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Washington

Hoh-High Divide Traverse

The Olympic Mountains have it all, and the Hoh-High Divide Traverse samples it in rapid-fire succession: rain forest, raging rivers, lupine spiked meadows, deep valleys carved by vanished glaciers, and craggy summits.

But perhaps the crowning glory of this 45-mile adventure is the High Divide itself, a long, meadowy crest that offers close-up views of glacier-decked Mt. Olympus. From the Divide, the glacially scoured U of the Hoh Valley drops so far at your feet that 200-foot fir trees look like the nap on a shag carpet. Somehow, the bugling of elk manages to drift up from 4,000 feet below.

This route is not for the faint of knee, since it refuses to stay up once it gets up. First it climbs 4,400 feet, then descends 2,700 feet, then climbs 2,700 feet, descends 1,900 feet, climbs 2,300 feet, and descends 4,800 feet.

It ends gently, with a nearly level 9.5-mile walk through the primeval setting of the Hoh Rain Forest-perfect for contemplating a tough challenge well-met.

Where: Olympic National Park, starting at Lake Crescent trailhead on US 101 and finishing at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center.

Route: Not one trail, but several that lead to the following landmarks: Barnes Creek, Boulder Lake, Appleton Pass, High Divide, and Hoh River.

Grunt factor: 3. Elevation gain/loss totals more than 19,000 feet, but you have at least four days in which to tackle it.

The payoff: The whole schmear, from rain forest to close-ups of glaciated Mt. Olympus, with meadowy campsites and glistening lakes in between.

More information: Both Custom Correct maps (3492 Little River Rd., Port Angeles, WA 98363) and Green Trails, Inc. (P.O. Box 77734, Seattle, WA 98177; 800-762-6277; www.greentrails.com; gtrails@aol.com) sell informative hiking maps of Olympic National Park.

-R. Lovett


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