JANUARY 2000 HIKE O' THE MONTH
Hurricane Ridge Toilet Bowl
Seabury Blair Jr.
For a family snowshoe or cross-country ski outing, the Toilet Bowl at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park is tough to beat.
I know, I know: the name doesn't make it sound like much fun. But the reason they call it the Toilet Bowl is because there's a restroom at this popular summer picnic spot.
In the winter, however, the rest room and picnic tables are covered by about 10 feet of snow and the paved road leading one mile from the lodge is closed.
That makes a great half-day trip for parents with kids in tow or a terrific backcountry downhill adventure for kids with parents in tow.
There's plenty of adventure for skiers and 'shoers of all skill levels.
Snowboarders willing to snowshoe or "post-hole" and telemark skiers will find two excellent slopes one in southern sun and one stashing powder to the north.
The trail begins just south of the remodeled Hurricane Ridge Lodge, 17 miles south of Port Angeles on Hurricane Ridge Road. Ski or snowshoe south of the lodge towards a grove of snowclad silver fir marking the start of the trail.
The beginning of the trail (actually the road to the Hurricane Hill parking lot in the summer) might be too steep for beginning skiers. They might want to walk the first 0.2 miles to the point where the trail flattens out at a curve to the left. From here, ski or hike a few hundred yards to a sharp bend to the right and a splendid view to the Olympic mountains to the southwest.
The trail drops again, briefly, before flattening out and rounding a wide corner to the left past Toilet Bowl. There is excellent cross-country touring along this road for another mile to the Hurricane Ridge parking area,with gentle grades in either direction that will challenge beginning cross-country skiers and give the kids a place for safe downhill fun.
To get to the sunny southern slope at Toilet Bowl, ski or hike past the snow-covered rest room through the trees about 100 yards. Big snow-humps scattered along the edge of the meadow are picnic tables. The meadow drops with increasing steepness for downhill adventure of at least 400 vertical feet.
Cross-country skiers not inclined to such inclines will enjoy the spectacular views of Mount Carrie and the Bailey Range across the Elwha River Valley, below.
The north-facing slopes of Toilet Bowl are more challenging for telemark skiers and backcountry boarders because trees which once were small and easily avoided have grown considerably in the past few years. The first slope is perhaps less than 100 vertical feet and leads to a broad, flat valley.
Continue skiing to the north to find a second, steep slope with northern exposure that leads to the headwaters of the south branch of the Little River.
Here you can drop at least another 200 feet before trees make skiing or riding difficult for all but the expert.
Skiers or snowshoers looking for more exercise will find it by continuing past Toilet Bowl to the end of the road, then following the snow-covered nature trail another 1.5 miles to the summit of Hurricane Hill.
This section traverses a very steep section that can be avoided by climbing over the top of the first peak past the Hurricane Hill parking area. The steep traverse is obvious, but is marked by a sign, "Steep and Icy," and the detour is marked with orange poles.
Skiers and snowshoers planning to go beyond the end of the road at the Hurricane Hill parking area should allow an entire day for their outing.
Although the round-trip distance is only 6 miles, winter has a way of making it seem much longer.