Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity in the Olympic Peninsula. (2012 April Fools Day Joke)

Every so often, we here at Exotic Hikes get great opportunities in the Olympic Peninsula, and when we do, we like to pass them onto our loyal followers. As you may have heard, due to the growth of the mountain goat population, the Olympic National Park has called for select individuals to lead the culling of this invasive species. Today, we are amazed and excited to announce that we were selected and our now the only local licensed business to operate and lead on mountain goat hunting parties in the Olympic Mountains.

The rules and regulations are a bit challenging, so only serious inquiries please. The permits we have obtained are good through 2012, and all goats must be culled only with hiking and climbing materials as to not disturb the environment with noise pollution. All goats culled must be shown to rangers before they can be taken home or to a taxidermist. Unwanted goats can be donated to local museums of Natural History and schools who have expressed interest in obtaining one.

For more detailed information, please email with the subject heading “Mountain Goat” for a full package breakdown. Act quickly as number are limited to the first 20 qualified individuals.

Thank you for supporting Exotic Hikes! Oh...and APRIL FOOLS!!!!!!!!
Douglas Scott

An (Ex) Locals Guide to Ocean Shores

Don't go the the crowded beaches in Ocean Shores
Having lived in Ocean Shores during my formative years, I feel like I am pretty much an expert on where to go, what to do and best of all, how to avoid tourists in the North Beach area. Don’t get me wrong, tourism is great and is basically the only thing keeping anyone living in the Harbor. However, a day at the beach to me doesn’t consist of renting bikes, large kites and looking at sad faced horses cringing from the hours of inactivity and sand blowing in their faces. The throngs of visitors circling the main downtown strip is enough to raise the stress level and cause a bout of road rage to the Dalai Lama himself. On a typical 4th of July weekend in Ocean Shores an estimated 400,000 people enter the gates of the town, all converging on the same beach areas. If you are like me, you want to find somewhere away from this.  Luckily, my guide, you will be able to still get you your saltwater taffy fix, let you see some kites and have hours of beachcombing. While there are numerous amenities around the area, most are overpriced, overcrowded and generally below expectations. That is why, with my years of experience in the area, I put together this guide. Enjoy!

About the Area
For simplicity sake, we will be focusing on the area from Ocean Shores to Moclips. This area, with a population of approximately 4,000, seems like it should be much more prosperous. With 5 small towns littering the 21 mile stretch of pristine coast, one can explore and avoid the crowds that always linger at the 3 main beaches in Ocean Shores. The local economy tends to be tourism, logging, and fishing, but aside from tourism, not many jobs are available. Like many cities away from solid infrastructure, drug use and alcoholism run rampant, but the locals are mostly friendly, helpful.

Sand Piper on the Beach
Interestingly enough, despite being isolated from the rest of what seems like the world, the communities have quite separate personalities, and tend to hold long standing grudges against each other. For instance, I lived in Shores (Ocean Shores) and was viewed as an elitist by those who live in Copalis, Pacific Beach or some other outlying small town. However, despite these petty differences, locals all tend to have one common enemy, the tourist. While tourism is the main catalyst for financial gain in the area, many locals find them to be along the same line as how Australia views invasive species. Some locals may not be friendly and/or give you improper directions, but for the most part they will reluctantly be kind and help you out. On a side note, if you are travelling to the area with teenaged children, be aware that a very small group of locals will try to intimidate, fight, drink with or sell drugs to them if they are left alone. This happens in every city, but please be aware of the behavior.

Brief City History of Ocean Shores and Pacific Beach
Ocean Shores: “Discovered” by Captain Robert Gray in 1792, Ocean Shores really had a long, boring first 150 years. It started out as a trappers land, until the trapper sold the south end of the peninsula to a man named Damon (hence Damon Point) who used the south end as a dock for supplies. Eventually he bought the whole peninsula until he gave the land to his grandson, who used it for a cattle ranch. In 1960, the land was bought for “one million dollars,” in hopes that the area could become the Las Vegas of the northwest, since the state government was apparently leaning to legalize gambling. Celebrities flocked to the city, even having Pat Boone become a resident. In the late 1960’s the city earned the moniker of being the “Richest Little City”, as they claimed having a total net worth of nearly $35,000,000 for the 900 residents. However, gambling was deemed illegal and soon the area struggled to generate any growth. 27 miles of canals and lakes were built to help the area become more tourist friendly, which are still accessible today. The area has slowly grown, now with a steady population of around 3000 people.

