Gladys Lake / Grand Valley, Olympic National Park

Full picture album here.

It’s been a loooong time since the last installment of our adventures. Part of it is just laziness to sit and write, but a good bit of it, too, is that we’ve done fewer trips this season since returning from our grand visit to Petersburg back in June. Also, I was slowed down during the recovery of the surgery to remove the bone spur from my foot, though fortunately it has healed well and it hasn’t been an issue since returning to the trail at the height of backpacking season.

My first post-op outing was a two night trip in Grand Valley, Olympic National Park. Becka overnighted with her friend Jennifer last season, and I was eager to see it for myself. It’s not as widely visit as other parts of the park, though it packs in a lot of good stuff in a small area.

The hike starts about 6 miles east of popular Hurricane Ridge; where a somewhat hidden and precipitous road roughly follows a ridge from the visitor center parking lot to Obstruction Point, maintaining about 6,000ft, ending in a dusty turnaround at the trailhead. It was a warm day with the added full sun, but I anticipated a relatively easy go of it as our trip was mainly downhill into Grand Valley. After the first mile and a half up high with unobstructed views of Mt Olympus and most of the highest peak of the Olympics to our south, west, and southeast, as well as views down to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north, the trail forks. The obvious left route heads down the valley, and a fainter route stays up high and follows Lillian Ridge, leading to a high pass that drops into Grand Valley from a different direction.

For whatever reason, I thought it’d be worth a shot to take Lillian Ridge and stay up high. That route heads immediately up a couple hundred feet to a sort of gnarly peak/ridge before heading right back down the other side. Routefinding was challenging and forced a couple of short retreats, which was a bit exasperating with our full packs. We continued a bit further, stopped for a bite, and eventually met another group who had come from the direction we intended. They impressed us that the route ahead was not as easy as they thought it would be, and one of the more dramatic personalities in the group seemed quite relieved that they had made it. We looked ahead and saw that it climbed up and down a few more times, and the ranger had told me earlier that morning to ensure that you pick the right gully to descend or it gets dangerous, so we decided this was probably more than we bargained for for our first trip out, and we elected to retreat the mile and change and take the usual path down into the valley.

Back on the main trail, we descended steeply and steadily into the valley, dropping about 1,500ft in about a mile and a quarter before it traversed across a meadowy cut and we got our first views over Grand Lake. This was about the low point of the trail for us, as we stayed above the lake to continue up beyond Moose Lake to our permitted site for two nights at smaller and less busy Gladys Lake. At this point, as we climbed up, the combination of heat (over 80F I guess), altitude, and being my first time out caught up to me and I was gassed, low on energy and taking a lot of breaks. With just over a mile to go, I encouraged Becka to continue to Gladys to secure the best spot and enable me to putt-putt my way behind.

The sites at Gladys are not easy to find, with two of the four sights somewhat obvious and the other two in less-obvious spots. But after Becka scouted them out, we decided to return to the spot she stayed last year with Jenn. We made camp, focusing on finding suitable spots to hang our hammocks, as we brought enough gear and bug nets to either hammock camp or tent camp. The pesky deer from last year returned and brazenly attacked the salty clothes we had draped around the brush to dry out.

One deer even tried to run off with my shirt, but I chased it down telling it to ‘drop it!’ like I would tell Baker when playing fetch. We enjoyed our evening and dinner around the lake, protected in our bug head nets and fully covered up from the flies and skeeters. We settled into our hammocks and dozed off, tired from our day and enjoying the clear night.

The next day, we dayhiked up the top of Grand Valley to Grand Pass and Grand Peak, which affords panoramic views deep into the Olympics from 6,700ft. On our way up, a couple that we passed said they recently saw a bear, which wasn’t too far from our camp. We looked for it on our way and when we returned, but we didn’t see it. After we enjoyed the views and our lunch from Grand Peak, we returned to camp and explored a bit. Later that evening, we saw a bear above where the couple had seen it; it was up on the trail to Low Pass, an area Becka considered exploring earlier for sunset. Glad she didn’t.

The second and final night in our hammocks was a bit more eventful. Becka had set her hat with the bugnet on it just outside her hammock/net, and in the middle of the night, a deer picked it up and ran off with it. Mind you, the hat was just a couple of feet from her head as she slept, but the bold deer was undeterred. Becka was awoken by it, and we spied the deer with our headlamps, about 100ft below us. We popped out of the hammocks and again chased them down, finding her hat in the brush, but never found her bug headnet, which we presume was swallowed by the deer (?). The next morning, while eating breakfast by the lake, the deer returned again and this time removed the salty bandana from my pack and ran off through the brush and I again chased after it and yelled ‘drop it!’ which worked again.

We set out early to beat the heat, knowing the steep uphill part of the climb would be fully sun-exposed if we waited very long. Thankfully it was a bit cooler and we made it back to high ridge without much trouble and again reveled in the views to Mt. Olympus and the strait as we finished the trip back to the dusty lot.

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