Hike O' The Month: Wolf Creek Trail

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http://m.kitsapsun.com/news/2000/Sep/03/mr-outdoors-hike-o-month-take-scenic-olympic/

This seldom-traveled trail, actually the old Hurricane Ridge Road, makes an excellent walk through old forest on gentle hillsides covered with salal.

The first few miles make a rewarding walk for the whole family because the route is easily followed, even in snow. You might let the youngsters run on ahead without fear of them straying off course.

Some hikers make this trek one-way, usually starting at Hurricane lodge and walking 9 miles down to Whiskey Bend. If that is your choice, check at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center on the status of the Whiskey Bend Road.

Pick up the trail by making a U-turn uphill at the parking lot, marching past a horse corral and then making a wide bend to the east and south. Several sources note that Whiskey Bend got its name from road crews who met -- one working down from Hurricane Ridge and one working up from the Elwha River -- to celebrate with a bottle of whiskey.

The road was closed in the late 1950s after the new Hurricane Ridge Road was completed. Although trees are beginning to sprout on some sections, the way is obvious.

At about three miles, the trail makes the first of many switchbacks and bends close to Wolf Creek, which can be heard tumbling close by. Do not attempt to reach the creek, which is in a steep-walled canyon below -- a canyon that hid the remains of a Bremerton sailor whose body was not found for eight years.

Beyond this spot, on a hillside near the trail, a wire and old electric junction box leads up a tree to a red light. Its use, and who put it there, is unknown to this writer.

In a typical winter, the hiker will encounter snow about 3,300 feet, about 4.5 miles up the trail. Those who don't like post-holing can make the snow line the turnaround spot, no matter where it is.

Above this point, hikers will climb a long sub-ridge above Wolf Creek and finally, at about 6.5 miles, cross the creek. This is the only source of moving water on the trail.

Just beyond the creek crossing, openings in the trees provide more than the peekaboo views of the Elwha Valley below, with a sweeping panorama of Olympic Mountains to the west and south. Closest across the Elwha are the wild, trail-free sections of the Bailey Range.

Two or three more switchbacks, and the trail climbs steeply to a junction with the Hurricane Hill Road, which is a ski trail in the winter. Walk the trail one mile to the right to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

FOR THE KIDS

As mentioned, this is a great hike for youngsters, although you might want to consider walking only the first few miles. When the snow is low, there are long, gentle grades for sledding or cross- country skiing.

Banks cut into the hillside also make steep slides for snow play -- but make sure the run-out is safe and there's enough snow to avoid damaging the forest.

GOING FARTHER

On truly snowy winters, the Wolf Creek Trail is a great overnight outing. Plan on making camp just above the Wolf Creek Crossing, with snow play on the agenda at Hurricane Ridge.

A splendid winter adventure would be the hike up to Hurricane Ridge, out the Obstruction Point Road, along the ridge to Deer Park, then down the Deer Park Road to the parking area. The resulting hike, snowshoe or ski would be about 26 miles, gaining and losing more than 5,000 vertical feet.

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