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John Guilford's Hikes

Mt. Angeles trail, Klahhane Ridge/Hurricane Ridge area, O.N.P. on 1995-05-28

Date: 1995-05-28

Location: Mt. Angeles trail, Klahhane Ridge/Hurricane Ridge area, O.N.P.

People: (including myself): Pam

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Start:		1:15	5220	5230
Victor Pass:	4:10	5880	5880
Leave:		4:50	5900
Trail Junction:	5:20	5180	5100
Out:		7:00	5260
The weather was gorgeous - as close to perfect as one could get.  It was sunny and warm but not too hot, with clear views of all the mountains. 

Originally, we debated whether to hike along the Mt. Angeles trail or to drive out to Obstruction Point and do the Grand Pass/Badger Valley Trail loop.  Upon arriving at the Hurricane Ridge visitor center, we found that the decision was already made for us as the road to Obstruction Point was still closed (snow).  The road is normally opened (according to a ranger) mid to late June.  We thus decided to do the Mt. Angeles trail as far as Victor Pass and perhaps doing the Hurricane Hill trail (an easy 1.4 mile trail gaining 750 ft) afterwards.  It was good that we decided to do it in this order, as we ended up not having time for Hurricane Hill. 

I had wondered whether the deer would still be as unafraid of people as they were the last time I was here.  We quickly discovered that they were by seeing several deer wandering around amidst the chaos of a Memorial day crowd.  This was exemplified by a little girl chasing one of the deer all over the meadow (despite signs asking people to please stay on the paved trails).  The deer was nonchalant, staying just ahead of the girl. 

The Mt. Angeles trail starts from east side of the parking lot where one first climbs over a small hill.  The hillside was still snow covered so Pam and I elected to don gaiters.  The snow on the hillside was completely trampled in footsteps from the myriad of people hiking up to the top of the hill. However, as we got further from the visitor center, the concentration of people dropped considerably, thus we enjoyed most of the hike in peace. 

On the far side of the hill, we picked up the Mt. Angeles trail proper and headed out.  Off to the south, we had great views of the interior, snow covered mountains of the Olympics.  Once past the hill, the trail was primarily dry dirt with occasional patches of snow in the trees and shadier portions of the trail.  Occasionally, there'd be longer stretches of snow.  The trail here is relatively flat for a ways with the terrain being mostly open alpine meadow with clumps of trees.  Sometimes the trail led over the top of the ridge; often the trail traversed the slope just below the ridge line.  The day was warm and soon our legs started sweating under the gaiters and we decided to take them off, seeing as we really didn't have need for them.  As we were standing there, taking off the gaiters and having a drink, we happened to be facing off the side of the trail.  I happened to look behind us and suddenly noticed Mrs. Deer walking along a few feet next to the trail behind us.  The deer was pretty quiet and had snuck within 10 feet without our noticing.  She didn't seem bothered by us at all and continued along the trail line, passing us by. 

Perhaps half a mile down the trail (and a short distance after we took off the gaiters), the trail climbs a real minor hill.  On the far side was a long snow covered slope that we had to go down.  So the gaiters went back on again and we started down.  I really didn't want to get all wet and cold, but the opportunity to glissade down the hill was too much and off I went.  The day was warm enough that the soaking pants weren't really cold or uncomfortable, and they dried before the end of the hike.  Pam was wearing jeans and opted to just walk down the hill. 

Along the way, we heard a bird singing and traced the sound to a little bird perched on the top of a small tree adjacent to the trail.  It was the littlest Junco bird I've ever seen, not larger than 2 or 3 inches.  His loud song was at odds with his diminuitive size.  I decided to get a photo of the bird and pulled out my camera and dug out my 2X teleconverter.  As expected, the bird waited until the lens swapping was all done only to fly away before I could take the picture. 

After that hill, the trail was again mostly flat and dry.  For the most part, the trail traverses the south east side of Sunrise Ridge above the Hurricane Ridge Road.  At times the trail descends and at times it ascends until it does a slow descent to a junction with the Switchback Trail at 2.6 miles.  The Switchback Trail provides the quickest access to the Victor Pass area.  The Switchback Trail climbs 700 feet in 0.6 miles from the road to intersect the Mt. Angeles trail.  From that junction, the Mt. Angeles trail climbs steeply (using switchbacks) 800 feet up the slope of Mt. Angeles, finally leading to Victor Pass at 3.6 miles. 

To gain access to the Victor Pass area, the Switchback trail provides a much shorter and quicker route than the Mt. Angeles trail, though the ascent can be a grind at times.  Using the Mt. Angeles trail does save half of the grind of the Switchback trail, but only half.  One still has the top half of the Switchbacks to contend with.  The Mt. Angeles trail does provide some mightly nice hiking and views and can be worthwhile in its own right. 

