High Divide Loop
Hike 87, High Divide-Seven Lakes Basin in 100 Hikes in Washington’s South Cascades & Olympics
Wednesday, August 8th to Friday, August 10th, 2012
My long time good friend Kanako was planning to come visit her old host family in Everett this August and she asked if I would be interested in hanging out and doing some backpacking. Of course I am always up for that! She suggested Olympic National Park, which neither of us had visited before, so I looked at some books and decided on the High Divide Loop in the northwest corner of the park. It was a great trip! We started out from Everett way too early in the morning to catch the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry at 7:10, enjoyed the scenic drive over to Port Angeles where we stopped in at the Wilderness Information Center to get our permits and campsite reservations (they require reservations on this and many of the trails in the park, and they hold 50% of the spots for last minute walk-ins, thankfully). We got to the WIC just after 9:00 and although we didn’t get the campsites we were planning on, we got sites that ended up working out even better. Since the weather was a bit overcast and drizzly and since our new route had us only going four miles on the first day, we decided to kill some time in Port Angeles. We had a nice sit down breakfast, got some coffee and did a little shopping for last minute things before we drove the hour and a half or so to the trailhead. Hope you enjoy the photos and reading more about the trip.
When we arrived at the trailhead parking lot we were surprised how many cars were there, and I (being from Portland) was particularly surprised to see a little tent set up where some people from Portland State University were conducting some research. They asked us to indicate on a map which areas of Olympic National Park we valued the most and why. As this was my first trip to the Park I didn't feel qualified to answer that, but even if I had explored it extensively, I would've said I value all of it. I'm a big fan of preserving as much wilderness as possible. Anyway, these are my companions for this trip, Kanako and Chihiro, by the trailhead sign. Most of the many cars in the parking lot, as we would soon discover, were there for a day hike to the first destination on the sign, the very beautiful Sol Duc Falls a little less than a mile down the trail.
Maybe around seven tenths of a mile down the trail we came to this junction, which we later realized was the beginning and end of the loop. We took the trail to the right, heading toward Deer Lake, counter-clockwise around the loop.
We had originally intended to do the loop in the clockwise direction but the availability of last-minute campsite reservations changed our plans. After the fact I am glad we were forced to do it in the way we did because it was pretty ideal. We got all of the work (elevation) out of the way in the first two days and the last day was all gradual downhill. Nice and easy on the knees. :)
This shelter was pretty neat looking but seemed sort of out of place being so close to the trailhead.
Only about a tenth of a mile later we came to a pretty substantial bridge across the Sol Duc River and this view of Sol Duc Falls.
We walked up the river a bit to get some closer views.
There were a lot of people around and one guy was nice enough to take a couple of photos of Kanako and me by the top of the falls.
We moved a little closer to the edge for this one.
This was the view looking upstream from the top of the falls.
After enjoying the falls for quite a while we continued on our way, taking the trail toward Deer Lake, gaining some elevation, diverging away from the Sol Duc River and eventually paralleling Canyon Creek. I believe this was at a crossing of Canyon Creek somewhere before Canyon Creek Falls.
About a mile and decent amount of elevation beyond Sol Duc Falls we arrived at another fairly large bridge over Canyon Creek and what I believe is Canyon Creek Falls. This is an attempt at a shot of the falls which begin their descent directly beneath the bridge.
The creek just downstream of the falls.
We took advantage of the flat boards on this bridge to rest our backs for a while. We weren't very far into the hike at this point but I think we had done a decent amount of elevation right before this spot, and we had plenty of time, so it felt nice to rest and enjoy the view. Another group liked our idea and joined us on the bridge shortly after we got there.
After a nice rest we pressed on as the trail continued toward Deer Lake. This photo and the next couple are just views of the forest scenery along the trail.
So, at the four mile mark, maybe around 4pm or so we arrived at Deer Lake where we would stay for the night. This was our first view of it.
This was the first of several bridges like this on the path around the lake.
Each of the major campsites on our route had signs like this showing where the individual sites were and were the toilet was located. I guess because the traffic on these trails is so relatively large the toilets were not typical pit toilets but had removable containers that I guess (according to the ranger at the wilderness information center) they airlift out twice a year or as needed. First time I had seen anything like that.
Another view of Deer Lake from the trail near our campsite.
The first thing we had to do when we got to our campsite was get out our bear canister, make sure all of our food and anything else that smelled was inside and find a spot away from the campsite to store it. As you can see, our bear canister was packed and it was a bit of a challenge to get everything in there. Kanako took on that job and managed to do it every time. Our almond butter and jam on Dave's Killer Bread sandwiches got quite smashed but they tasted just fine.
This was at our campsite. Apparently this rock was closed.
After getting things settled at the campsite we decided to take a walk around the lake to check out the scenery and the other campsite options. This was a pretty neat looking (if a little rickety) bridge over some swampy ground on the south side of the lake. I joined two photos together, so it's a little vertically short in this view. For a better view, see a larger version.
I believe this is the view of Deer Lake from the bridge in the previous photo. See a larger version.
