Our Big Backyard

  • Thu Oct 11th, 2018 10:59am
  • Life

By Judy Smith

With errands to run in Sequim, it was a day to hike in the neighbor’s backyard! The trail from Hurricane Ridge to Hurricane Hill was perfect for a morning stroll. This was my first trip to Hurricane Ridge since February when I cross-country skied around the visitor center so I could tell everyone that I skied in the 2018 winter Olympics!

I started lucky by reaching the US Highway 101 closure just as the pilot car started leading the eastbound lanes through the construction. I felt lucky again when I saw a notice that the trail would close for the season the very next day.

The Hurricane Hill trail is currently undergoing a three-year rehabilitation project, so there will be periodic trail closures until the project is completed in 2020. The National Park Service is building retaining walls, improving the drainage and paving to an 8-foot width. The first four-tenths of a mile will meet federal accessibility standards.

The main trailhead is closed during construction. Parking is at Area B, which increases the round trip to Hurricane Hill from three to four miles. It was a blustery 37 degrees at the trailhead, so I was glad to have gloves and several clothing layers in my pack. Blue sky peeked out from behind low hanging clouds and I was optimistic that I would have a stellar view into the Olympic Mountains from the summit.

Not long after I started my hike, a strong gust of wind ripped off my ball cap. Good thing it blew into the uphill side of the trail because there would be no retrieving it from the deep valley on the downhill side. Hat secured, I continued upwards. The trail begins one mile above sea level and gains 800 feet in a gradual two-mile ridgetop and sidehill ascent to the top of Hurricane Hill.

The lower part of the trail was lined with subalpine fir and huckleberry brush showing off its fiery fall finery. There would be beautiful vistas of the Olympics if the clouds would dissipate. I held out hope that the driving wind would blow the clouds away. Near the top of Hurricane Hill, the trail climbed out of the timber and switchbacked up an open grassy slope.

After a comfortable walk, with a few pauses to catch my breath, I arrived at the top of the hill. Looking to the north, there were great views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Port Angeles. I took a picture for some tourists from Michigan.

I turned south, hoping to see the Olympics and instead a gust of wind barrelled into me and a dark grey cloud descended over the entire top of the hill. It’s snowing. Sideways. Big fat flakes. Fortunately, the snow wasn’t sticking yet, so I tightened up the hood of my parka and meandered around the summit. I shared in the joy of a couple from San Diego who hadn’t seen snow in about 20 years and tried unsuccessfully to get snowflake pictures with my cell phone. The weather didn’t look like it was going to lift anytime soon, so I headed back down the way I came.

On the way, I passed volunteers who were busy transplanting native vegetation into trailside areas denuded by overuse. The Hurricane Hill Trail traverses a fragile alpine environment. It is more highly improved than other trails in the park in order to protect the natural environment for everyone’s enjoyment in the future.

As I drove away, the clouds lifted for a brief moment and I got my view of the mountains before they descended again. The trail is now closed for the rest of 2018, but you should consider this hike on a warm summer day next year – or you could go when it snows and be part of the winter Olympics.