Old Pacific Beach Hotel, thanks to UW
Pacific Beach: Known to the locals as PB (it is, and never will be Peanut Butter Jelly time in PB) was founded in 1902 after the railroad from Aberdeen was expanded to the coast. It soon became a huge tourist destination for weekenders. Huge storms soon washed away hotels and many of the fancy aspects that made this a tourist destination, but the military used this area as a base in the 1950’s, giving the local economy another boost. Soon the military left, leaving the shell of city to recover slowly. 
Now, Pacific Beach is growing again thanks to quality places to stay, the proximity to the amenities in Ocean Shores and the remoteness that it offers from the throngs of tourists. Visit the shops here for your tourist goods, as they get less visitors and are more thankful for your business.

                                                Best Places to Fly a Kite- in no real order
1)      Damon Point in Ocean Shores
2)      Copalis Beach
3)      Ocean City
4)      Pacific Beach

Beachcombing Hot Spots:
1)      Damon Point in Ocean Shores
Snowy Owl at Damon Point
a.       Located on the southernmost point of Ocean Shores, the collection of sand forms a spit that not only faces the Ocean, but also the interior of Grays Harbor. On a sunny day from Damon Point, one can see the Olympic Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, and Mt. Rainier. After a storm, the beach is prime for collecting shells, agates, floats and the occasional glass ball. In the winter, this area is a hotbed for Snowy Owls and other migratory birds, making it a birders heaven.

2)      Ocean City and Pacific Beach
a.       For some reason, every year I lived in the area, the beach between Ocean City and Pacific Beach was notorious for having things wash up on shore. From boats and planes to whales, seals and jellyfish, these beaches are great to walk, drive or run. Also, in season clamming is occasionally available on these beaches. I also recommend these beaches to fly kites and spend a nice quiet day on the beach away from the masses in Ocean Shores

Places to Stay
1)      Pacific Beach
a.       For your money, there is no better place to experience the North Beach region than at Seabrook beach houses. These places are swanky, and allow you to be removed from the tourists and the depression of the local economy equally. Seabrook is where people who moved away from the harbor go to stay, because they don’t want to experience the negatives of the area.
                                                                          i.      Website:

2)      Copalis Crossing
a.        If forced to stay in Copalis, the best place to go is a camping site called Griffiths-Priday State Park. According to Wikipedia, it “It consists of 364 acres of beach, low dunes, and river mouth with 8316 ft of saltwater shoreline on the Pacific Ocean and 9950 ft. of freshwater shoreline on the Copalis River. Available activities include fishing, clamming, beachcombing, bird watching, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing.” This summary sounds correct to me and honestly, if you want to be in a remote area right on the beach, you can’t beat this place!

3)      Moclips
a.       When Frommers says “You simply won’t find a more setting anywhere on the Washington Coast” you know you have found somewhere amazing. The Ocean Crest Resort is the most impressive place to stay year round. From catching a summer sunset, to watching waves crash and the wind blow during a winter storm, the Ocean Crest is everything you would imagine a lodge on the Washington coast to be. I consider this area to be the true Washington Coast experience, and a perfect getaway for an anniversary, date weekend or just a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

4)      Ocean Shores
a.       Honestly, staying in Ocean Shores proper is much pricier than it should be; however, any of the hotels are fine to stay at. You can also camp out toward Damon Point or at Ocean City State Park. The best indoor lodging for the money is a stay at the Quinault Beach Resort. With a more private section of the beach, great food and a pool and hot tub, this is the best lodging destination for the Ocean Shores area.

