that collapsed.

The building in the photo below was constructed in 1924 and served as living quarters and lookout until 1979.  A sign near it states that it will be remodeled in the near future.

Mt. Jefferson on the left, Mt. Hood in the distance on the right

Lunch with a view (Mt. Washington)

Heading down with Broken Top and the Sisters in the distance

Three Fingered Jack in the distance

The trail is lined with white serviceberry bushes

The long slog up to the summit was a real leg-burner for us (especially after a 7.5 mile hike the day before).  But the views from the top made it all worthwhile!

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Trail Around Paulina Lake – Bend, OR

Bend, OR

In a previous blog we wrote about a visit to the Newberry Caldera, located in a section of the Newberry National Volcano Monument about 30 miles south of Bend.  The Caldera was formed when a magma chamber collapsed and over time it filled up with water creating two lakes, Paulina Lake and East Lake.  A couple days ago we drove back to the area to hike the Paulina Lake Shore Loop Trail, a 7.5 mile hike along the shoreline of Paulina Lake.

As we hiked along the south shore of the lake the trail stayed very near the water and made its way through some snow and over a few very wet areas of recent snow melt.

Park information recommended hiking the trail in a counter-clockwise direction for the best views of nearby Paulina Peak.  We began to question that strategy during the first half of the hike, but as we rounded the lake and began to head west the snow covered peak began to come into view.

As we rounded the north side of the lake we went through an obsidian flow.   The area was filled with interesting pieces of obsidian.

Just a short distance further we came to an area of hot springs that help feed the lake.  A few small areas along the shore have been dug out and enclosed with tree limbs.

We checked out the water in one of the dug out areas and found it to be too hot to keep our hands in.  The water in the lake near the hot springs was quite comfortable compared to the rest of the lake.

We found that the hike back on the west side of the lake provided constant views of Paulina Peak.

While a bit long at 7.5 miles, this hike has only 200 ft of elevation gain (a go-around along the west shore) and has some beautiful scenery.  We really enjoyed it . . .

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Hiking to Lava Lakes

Bend, OR

The Cascades Lakes National Scenic Byway runs for 66 miles from Bend heading south on the east side of the Cascade Range.  It goes up and around Mt. Bachelor and provides access to many recreational facilities in central Oregon. The route is so named because it weaves past a number of small natural lakes along the Cascades, as well as several reservoirs on the upper Deschutes River.  Right now the road is closed on the other side of Mt. Bachelor due to deep snow.  One afternoon we drove south of Bend, then turned west to get on the byway south of the closure.  Once on the byway we drove north to a parking area for the Lucky Lake Trailhead, a one mile long trail leading west to Lucky Lake.  We were not hiking that trail but crossed the road to the beginning of a trail leading east to the Lava Lakes.

The unmarked trail to Lava Lakes

The trail is a nice, flat walk through the woods.  There was no evidence of anyone being on the trail and a couple of downed trees blocked our path, so we think we were the first hikers on it this year.

About halfway to the lakes we came upon a fairly large area with standing water covering the trail.  We were able to pick our way around and through the area without getting wet and rejoin the dry trail after a short detour.

OK, where’s the trail

Finding our own trail

Once around the water it was an easy hike up to Lava Lake.

Just a short hike south of Lava Lake is Little Lava Lake.  While Lava Lake has a campground and a couple of docks and boat launches, Little Lava Lake appears to have no facilities along its shoreline.  Little Lava Lake drains into a stream that is the headwaters of the Deschutes River.

Little Lava Lake

The mosquitoes were a bit aggressive so after visiting the two lakes we headed back down the trail.  After crossing through the area of standing water, we noticed what appeared to be fresh horse tracks on the trail.  Then we came to a spot where a fallen tree we had climbed over earlier had been cut out with a chainsaw.  As we approached the end of the trail we came to the source of our observations.  A couple of volunteers had ridden in on mules to clear downed trees on the trail.  They brought a third mule loaded with the necessary equipment, such as hand saws and a chainsaw.   They must have worked pretty quickly as we were not at the lake very long and we never heard any noise from the chainsaw.

We still have one more week left in Bend before moving northwest toward the Olympic Peninsula, so there are bound to be more adventures in our future.  More on that later . . .

 

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