The mountains across the valley is the Bailey Range, which run down the center of the Olympic Mountains. The view is from Hurricane Ridge, where there is a visitor center over 5000 feet. The valley full of clouds is the Elwha River … one of the huge success stories in salmon restoration. Two dams that were erected in the early years of the 20th century, without the required salmon ladders, were removed which opened up miles of prime salmon habitat. There used to be 5 species of salmon plus steelhead that called the Elwha home, and some of those have returned … hopefully the rest will eventually follow.
A Surprise Panorama
I was going through and organizing photos from the film days and found that there were a couple of photos that I had taken that could be combined into panoramas. This one was from a hike along Happy Lake Ridge in the Olympic National Park. The view is across the Elwha River valley over to Hurricane Ridge.
The Happy Lake Ridge trail is seldom hiked … even less since the Elwha Road washed out adding miles to access the trailhead. It is a nice loop trail, the upper end dropping down to Boulder Lake and then out through the Boulder Creek Trail and the (undeveloped) Olympic Hot Springs. With the wash out of the road, there are several miles of doubling back to get to the parking lot… but it is still mostly a loop.
End of Trail
The Griff Creek Trail leaves the Olympic Hot Springs Road just behind the Elwha Ranger Station in Olympic National Park. It climbs nearly 3000 feet ( ~ 950 m) in about 2.8 miles (4.5 km). So, it’s pretty steep. It has about 35 switchbacks and then it ends up on the middle of a steep section of hillside. It’s a nice hike with a view at the end of the Elwha Valley and environs.
That’s the end.
The Elwha River: Free at Last
The removal of the Elwha Dams drained Lake Mills. One of the concerns was with the huge amount of sediment that had been trapped behind the dams and the impact that would have on the ecology downstream. A lot of careful planning has resulted in a rapid recovery … salmon and steelhead trout have already returned to the river. Not in the huge numbers that once were present … but quicker than many thought likely.
From the photos below (less than a mile below the upper dam), you can see that the river is now running clean and clear.
Olympic Hot Springs Road Bike Trip
My friend Gary and I rode our bikes up the Olympic Hot Springs Road (also known as the Elwha River Road) … these days this entails a .7 mile bypass trail around a washed out section of the road. After the bypass, there is about 6 miles of road to get to the trailhead … the hot springs are another 2.2 miles of hiking … which we didn’t hike that day.
I have hiked through this area numbers of times over the last 40 years … but this was the first visit up the road since the washout happened several years ago. It brought back memories. The additional distance has had a dramatic impact on the number of people using the area.
The next post will concentrate on the river.