Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shades of Grey: A Fall Guide to the Olympic Peninsula

Even though the last warm rays of summer are a thing of the past and leaves are starting to change into beautiful oranges and reds, things are just heating up on the Olympic Peninsula. Fall on the Peninsula is the reason we have lush green mosses and ferns littering the floor of the forest. From the steady dripping of water through the canopy, to the snow packed mountain peaks and rivers running near freezing, fall on the Olympic Peninsula is truly a rainforest. Fall on the Olympics is a wet, wild and cold time, but this doesn’t mean that you should stay away. In fact, despite getting upwards of 100 inches of rain a year and grey skies nearly every day, this area has plenty to do for all levels of explores, hikers and climbers. Below are some opportunities, events and destinations for the fall. Through the 50 shades of grey in the fall and winter sky, tourism on the Olympic Peninsula is an attractive location.

Clam Digging
Razor Clam Season is here!
With clam season just around the corner, there is no better way to experience ce the Washington coast then grabbing a shovel, a pair of boots and a jacket and clamming along the Pacific Ocean. The best beaches are located north of Ocean Shores, making it an easy half to full day trip from Olympia. A permit is required, but can be picked up HERE. The season this year starts October 13th through the 18th and may be extended. A detailed schedule can be found HERE, as well as tide information.

Clamming is a great way to spend a morning or an evening. Sure, it is cold and you might get a little wet, but the experience is one you will remember and enjoy, as you share your freshly caught clams in delicious chowder, regaling your friends and family with the day’s events. Contact EXOTICHIKES today to set up a trip to go clamming.

Storm Watching
Stormy Day from Neah Bay
With up to 6 inches of rain in a 24 hour period and winds sometimes gusting up to 70+ miles an hour, the fall and winter on the Olympic Peninsula can get quite stormy. Your first reaction may be to sit inside drinking tea and reading a book, far away from this area. We ask you to step out of that comfort and come to the coast. The Washington coast during a storm is one of the most magnificent, beautiful, violent and relaxing things one can do. While these words may not seem to all fit together, the Olympic Peninsula and the Washington coast combines wind, rain and waves with beauty and sophistication at many fine establishments.  From Kalaloch Lodge and Iron Springs, to any number of hotels in Ocean Shores, taking in a winter storm with your significant other can turn a romantic getaway into a weekend to remember. If you are single, it provides a great backdrop to get away from it all, kick back with a glass of wine or a beer, and listen to the waves, the rain and the rain all around.

See storm waves crash at the remote Neah Bay or the picturesque Ruby Beach. Collect shells, agates and more during low tide. Contact Exotic Hikes for more information on weather conditions, lodging and transportation needs.

Salmon Season
Salmon in the Rain Forest
With Salmon already making their way upstream, now is the time to walk into the rainforest and see salmon making their way up swollen streams and rivers. Returning to their traditional spawning grounds, Salmon on the Olympic Peninsula provide not only a delicious food source, they also allow one to step back into the past and witness events that have been going on for ages. Exotic Hikes is proud to offer tours into the peninsula to see salmon swimming through the rainforest. Nothing is quite as remarkable as seeing scarlet red salmon swimming up a small stream next to giant cedar trees and ferns. 

From October to December, salmon infiltrate the waters into the rainforest, giving you an experience like no other. This is a great trip for families, couples and singles, so gives a call and we will work with your schedule!

Eagles on the Peninsula
With the salmon come the bald eagles. Believe it or not, locals on the Olympic Peninsula can see a Bald Eagle with little to no effort nearly every single day. This number increases, as the salmon return to spawn and die on the rivers all over the peninsula. Eagles, 10’s at a time, sit along the river banks, catching and eating fresh salmon, as well as posing for numerous photographs. The Olympic peninsula is full of Bald Eagles, but no time is better than during salmon season.

Snowy Owl in Ocean Shores
Eagles are not the only thing to frequent the Olympic Peninsula. Migratory birds, from around the world, travel through the region, giving birders amazing views of everything from geese and ducks to Snowy Owls. Birding on the Peninsula is great, with numerous wildlife refuges and frequent migration areas; this is your place for the birding experience of the year. Contact us for more information!

Typical Trail on the Peninsula
Despite the weather, numerous hikes enter the rainforest, allowing for a somewhat dry hike in the rain. Also, contrary to popular belief, the Olympic Peninsula, with all of its rain, has many great weather days. With thousands of trail options, a hike for your mood and the weather can easily be found. From climbing mountains of anywhere from four to eight thousand feet, to walks in the dense rainforest, your desires can be met. Waterfalls, full of rainwater, cascade down remote rock faces all over the Olympic Peninsula, giving you a myriad of options for great day hikes all over the region.

Pony Bridge, Olympic National Park

No matter what you want this winter and fall, Exotic Hikes and the Olympic Peninsula have you covered. Contact us today for detailed rates. Remember, we are not only your most passionate guides on the Olympic Peninsula, but also able to work with your schedule, making us the most flexible. 

Exotic Hikes
Twitter: @ExoticHikes 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Colonel Bob Peak and Pete's Creek Trail Detailed Report

                A picturesque mountain hovering above the Olympic Rainforest and Lake Quinault, Colonel Bob sits high above a horizons worth of lush, blanket like, Evergreen trees. The weather could not have been better. Fall days on the Olympic Peninsula are reasons for depression and Shades of Grey, read into that as you will. Olympia, which is 100 miles away, is the perfect spot to launch a day climb. In just short 2 hours you could be on the trail, on an adventure to climb a rugged, isolated mountain in the Pacific Northwest.

