Spring Fever, Northwest-Style

When temps warm but the going's still snowy, strap on the webs.

By Dan Nelson, April 1998

Ah, spring, and a hiker's fancy turns to thoughts of trails. For most, that means warm, sunny days spent following sinuous paths through a reawakened landscape. For hikers in the Pacific Northwest, though, it's a time to cool your heels, literally. The high-country trails don't emerge from the snowpack until July or August, and fresh snow starts falling by October. To cope with a hiking season this short, you have to adapt by indulging in the joys of snowshoe camping.

Snow expands the backcountry, pushing trailheads down the mountain and turning roads into drift-covered trails. Destinations that are overrun with visitors in the summer become private enclaves. Because the days are warmer and longer, the sun consolidates the snowpack so there's less risk of avalanche. Winter-like conditions and high avalanche danger is always a possibility, so check with the land management agency before packing the car.

There's no better time to fall in love with a new wilderness pursuit, and no better place than the following location.

OBSTRUCTION POINT Olympic National Park

The 14-mile round-trip from Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center to Obstruction Point will have you wondering why people bother visiting this promontory during any other season. Stretched before you is a panorama of dazzling, talc-white mountains lorded over by glacier-capped Mt. Olympus. The distant peaks of the Bailey Range rear into view, and the dark Lillian River Valley broods below.

If snow conditions aren't cooperating or you're looking for a gentler outing, make camp at Waterhole just 4 miles out. For a more strenuous trek, push on to Obstruction Point. This 3-mile leg is treacherous in inclement weather, so heed weather reports and current conditions.

THE WAY: From Port Angeles, drive 17 miles up Hurricane Ridge Road to the Visitor Center, where overnighters are required to check with a ranger and sign in. Drive back down the road a half mile to a trailhead parking area near the first bend in the road.

MORE INFORMATION: Olympic National Park, 3002 Mt. Angeles Road, Port Angeles, WA 98362;
(360) 452-0330.

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