Joel was right. The Olympic rain shadow is pretty amazing. It was to be sunny & dry.
Joel and I have gone backpacking together the last two years and have had some great trips but before hand I generally whine about wanting it to be sunny and dry. The NWS forecast for Royal Basin showed a possibility of rain so I suggested we try the East side of the Cascades. Joel wanted the Olympics (I honestly did too but I craved sun) and convinced me to chance it. Damn happy we did.
The trail meanders along the Royal Creek for most of the hike, if it’s not within clear sight it’s still quite audible. This time of year with the prodigious melt it was running high and loud.
Through the old growth forest we walked with the wild rhodies blooming to keep us company. We went mid-week and with the exception of one couple with a dog out for a walk we saw no one else on the way up.
One of my favorite wildflowers, the Red Columbine, was growing along the trail. We saw a number of wildflowers blooming. Even though snow was definitely sticking around for a couple more weeks the flowers are out in force..
We had read in the Park Service trail report about a couple of avalanches and came upon the first one after two hours of hiking. The power of an avalanche is simply amazing. Huge, old trees were ripped from the Earth, thrown down the mountain and buried under rock and ice. It was incredible. It also required some route finding since the trail disappeared under the carnage.
I had marked the waypoint on the GPS but had forgotten to name it – not a problem – looking at the track later you can see the back-and-forth as we figured out the best route across and back onto the trail.
The Royal Creek continued to wind through the forest. We crossed numerous little streams feeding the creek. I took photos of most of them. I will spare you many.
Finally we arrived at the Lower Meadow – all to ourselves. A creek for water, mountains for scenery and birds for background music. Awesome.
We set up camp and made a quick meal of Ramen, yum – nothing like cardboard after six miles of hiking. From the meadow we crossed the Royal Creek for the first time on the way to Royal Lake. The bridge was a bit tricky for me, not because it was narrow, high or particularly long, but because the water moving under it was going so fast. It was disorienting the first time over but I finally figured out to ignore the water and all was good.
We arrived at Royal Lake after climbing through snow and trees. I was happy to have the ice axe along, not strictly necessary but comforting.
One of the joys of backpacking is quiet time in the woods and mountains. Joel and I were chatting about my recent foray into deer hunting and he was asking about what makes a safe shot. I was explaining what I thought would be a safe shot. I said a deer coming out of the woods toward the water would be a good, safe shot.
Well what do you know. Out of the woods and walking toward the water came a doe. She eventually came quite close to us without showing any real concern. I took far too many photos of her – I’m not sure what got into me. At home we have hundreds of feet of fencing to keep them out and if they do break in we chase them out. In the back-country all animals fascinate me.
We saw more wildlife on this trip than previous jaunts into the Olympics – perhaps because of the time of year, perhaps because we had the entire region to ourselves. We saw a nice fat rabbit bouncing across the snow, the deer, a mouse, squirrels and birds of course. It was a nice change of pace from marmot after marmot.
On the way back from the lake we stopped to climb a huge boulder overlooking the meadow, it was covered with wildflowers and lichen. I was really struck by the white (milk?) quartz with the orange lichen. I love the color orange, it always draws my eye.
Back at the campsite the sun was setting, glowing on the range surrounding the meadow. We didn’t see much in the way of a sunset. We did see a number of UFOs though. Really, there were some strange things in the sky. Maybe it was the bourbon.
I was hoping to get some sunrise photos like I shot at nearby Marmot Pass but sleeping in won. I’m a little bummed about it but not entirely.
The following morning we woke, climbed a scree and snow field and sat, taking in the mountains. The meadow is seen in the lower left.
After descending we broke camp and hiked out, another great, dry, trip to the Olympics.
Can’t wait for next year!