                Colonel Bob, named after Colonel Robert “Bob” G. Ingersoll (a fascinating Civil War veteran and political leader), is the 2nd tallest peak in the Colonel Bob Wilderness. At 4, 592 feet above sea level, this peak allows for unrivaled views of the Olympic Peninsula. Located on the southwest side of the park, views include the Pacific Ocean, Grays Harbor, Lake Quinault and the Quinault River, the Olympic Rainforest and Mount Olympus. During the last tour we took up here, one visitor remarked they were breathless and almost to tears the view. With a steady 4 mile climb with average views, the top of the mountain arrives out of nowhere; bring pleasures to your eyes that cancel out the tiredness of your legs. The climb itself is pretty enough, but the moment you summit, the view is spectacular. As someone who has climbed numerous mountains around the country, this view is one of my favorites. On the first fold of peaks that increase as you reach Mt. Olympus, being able to see an endless sea of ridges and mountains to climb gives me nothing but excitement to explore more. The peak area is wide enough to have a picnic, pose for pictures and just lay back taking in the panoramic beauty.
                At just 8 miles, round trip, this climb is difficult. Saying this hike is strenuous is accurate. While some may consider this a day hike, be prepared to sweat no matter what the weather. The trail is best if broken into 4 almost equal parts (Located below), each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. At a steady pace, you can climb up in about 3 hours and descend in 2 hours.

Part 1: Pete’s Creek/Colonel Bob Parking Lot to Pete’s Creek
Sign in!
After arriving and hopefully using the last bathroom, the trail to climb Colonel Bob is located on the other side of the road as the bathroom. While there is a trail on this side, do not go downhill! Pete’s Creek/Colonel Bob trail is a little hard to see, but trust me, it is there. Sign in at the sign in sheet located about 1/10th of a mile from the road and head on up. This section, with 500 feet of elevation gain in 1 mile, is in trees and the trail is rocky and full of roots. Pete’s Creek isn’t labeled, but it is the mostly dry river bed located a few hundred feet passed a large washout on the trail. Enjoy this part because it is the least steep section.

Part 2: Pete’s Creek to Colonel Bob Trail
Pete's Creek (usually Dry)
This second section is 1.4 miles long and works its way more directly up hill, with short switchbacks and over 1000 feet gained. It is highlighted with areas of tree thinning and views of the valleys behind you. The final push to the crossroads is highlighted by a steep, and depending on the season, lush slide area that you cross before you arrive. With good views finally emerging, this is a great place to rest, hydrate and cool down before the last 2 stages.

Part 3: Trail Intersection to “Julie Andrew’s Valley” (my name for it)

View from Julie Andrews to Colonel Bob
Trail has good signs!
 A rewarding section of trail starts out crossing in and out of trees, continuing the climb.  While still in trees, the trail itself is a lot rockier and one needs to be careful to avoid rolling an ankle. Also, some of the steps up along the trail are steep, so use those walking sticks and poles. If you are over 6 feet tall though, this should not be a problem.  After a little more than a half mile and an elevation gain of over 500ft, this section gets into the only true meadow on the mountain. Coming up around a well timbered area, you come into an area with large boulders, small mountain lakes and picturesque places to rest. I suggest taking a snack break here, drink some water and rest for a few. You don’t need to impress anyone, take care of your body.

Part 4:  “Julie Andrew’s Valley” to Colonel Bob Peak
The saddle
Lake Quinault, The Hoh Rain-forest and the
Pacific Ocean
Olympia's new Home Mountain
This final stretch is not a technical climb, but it can be somewhat difficult for inexperience hiker because the trail is a steep. Slow, well placed steps are all that is needed though, so no worries. In about a half mile you arrive at a saddle between a few nearby peaks. There is also a boulder filled small valley between peaks that is quite awesome. However, only take a short rest here, as the trail continues up, you finally round a corner that will take your breath away. The last few hundred feet are somewhat of a scramble, but the view makes the hard work pay off. The view from the top is a full panoramic view of the Olympic Peninsula, the Pacific Ocean, Grays Harbor and more. While your legs may be burning, this is the moment that you crave, the moment that gives your hiking a purpose, the view that will give you memories through the rainy days and work. Colonel Bob Peak, while only 4,492 feet, gives you world class views only a few hours from home.
Partial View from the top of Colonel Bob
Mount Olympus and the peak of Colonel Bob

Suggested Items to bring
-          Water
-          Water
-          Gatorade
-          Weather appropriate clothes
-          Camera
-          Walking Stick or trekking poles
-          Backpack
-          Food
-          Bandana or hat
-          Sunscreen
-          Good Shoes
-          Extra socks and shoes/sandals in the car
-          Some moxie

From Aberdeen, Washington, head north on Highway 101. About 27 miles later, take a right at Donkey Creek Road, also known as FSRD 22. The road will be paved for 8 miles until you hit an intersection. Turn left on this road and follow the well-marked signs for “Pete’s Creek.” In 11 miles, you will see a restroom and trailhead on your right. This is your stop. Remember, the trail to Colonel Bob is on the opposite side of the road as the bathroom. Do not go downhill.

As always, tell someone where you are going, or better yet, give us a call and we can take you up safely and awesomely!
Until next time,
Douglas Scott
Exotic Hikes (360)350-8938