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Backpacker Magazine – August 2003

Washington: Grand Valley, Olympic National Park

On this trip you'll find everything from alpine meadows to ancient rainforests

by: Dan Nelson


Your mission: Lounge in alpine meadows, gape at ancient rainforests, and scurry up snow-capped peaks, all in one trip.

Your basecamp: The broad wildflower gardens abutting Grand Lake. Your only competition: deer and whistling marmots.

Day 1: High-mountain ramble >>> One pass or two? That's your choice as you leave Grand Lake and climb south to the meadow-lined shores of Moose Lake. You'll soon enter a high-angle world of windswept ridges, endless views, and glacier-clad mountains. At Grand Pass, admire snowy vistas northwest to Hurricane Ridge and the spires of The Needles at the end of the Gray Wolf Range. Turn back for a round-trip of 5 miles or continue south for a 16 miler, descending into the forested Cameron Creek Valley before climbing to Cameron Pass beneath Mt. Cameron (7,190 feet).

Day 2: Wildflower walk >>> When is a badger not a badger? When it's a marmot. Head north through Grand Valley to its junction with Badger Valley, and consider the blunder of early explorers who mistook these whistling rodents for badgers. Turn and climb into the meadow-flecked basin, and plunge knee-deep into an explosion of color. Above Badger Walls, walk the open shoulder of Elk Mountain, enjoying close-ups of purple aster, heather, and lupine against panoramic backdrops reaching from Canada to Mt. Olympus. Reach the 6,773-foot summit about 6 miles from camp.

Day 3: Old-growth sampler >>> Grand views and gaggles of wildlife are all well and good, but Olympic National Park is best known for its trees. Check out some of the tallest by heading south over Cameron Pass to the deep, cathedral forests of Cameron Valley. Expect to be dazzled by the lush, emerald world of ancient hemlocks and dwarfed by cedars. You'll also find bigleaf maples sporting long, drooping beards of moss. Where the forest thins, rhododendron tangles and tunnels fill the void.

getting there: From the end of the Obstruction Point Road near the east end of Hurricane Ridge, trek about 3 miles along Lillian Ridge (6,200 feet) before dropping a mile to Grand Lake (4,750 feet) in the heart of Grand Valley.

guides: 100 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades and Olympics, by Ira Spring and Harvey Manning ($15). USGS 7.5-minute maps Mount Angeles, Maiden Peak, McCartney Peak, and Wellesley Peak (888-ASK-USGS; www.backpacker.com/mapstore; $10).

contact: Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center, (360) 565-3130; www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm.




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