On our hike, just above the junction of the Switchback trail and the Mt. Angeles trail we started hitting more and more frequent snow with the top of the switchbacks being more snow than not.  For the most part, the boot trail in the snow tried to follow the switchbacks, though in places where snow reached all the way between two legs of the switchbacks people generally opted for the more direct route. 

Once you reach Victor Pass, you gain stupendous views of Port Angeles, Dungeness Spit, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island and Victoria.  Today, there was a bank of fog hanging just along the coast line (with a well established edge).  On the west side of the pass is Mt. Angeles and on the east, Klahhane ridge continues.  One trail continues along Klahhane ridge, while, on the other side of the pass, the Mt. Angeles trail continues down into the bowl traversing the side of Mt. Angeles before switchbacking up to notch between the second and third peaks of Mt. Angeles.  The pass is a good place for a rest break or possibly lunch.  Often mountain goats can be seen here.  This hike was no exception, and a search discovered a pair of goats high on the side of Mt. Angeles.  They were too far for photographing, but showed up quite clearly with the binoculars.  The fate of the mountain goats is uncertain.  The original 12 or 18 animals were introduced to the Olympic mountains (40? years ago) and quickly spread to a herd of 1200.  Unfortunately, they were very successful at destroying the native vegetation and the park service has been trying to remove them from the mountains.  Trapping hasn't been successful and as of this time, the park service is attempting to start up a program of shooting the remaining animals.  As of now, their proposed program is still up for public comment. 

After a break and some food, we started back down on the way home.  The trip down the switchbacks was considerably easier than the trip up, giving me some opportunities to practice my standing glissades (I didn't want to get my pants all wet with the evening setting in). 

One of the surprising things I noticed on the hike was that we were the only people I saw with gaiters on, though I did hear one group lamenting that they didn't bring any.  The snow was certainly prevalent enough that I was glad to have them. 

The hike back was pleasant with the lower sun making interesting shadows on the terrain.  The large snow slope that I had originally glissaded down is visible from quite a few places on the trail.  Looking back at it, it seemed larger and more formidable than it had earlier.  That was the only large uphill trek on the way back (though some segments of the trail had long stretches of a more gradual climb).  We finally arrived at the base of the snowy hill and started up.  Despite its imposing facade, it only took 10 minutes to grind up the hillside to the top.  After having done so, I discovered a side trail that bypasses the top of the hill and would have made an easier ascent route (around the east side of the hill, starting about 2/3's the way up). 

The animals were more prevalent during the hike back.  We passed several deer grazing in the meadows and had one deer that walked along with up (parallel to the trail) for quite a ways.  It was in interesting experience taking a deer out for a walk. 

In the hillside about 20 minutes from the end, we came across a group of about 5 marmots.  Pam hadn't seen marmots since she was a kid, and I haven't run across them in years.  These marmots gave us the best show that I've ever seen.  One marmot was up the hillside and somewhat closer to us.  He saw us and said, "Oh, oh! People!" and went running/scurrying off down the hillside.  When he got to the other marmots, they all joined him scurrying away.  They then stopped and checked us out and must have decided that we were okay, as the first marmots came running back up the hillside to the trail, and then came running down the trail towards us.  We could even hear the sound of his feet beating the trail, which, combined with the (large) view of the marmot through the binoculars, made an impressive sight.  Pam and I merely had fun watching their antics.  At one point, I turned around to Pam to find that the deer that we'd been hiking with had snuck up on us on the trail.  The deer went several feet off the trail and passed us.  The sight of the deer (apparently) set off the marmots again and they again went running down the hillside.  The deer seemed to have a bemused look as to say, "What are you guy's problem?"

Along the way back Pam also spotted a couple of ptarmigans alongside the trail.  When we finally returned to Big Meadow (Hurricane Ridge parking lot), we found that many of the people that had thronged the place midday had left, leaving it relatively calm.  On the slopes below the parking lot, we could see no less than a dozen deer grazing or merely laying down taking it easy. 

Though we didn't have time to hike up to the top of Hurricane Hill, we did drive out to check it out.  Past the parking lot at the visitor's center, the road turns narrow and descends a bit until it climbs up again and ends in 1.6 miles at a circular turn around with limited parking.  There are also a few picnic areas along the way.  Due to the narrowness of the road, it is probably better to drive out the trail head, if possible, than to park at Big Meadow and hike out along the road. 

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Last updated on: Thu Jun 25 16:23:56 PDT 2015