Other Places of Interest and Things to Do:
Life is a Beach
      1)      Walking on or near the Ocean Shores Jetty
     2)      Canoeing in the 27 miles of man-made lakes and canals in Ocean Shores
     3)      Driving the beach (Please be careful and read all signs
    4)      Golfing in 30 mile an hour winds in Ocean Shores

From North Beach News. Drive Carefully
If you want a crowded, typical tourist experience in Ocean Shores, please visit their website. It has lots of information. They have many stores selling the same t-shirts, knickknacks and numerous flavors of salt-water taffy. I am not diminishing this experience, but to capture the true spirit of the area, you should see it through the eyes of a local.
Enjoy the beach, and no matter what type of trip you take, remember that it should be fun!

See you on the trails!
Douglas Scott
Exotic Hikes

Friday, March 30, 2012

Why I Hike

                After being asked this question nearly every day, I decided I would finally put these words down on record, hopefully inspiring some for you to discuss your reasons for hiking. I also do this in hope that my story, like your stories, will get passed down through the generations, building hiking up for future adventurers.

Mt. Erie, Wa
I remember my first hike, years ago on Deception Pass. Well, I wouldn’t call it a hike. I remember getting shoulder rides and carried by both my parents during this hot summer day. I must have been 5 or 6 years old, but being out in the woods with my family made me happy at that young age. I felt safe, I felt a sense of adventure, and above all, I felt loved by my parents and nature.

My home away from Washington
I have always had a life where I was connected to the outdoors, from family birding trips and day hikes, to travelling to national parks around the country and visiting Yellowstone for 10 straight years, nature has been in my veins. At the age of 13 I did my first long hike across the Olympic Peninsula. Taking 7 days and carrying a pack of 55 pounds when I only weighed like 105 (long story for a later date); we explored and connected with nature. At the age of 19 I left college at worked near Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Having three days off a week gave me time to explore so many areas that I almost decided then and there to never go back to a city or a college. Instead, I left, went back to school, graduated and soon was serving 2 years in China with the Peace Corps. I would have to say that China is where hiking went from a hobby to an obsession.

The Great Wall of China
If you ever go to China, you will be told repeatedly that they have over 5000 years of culture. This is more than likely true, and for some is viewed as a great achievement. However, in my 2 years there, I realized that all the roads, trails and forests I was walking in, 5000 years’ worth of people have been traversed same area. It was then and there that I realized just how special the Olympic Peninsula is. Yes, there is a history of peoples here for tens of thousands of years, but the area is so rugged and underdeveloped that it gives you the sense that you are out there exploring an area untouched my humans. China did not give me that impression at all, so upon my return, I vowed to explore the mountains as often as I could.

The Grand Tetons from Jackson, Wy
When I returned from China, personal struggles and family illness took over, and hiking fell away for a while. However, whenever I would feel that life was just putting too much on my plate and I was near my breaking point, I would take a hike, and drift back into the woods where the only reality was the one I was in. Hiking became my safe place, my happy place, my place of healing. Being alone on a mountain, sitting along an alpine lake and being able to finally get away from the distractions of life to focus on getting in touch with nature and myself is my therapy. The repetitive steps trudging down a path, up a hillside of scree or wading through a river all take focus away from the pains and sorrow that life so often brings and allows you to be alive.

Finding the meaning of life, Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park
Hiking to me gives a sense of adventure that I thought was long since lost when I became an adult. Hiking to me is about experiencing nature on a holistic level. Mountains that appear as one become individual rocks and dirt; tall cedar trees become vulnerable strips of bark, needles and branches, all working together to form this massive plant. Much like those, hiking has taught me that my life isn’t as complex as I make it. Life is a series of small parts coming together to become what we perceive as reality, yet, just like a hike, some parts are easier than others, but no less important. Hiking has allowed me to see life for what it is and have a new level of enjoyment in every activity. Without hiking, I don’t know where I would be in life. Luckily, hiking is always there for me, and when I lace up my boots, strap on my backpack and take that first step, all the worry in the world drifts away and I get to become innocent and adventurous again.

So, that is why I about you????

See you on the trails,
Douglas Scott
Exotic Hikes

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Easy Day Hikes on the Olympic Peninsula OR Hikes to do While Injured

One of my many injuries. This was
from a tree branch nearly
killing me during a storm
                Often, injuries plague us longer than they should and make us choose between hiking in discomfort and not hiking at all. For many of us, the latter is will only happen if we lost both legs and had no prosthetics readily available. Any number of days I am battling chronically sprained ankles, a never fully recovered fractured shoulder and bursitis in my hip. Don’t get me wrong, this is not about me complaining I am in pain. In fact, being an ex-cross country runner, pain while working out seems normal to me. Injuries impact us all, and while we may not want to stay home, especially with good weather coming up, we may need to find some places that are a big easier on us so our bodies can heal quickly.

