I had assumed I’d be traveling solo for the bulk of my adventures this past summer, so I was pretty psyched when my friend John expressed interest in joining me on the section of the Pacific Northwest Trail that traverses Olympic National Park. After I completed the North Cascades section, John and I met up at The Happy House to prepare, then set out on our epic journey. Most seasoned hikers take about two weeks to complete the 200+ miles, but we were complete overachievers and did it in three, ensuring that lazy mornings and swimming were priorities. The miles we walked took us from Coupeville, WA to Shi Shi Beach…but with a twist. I’m not ashamed to say that we planned our trip around avoiding hiking a 6,000 foot elevation gain up Hurricane Ridge, also providing ourselves with an additional food resupply in an otherwise long section. In a nutshell, we started at the top of Hurricane Ridge and hiked westbound to Shi Shi Beach, then returned to Hurricane Ridge and hiked eastbound back to Coupeville. Hike smarter, not harder.
When we started out at Hurricane Ridge, our views were somewhat obscured by the wildfire smoke that had poured into the area from the fires burning in British Columbia. We could make out Mount Olympus to the south, but the ocean views were completely non-existent. We hiked down from Hurricane Hill into the Elwha River Valley and then up to the Seven Lakes Basin. The basin was a truly spectacular alpine area, above treeline and with many swimmable lakes. We saw several mountain goats lounging on a lingering snow patch and also a bear feasting on some just-ripe blueberries. Wildflowers were in bloom, and the smoke slowly dissipated as we hiked through the basin and down into the Bogachiel River Valley.
The Bogachiel River originates from several headwater sources in the Olympic Wilderness and flows west, joining with other rivers north of the Hoh, finally pouring into the Pacific Ocean near LaPush, WA. It is part of the Hoh Rainforest, a lush area that sees over 200” of rainfall per year. Luckily, none of that fell while we were hiking. The river boasts some amazing swimming holes, and although it was a fair bit colder than the high alpine lakes we had just left, that didn’t stop us from jumping (ok, easing) in for a refreshing dip. The rainforest is green and lush, with a thick groundcover of ferns and other bushes (many with thorns,) and massive old growth cedar and spruce trees. The way the sunlight filters through the tall canopy gives one the ethereal feeling of walking through a fairy tale.