Just as an update, a week ago we went on a 5-day backpack trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington — a big loop to Spectacle and Spade Lakes. After that we had hopes for a sunny weather forecast and another trek in Washington, but alas the weather deteriorated and the forecast for the next week was rain, rain, rain. Also if we wanted to stick to our loose schedule for the summer, the mid-July date said it was time to move on. So although there’s SO much more I had wanted to do in Washington, we hit the road again and are now in the Canadian Rockies! We’re in Fernie at the moment and plan to work our way north through the range for the next 3 weeks or so, of course doing lots of backpacking and hiking along the way.
As we continue traveling and backpacking on our big summer road trip, I’ve realized that it’s unfeasible to keep this blog up to date with my photos and trip reports. So, unfortunately, just as we’re starting to get into the more exciting backpacking trips, the photos and reports will have to wait until autumn when we’re back… or perhaps until some long rainy down days… but hopefully that won’t happen too often!
Mount Olympus is the king of the Olympus Peninsula in Washington; laden with thick glaciers, the 7,980 foot peak soars above the surrounding rainforest valleys. Some of the finest views to be had of this remote mountain are from the High Divide trail which follows a high ridge opposite the Hoh River valley — that is, when the notorious Olympic Peninsula rain stops long enough to see it. In early July right after our Olympic coast trek we spent 4 days backpacking a loop route from the Sol Duc valley via the High Divide in Olympus National Park, hoping to catch a view of Olympus.
After a first night at Deer Lake we hiked up to the High Divide ridgeline and relaxed for a few hours on the summit of Bogachiel Peak while waiting for the clouds and fog to hopefully lift off the next section of the trail. We were excited when the clouds started breaking up, revealing glimpses of rugged snow-capped peaks across the Hoh River valley. Each time we saw a big peak through the clouds we’d think “Wow! That must be Mount Olympus!” only to see another even bigger peak moments later! After a while the clouds fully lifted, revealing Mount Olympus and its glaciers in all their glory.
We enjoyed dinner and sunset views up on the High Divide trail, then descended to our tent at Heart Lake. The next day was socked in with fog and rain all day, which made us all the more grateful for the great weather we had during our High Divide walk the previous day.
So we spent the 4th of July tentbound at Heart Lake — no fireworks or parties, only rummy and mountain goats to keep us occupied!
Finally on our last day we packed up our wet tent in the rain and walked the last eight miles down the Sol Duc valley back to the trailhead, admiring the lush forest all the way.
At the end of June we did a 4-day backpacking trek up the wild coast of the Olympic Peninsula from Rialto Beach to Sand Point, in Olympic National Park. This was a fairly demanding hike with many rugged and rocky headlands that could only be passed at low tide, along with the ever present coastal fog and rain. The tough hiking and weather was rewarded with secluded wilderness beaches, picturesque sea stacks, tidepools, and the company of seals and bald eagles.
In late June we visited my uncle and cousins in Ashland, Oregon for a few days, then made a quick drive up through the state. Our first stop on the way was Crater Lake National Park, where we hiked with my uncle up a crumbly peak to the high point along the rim of the crater. This spectacular caldera lake at over 6,000 feet elevation was formed when the Mount Mazama volcano collapsed about 7,700 years ago, and subsequently filled with water. The lake is the deepest in the United States — 1,949 feet at its deepest.
From Crater Lake we took a scenic route past the Sisters mountains then up towards Mount Hood where we spent a night near Trillium Lake. Early in the morning I walked to the lake, which was shrouded in fog. As I sat there peacefully at the calm and misty lake, a bald eagle silently swooped down and grabbed a fish out of the lake in front of me! The ease and grace of the eagle’s catch was awe inspiring… and then it came back a few minutes later and did it again, making it look like the easiest thing in the world. So magestic. Welcome to the northwest!
Later in the morning the fog lifted, revealing a glorious view of Mount Hood above!
After leaving Tahoe we drove west to the coast then spent several days walking and hiking in the magnificent redwood forests of Northern California. Words and even photos can’t really do justice to the sheer immensity of these giant trees and the raw feeling of power they emanate as you walk amongst them!
After driving across Nevada we arrived at beautiful Lake Tahoe where we camped for a couple nights. We enjoyed a sunset and some wine at the beach at the quiet D.L. Bliss State Park on the west side of the lake, then the next day hiked the famous Rubicon Trail along the lake both ways.
Yet again our backpacking hopes for Tahoe were dashed by too much snow still in the high country, and with high winds still in the forecast we bailed after our second night and continued into California. Gotta come back to Tahoe again someday!
In mid-June during the first week of our road trip we took a zigzagging route through the Great Basin of western Utah and Nevada. The Great Basin gets its name from the fact that no rivers flow out of the region; there are few rivers or streams, and any flowing water collects in broad lakebeds or salt flats where it eventually evaporates. Encompassing most of the state of Nevada and the western portion of Utah, the Great Basin is characterized by a seemingly endless series of rugged north/south ranges with broad, empty desert valleys in between. Our first stop was the remote House Range near the western border of Utah, where Notch Peak soars dramatically over the desert with a sheer 3,000 foot vertical north face.
We had hoped to hike a ridge route up to the top of Notch Peak, but a forecast of high winds and thunderstorms quashed that plan, so we moved on to nearby Great Basin National Park just over the border in Nevada. Here the same relentless high winds also convinced us to abandon our plans to hike up Wheeler Peak, opting to not spend a day getting blasted by chilly gusts on the high ridgeline. But we did enjoy a tour through the famous Lehman Cave, a beautiful cave system under the base of the mountain.
Next we drove north to the Ruby Mountains, the most “alpine” of Nevada’s numerous mountain ranges. We drove up Lamoille Canyon on the west side of the range, and were immediately awed by the super rugged peaks soaring precipitously above the valley on all sides. What awesome mountains!
We’d been hoping to do a backpacking trip in the high Ruby peaks but were also expecting that there would probably be too much snow still. Indeed, the high peaks still had a substantial snowpack and the high lakes still frozen, so we camped a few nights in Lamoille Canyon and did smaller day hikes instead. We will have to return another year for some backpacking in this incredible mountain range!
After a long, cold winter, the moment we’ve been looking so forward to has finally come! We’re all packed up and tomorrow we head off into the great wide open for a 3½ month road trip to Alaska and back!
We don’t have a specific itinerary, but here’s the rough plan so far: First, we’ll take our time driving west through the Basin and Range country of western Utah and Nevada. Next, over to northern California to see the redwoods, then up through Oregon and Washington to visit some relatives and friends in both those states. We’ll spend a few weeks in Washington, hopefully doing some backpacking there in the Olympics and Cascades. By early to mid July we’ll venture up into Canada, over towards and through the Canadian Rockies. Then the long haul up to Alaska, where we’ll be for most of August, perhaps doing some backpacking in the Wrangell-St.Elias and Denali areas. By late August to early September we’ll head over through the Yukon, then back home to Colorado by the end of September.
Of course we intend to do lots of hiking and backpacking treks along the way. Speaking of which, if there’s any experienced backpackers reading this who’d like to join us for a wild trek up in Alaska or Canada, we’d be happy to have your company! Give me a shout and perhaps we can rendezvous at some point.