                The Olympic Peninsula is diverse in many ways. From many unique species of flora and fauna spread around rain forest, to having beaches, rugged peaks and miles of switchback trails, the area has something for everyone. Today, we focus on the hikes that may not be as physically challenging, but are still rewarding in many other ways. Next time you are hurt and can’t climb up 3000ft of scree, or you are just looking for an easy hike to do with your kids or grandparents, check out one of these areas.

Some of what Neah Bay has to offer
     1)      Shi Shi Beach- Don’t be too shy about taking a long walk on a beach. In fact, millions of people can’t be wrong putting this on their dating profiles as something they enjoy! You don’t have to be Kajagoogoo  to get to this beach. Located close to Neah Bay, this may be out of the way, but it is a scenic drive and a fantastic place to take pictures. Flat, scenic and close to the farthest northwest point in the continental United States, this trail is perfect for all. Bring a camera, rain gear, and a sense of adventure for this 8.0 round trip hike.

-          Quick Facts:
o   Distance- 8 miles
o   Terrain- flat
o   Needs- Rain gear, extra socks, towel, bird books, binoculars

The view from Hurricane Hill
      2)      Hurricane Hill- Love the views of mountains, but not a fan of the scree, switchbacks or isolation? Check out Hurricane Hill at Hurricane Ridge. 17 Miles south of Port Angeles, this is a great day trip during any season. Stand atop a nearly 6000ft “hill” and take in view of Victoria, BC, Mt. Baker, Sequim and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to your north. To your south you can look into the interior of the Olympic Mountains. This is a great hike to see Marmots, Deer, vistas, valleys and wildflowers. At only 3 miles round trip, the elevation may be the only thing that wears you out. This is a great summer hike, but can (and should) be done with snowshoes in the winter months.
-          Quick Facts:
o   Distance- 3 miles
o   Terrain- mostly flat, but one main climb
o   Needs- Rain gear/sun screen, snacks, good shoes, binoculars

Murhut Falls
     3)  Murhut Falls- Read more here at our recent trip report!!!
     -          Quick Facts:
     o   Distance- 1.5 miles
     o   Terrain- Slightly hilly, a little flat until the end where the trail to get to the water fall is quite steep
     o   Needs: Good shoes, snacks, a camera, rain gear

Dungeness Spit from above
     4)      Dungeness Spit- This is probably the longest, easy hike around, as it takes nearly 11 miles to complete the trip. However, walking along a sandy beach for 11 miles on the Strait of Juan de Fuca is a great trip for a family for a day or weekend. With views of the Olympic Mountains, Vancouver Island, Mt. Baker, a light house and more, this hike pleases everyone. This strip of sand is a marvel of the world and a fun place to beach-comb after a storm or to just enjoy a sunny day in the rain shadow of the state. It is also a great place to bird watch, picnic and build structures out of driftwood.

-          Quick Facts:
o   Distance- 11 miles
o   Terrain- flat and sandy
o   Needs- water, comfy shoes, binoculars, snacks, camera
(Similar to this is Damon Point in Ocean Shores)

Devils Punchbowl at Lake Crescent
      5)      Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls- Read more here at our recent trip report!!!
-              -          Quick Facts:
                            o   Distance- Depends on trail
                            o   Terrain- flat 
              o   Needs- Rain gear, binoculars, camera

While this list is obviously not complete, these places help you experience some of the best of the Olympic Peninsula without injuring yourself more. The nice thing about these places is that they can be done in any season and typically don’t require a lot of strenuous activity to have a good time. They are a great way to start to get into hiking, heal from an injury, or just take an easy day to enjoy the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. To experience one of these with us, please call us at (360)350-8938

Until I see you on the trails,
Douglas Scott
Exotic Hikes

Alternative Hikes:
1)      Pony Bridge
2)      Hall of Mosses
3)      Ruby Beach

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Amateur Bird Watches Guide to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

From the Pond/River Area
Nisqually Sunset

Located just 10 miles from Olympia, or 50 miles south of Seattle, the refuge boasts over 3000 acres of wetlands, making this a fantastic birding hangout. Recently expanded to include a boardwalk, you can easily walk over 4 miles of restored wetlands. With numerous bird species migrating to the area, as well as many local and regional birds calling it home, this is the best place to come watch birds year round. The refuge is basically broken up into three sections, which are the pond/river walk, the raised dike and the new boardwalk. Each section is unique, giving you a different set of nature in each area.

