By Tom Groenewal
January 19, 1992
An unusual sunny day, calm winds with the usual temperatures in the 50s. I head south past the Hoh River and the Kalaloch beaches, south to Lake Quinault. I find the trailhead to Higley Peak on the north side of the lake. The easy trail leads much of the way up the mountain until the last rougher .5 mile goes to the top.
The place is exhilarating. With the elevation over several thousand feet the forest is more open, thinned out, and drier than the wet forests below. Huge Douglas Fir dominate the scene, some six feet in diameter and towering straight up into the sky. I put my head along a tree and aim my eyes up along the bark and follow the trunk for 100 feet till the first branch.
The top of Higley Peak is covered in trees 30 feet tall except for the south side where a WW II radar tower is located. I find a rock outcrop on the east side and have a perfect view. To the northeast is the inner core of Olympic Mountains, west to east: Mt. Tom, Middle Peak, Mt. Olympus, East Peak, and Mt. Mathias. To the southeast are scattered snowcapped peaks extending for twenty-five miles. To the south, after a short sloping valley area the rugged peaks of Colonel Bob Wilderness, a 20 sq. mile area with only one trail traversing the mountains.
I climb back to lower levels and find another trailhead for a loop trail. The trail system is part of a series of trails leading from a campground near the lake and up into the forest. The forest is filled with enormous Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Western Red Cedar. I hike a diverse loop through upland forest, a cedar swamp, rocky outcrops and waterfall crashing into the stream bottom before flowing out to the shore of Lake Quinault.
The trails are magnificent.
On the way home I stop at one of the Kalaloch beaches to hike out onto a wide beach left exposed by a minus 1.0-foot tide. Here the beach drops quickly in the littoral zone (between high and low tide) and sandy flats extend 200 yards out into the ocean. Razor clams are supposed to be found here in these beaches of fine sand and silt. Tell-tale shells lay scattered around confirming the story that the clams are here.
I walk out as far as I can, following the receding waves and go out further and further until I see a high cycle of waves building just offshore. Even though these waves will only be a few inches high by the time they reach me I start to run because even a wave several inches high on these sloping flats means the small wave can travel 200 yards speeding to shore. I run all the way back up the beach to escape the small wave which has spread across the entire flat pushing foam and debris. The waves recede and the flats are again exposed until the next wave.
Gradually, the tide goes out further and the waves do not have enough energy to push up the flat beach. The beach remains exposed to birds poking around for invertebrates, raccoons looking for clams and eagles looking for a beached fish. All of them are successful, food for everyone.
My legs are like rubber from all the hiking today. I head for home to build a fire in the woodstove and make hot soup.