Geese Flock
Raccoons in the Pond 
Great Blue Heron
 The first section you will enter is just past the visitor’s center and is the Pond/River walk area. This section is best taken along the old board walk, giving you views of the ponds where ducks, turtles and the occasional Nutria can be spotted. During the spring, Great Horned Owls can be spotted near the barns, on the section of the wooden walkway between the river and the barns. During salmon runs, eagles and seals can be spotted in large number along the river. This place is great to take young kids, as it is a short, easy walk. At the end of the trail, you reach the barn area where there are Port-a-potties and picnic tables. A word of caution: If you decide to picnic here, the squirrels in the area are somewhat aggressive.
Peregrine Falcon
The second area of Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is the raised gravel dike just past the barns. In good weather this area offers amazing views of the Olympic Mountains. It also shows off the mud flats on the right side and a pond, which is usually full of ducks and geese, on the left. This is also a great place to see Herons, Bitterns and many other species of waterfowl. In bad weather this place can be a bit cold, and with no trees to cover you, you might get a bit wet. However, in good weather, this area is amazing. With dead tree trucks littering the mud flats, this is an ideal place to watch hawks and eagles groom, eat and pose for pictures. 

Bald Eagles

 The last section is new, but so far is the most popular area. This boardwalk, complete with covered shelters, lookouts with spotting scopes and information displays gives you the opportunity to walk over a flood plain. Make sure you check the tides, as low tide and high tide both have limited bird activity. Also, make sure you read all signs, as the boardwalk is occasionally closed due to hunting. In good weather, the boardwalk offers amazing views of Mt. Rainier, the Puget Sound, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. All along the boardwalk one can see Great Blue Herons, Eagles and numbers of different type of ducks. At the end of the boardwalk there is a lookout, allowing a panorama view of the area, as well as a place that is covered to watch eagles, herons and the occasional King Fisher. This section is a fantastic destination in good weather and even on a misty day, though if it is a super wet day, I may avoid it.

Marsh Hawk
Reflecting Heron
 Overall, the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic place to go birding for all levels of birders. If you are a beginner or an expert, this area gives you plenty to see in the air, off in the distance or along the waterways. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a great day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city, giving you a few laces to see how nature was before humans interacted too much. If migratory birds can visit this place once a year, you should be able to make it at least twice; after all, this place has gone to the birds.  For more information, check out the quick facts below!

See you on the trails,
Douglas Scott


Immature Bald Eagle
 Quick Facts:
Location: South Puget Sound, exit 114, North of Olympia

Trails: Well-groomed gravel /boardwalk
Distance of Trails: Over 4 Miles

Cost: $3 permit per family (pay outside of visitor center)

What you might want to bring: Binoculars, bird book, good shoes, rain gear, sun screen and water

Sights: Eagles, Geese, Owls, Hawks, Ducks, Herons, numerous waterfowl and other birds, Seals, Salmon, Deer, Raccoons, Foxes, Mt Rainier, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Mt. Constance, The Olympic Mountains, and Wetlands…just to name a few!

Best time to visit: Fall and Winter because of salmon runs and migratory birds.

Mt Rainier from the boardwalk
Where to best see:
Eagles: Pond/ River Walk, Raised Dike, Boardwalk
Ducks: Pond/ River Walk, Raised Dike
Blue Herons: Raised Dike, Boardwalk
Hawks: Raised Dike, Boardwalk
Geese: Pond/ River Walk, Raised Dike
                Owls: Pond/River Walk
Great Horned Owls

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Nerd Side of Hiking

"A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away..."
A very small amount of gear.

Today is Pi (3.14) day, and while Pi day has little to do with hiking, it does allow an outlet for a topic I has been bouncing around in my head for the last few months. The topic, of course, is hiking, more specifically, hikers and their personalities. If you ponder this for a few minutes, you will start to see that as hikers and climbers, we are quite nerdy. We read topographical maps, scrounge around for secret spots in guidebooks, and even collect climbing gear, shoes and backpacks like they are “Magic the Gathering” Cards.  What may seem like a natural juxtaposition, pitting people who climb mountains and hike for hours, demonstrating their outdoor skills against Trekkers, Star Wars fans and Dungeons and Dragon players who typically stay indoors, is actually something that has more in common than most would guess.

Being a nerd has so many connotations, yet, we all have aspects of our hiking selves that are quite nerdy. If you have guidebook with sections underlined, most hikers will agree that they do too. Yet, to the outside world, highlighting passages in books is historically quite a nerdy thing to do. We bury ourselves in books, researching routes, trails, and are frequently monitoring weather conditions. Climbing and hiking is a science, and in some ways, we are all scientists of nature. I know for me, I love reading topographical maps, I love getting deep into old trail guides, or finding that map that has abandoned mines and locations of forests service roads long since overgrown. Friends of mine have so many pairs of shoes, so many books, maps and climbing equipment that they don’t have room for furniture in their house. Yet, despite the fact that the majority of us do quite a bit of research and study to be good hikers and climbers, society doesn’t see it as nerdy since we are outside and don’t mind getting dirty.

Topo Map of the SW Side of Mt. Olympus
Society views climbers and hikers as people who rough it, people who are in touch with nature and true or not are usually manly, rough and maybe even tough. I am here to say that while we may be exactly that (I sure know I am), we are also in touch with nature and our inner nerd. Case and point is looking at how a hiker coexists with nature. We eat healthy foods, leave no trace and more often than not, will take some time and meditate by a river, on a cliff or deep in the woods. In fact, looking at the definition of the word “nerd” it states that nerds are “an intelligent, single-minded expert in a particular technical discipline or profession.” While I take some offense at the single minded section of this definition, I have a lot of climber friends who could be the picture next to the word.

Personally, I am a nerd on all fronts. I have an R2D2 climbing helmet, maps all over my bedroom walls, a car full of a week’s worth of supplies and even a ring (my precious) that has Darth Vader on it. I make references to Star Wars and Back to the Future on a daily bases, yet I know how to start fires with no matches and know edible plants along trails. Let’s face it, hikers and climbers are huge nerds. The majority have a blog, a twitter account that we update regularly and Facebook pages where we stay in the loop. We use our smart phone to take pictures, or the latest in wearable cameras to document everything we do. We have stacks of books, piles of gear and more pairs of shoes than we would like to admit. We geek out on climbing videos, typically avoid mainstream music and some of us get amazing farmer’s tans. We are all nerds, and it is time, especially on this day of Pi, to embrace it and wear the badge proudly.

Next time you are in the woods, specifically the Olympic Peninsula’s amazingly dense rainforest, picture yourself with Ewoks, battling storm troopers and taking down the evil empire. Read the guidebook like Yoda, try to use the force to get your backpack on instead of doing that awkward squat lean that we all do.

May the Force be with you and see you on the trails I will!

Douglas Scott,
Exotic Hikes

Best. Helmet. EVER!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls: One of the Olympic Peninsula's Best Areas!

Beautiful Lake Crescent
Miles away from the hustle and bustle of the I-5 Corridor, Washington’s second deepest lake hides to the 17 miles west of the beautiful city of Port Angeles. Serving as a gateway to the Northern Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles usually boasts it’s gem of Hurricane Ridge, but don’t be fooled, Lake Crescent should be a major tourist draw. Home to popular trails, swimming spots and amazing views, Lake Crescent also boasts a lodge that is second to none. Lake Crescent is located near 2 great trails that are family friendly and host amazing views. Both the Spruce Railroad trail and the Marymere Falls trail will give you a great day hike, or a romantic getaway with memories to last a life time.

Mt Storm King and the Ranger Station
                Built in 1916, this turn of the century lodge seems like it belongs more in the alpine hills of Europe than it does in the Rain Forest of the Olympic Peninsula. However, once viewing this picturesque cottage, one easily falls in love with its location and rustic settings. The lodge, which sits on the banks of Lake Crescent, is perfectly situated to explore the northern Olympic Peninsula during the day, and staying in a relaxing, quaint cottage for the night. The Lake Crescent Lodge recently was put on the list of lodges that the National Park Service will be remodeling, making this lodge even more attractive and hospitable in the future.

                From the Lake Crescent Lodge, a quick walk will place you at the Storm King Ranger Station, giving you views of Mt. Storm King and Pyramid Peak, which used to be a World War II spotter cabin to watch for Japanese aircrafts that may attack Puget Sound. Looking like the fjords of Norway, Lake Crescent sits at the bottom of these small, rugged peaks. The log cabin style Storm King Ranger station, when open, will give you the history of the area, as well as provide some pretty fantastic pictures of the region. It is by this ranger station that the Marymere Falls trail is located.

Mt. Storm King Trail
                Well marked, easily followed and basically a flat walk through the dense forests of the Northern Olympic Peninsula Rain Forest. At 1.5 miles round trip, this trail is less of a hike and more of a walk. Half a mile down the trail, a fork appears, and if feeling adventurous, you can go climb Mt. Storm King, which is a 3.8 mile round trip hike in which you gain 1700 feet. At 2400ft, Mt Storm King offers fantastic views of Lake Crescent, as well as a great picnic spot away from the throngs of hikers on the Marymere Falls trail. However, if you decide to go to the falls and battle the crowds, you will be greatly rewarded. After you cross the new metal bridge over the river, the last 400ft of the trail climbs pretty steadily along a ridge, leading you to a great view of Marymere Falls. Take your time walking up this railed path, enjoy the greens of the rain forests and soon you will be given a breathtaking view of a small, yet gorgeous waterfall. At a height of 90ft, this waterfall is impressive in its simplicity.
Wooden Bridge Leading to Marymere Falls

                After a short hike back to the Ranger Station, you still have time to hop in your car and drive about 4 miles west until you get to Camp David Jr. Road, which is home to the Spruce Railroad Trail. The Spruce Railroad Trail, which was built as a working railway during World War I, was going to be used to transport Spruce trees to Port Angeles to build airplanes during the war, however, before the railway was completed, the war ended and the forests was not harvested. The trail is long, but flat, making it perfect for the family in nearly any weather. At around 8 miles round trip, it is long, but the plus side is that it is one of the few trails in any National Park that allows dogs and bikes. While there are a few places where the hillside has come over the trail, it is completely safe and well marked.
Marymere Falls
                On the Spruce Railroad Trail, one can see many things, ranging from scenic views and railroad tunnels to deep swimming holes and abandoned telegraph poles. One of the highlights of the trail, aside from the caves that used to be railroad tunnels is the Devil’s Punchbowl. A popular swimming hole in warm weather, the Devil’s Punchbowl is the ideal swimming hole. At nearly 100ft deep right next to the cliff, it is a safe place for swimmers and divers to jump for joy into an alpine lake. The severe drop off at Devil’s Punchbowl isn’t limited to that area, as Lake Crescent itself is officially 600ft deep, but some recent studies have placed it over 1000ft deep, making this hidden gem even more mysterious.

Devil's Punch Bowl on Lake Crescent
                Overall, the Lake Crescent area is so diverse it is best for a three day weekend, but you can do it over a day, albeit a long day. Driving up from Olympia, you can hike both trails, site see and have a few good meals and get back home in less than 12 hours. While this may seem a bit much, the views, the drive and the experience to enjoy one of Washington’s most underrated areas is well worth the trip. Do it this weekend, do it on your day off…do it now and enjoy Lake Crescent before the crowds arrive this summer! Book a tour with Exotic Hikes today and receive a free limited edition Marymere Falls print!

Sunset on the Olympic Mountains from Hood Canal

Until I see you on the trails, stay safe and keep experiencing the Olympic Peninsula!
Douglas Scott
Exotic Hikes

*Editor’s note: Obey all signs, check weather conditions and bring plenty of food and water, as there are no water sources on the trail.