This was a smaller lake to the West / Southwest of Deer Lake. This was also a common view of Chihiro as she took a lot of close up photos of flowers and plants for a science project she was doing or planning on doing when she got back home. For a better view of this panorama see a larger version.
After making our way around the lake we filtered some water at the creek and when heading back to our campsite had the pleasure of seeing some deer. There was a doe and several fawns. They were right below our campsite and didn't seem to be too afraid of us. Pretty neat.
This was our campsite. The tent in the foreground I borrowed from my friend Troy and Kanako and Chihiro used mine. We made some dinner, cleaned up, re-stowed our bear canister, then huddled inside my tent and played some card games until we were ready for bed. Chihiro and Kanako taught me a different version of "speed" and I taught them the version I'm used to. Then we played a different game that Chihiro and Kanako taught me, the name of which I can't remember. We used a deck of cards I bought at the Wilderness Information Center called "Don't Die Out There" where each card was printed with various wilderness survival tips. Kinda cool.
The next morning after having breakfast and breaking camp and all that we continued on up toward the ridge and the High Divide trail. The trail quickly ascended out of the forest and this was one of the first open meadows we encountered. See a larger version of this panorama.
Soon we encountered our first traces of snow. I had read a trip report from a couple weeks before and asked at the Wilderness Information Center, and it sounded like snow shouldn't be too much of an issue by the time we were going. There were quite a few spots where we hiked across snow but none of those places were dangerous, thankfully.
As we got closer to the ridge the wildflowers became exceedingly abundant. An older couple we talked to who were volunteer rangers told us it was pretty amazing and it was. These were some of the first ones we saw but many more are to come.
We thought these trees were really interesting. I guess this particular group even have a name: The Snake Pit. At least that's how Robert L. Wood refers to them in his epic Olympic Mountains Trail Guide.
As we attained the ridge this view greeted us, the first glimpse of the surrounding peaks on the hike thus far. Many more panoramic views were to come all throughout the second day. Please check out the larger images on these panoramas as it's pretty hard to see in this small size. See a larger version.
I'm pretty sure this was our first glimpse of Mt. Olympus in the background on the upper right. We would have closer views later on, but none as cloudless as this one.
As we continued up the trail the wildflowers became more abundant and more diverse.
Here was another view of the mountains just a ways down the trail. See a larger version.
I think we stopped here briefly for a water and trail mix break. Nice view of wildflowers, snow and some more peaks in the background.
This was probably the first significant stretch of snow covered trail we encountered.
As we got closer to the Seven Lakes Basin, there was quite a bit of snow to be seen. I always feel like snow makes everything look cooler. No exception here. See a larger version.
Deer lake is where we came from, High Divide is where we were heading, and my friend Sherilee said that Hoh Lake is a must see. She and my other friend Amy did a trip there and beyond last year and I'd definitely be interested in checking that out if I get the opportunity again.
We had the pleasure of encountering another deer close up. This one ended up eventually passing us on the trail by going up above us and back down.
This sign marked the turn off to descend down into the Seven Lakes Basin and the Lunch Lake campsite. We would bypass that and continue on toward Bogachiel Peak where we would have several amazing views of the Basin from above.
The wildflowers continued to be plentiful.
This was our first view of the Seven Lakes Basin. This photo and the next three make up the components of the panorama to follow but I wanted to show each part by itself so you could see the detail a little better.
I guess this basin gets a very large amount of snowfall which stays late into the season. We were there in early August and the elevation here isn't even that high. The High Divide Trail averages around 5,000ft, so the basin is lower than that. It was really interesting to me how different the climate is on the peninsula.
Here's the previous photos stitched together for a view that is closer to what we actually saw. A very beautiful valley. See a larger version.
This photo is just to the right of that last set, showing where the trail continues. This was probably the only spot where the snow on the trail could've been mildly an issue, but you didn't have to walk on the snow if you didn't want to. I think we went over the rocks above the snow on the right.
This was the turn off to Hoh Lake. Definitely want to choose that path someday.
This photo was taken from the trail heading to Hoh Lake in the last photo, looking back at the trail we would continue on.
This trail intersection was very close the high point of the hike, Bogachiel Peak, and I think is technically the place where the Bogachiel Trail ends and the High Divide Trail begins.
Shortly after the intersection in the previous photo we encountered the short spur trail the heads up to the top of Bogachiel Peak, the modest high point of the trip at 5,474ft. This is a view from the top looking West / Southwest I believe.
Here is a wider perspective of the view to the West / Southwest. See a larger version.
This was the view to the South toward the Bailey Range and Mt Olympus. It was pretty hard to see the peaks because of the haze, although it looked clearer in person than I captured in these photos. See a larger version.
This is the view to the North of Seven Lakes Basin from Bogachiel Peak. Again, this photo and the next three will be followed by a panorama joining them together.
Seven Lakes Basin from Bogachiel Peak. See a larger version.
Kanako and Chihiro on Bogachiel Peak with the Bailey Range and Mt Olympus behind them, and unfortunately largely behind the clouds. It would've been great to be up there on a slightly clearer day.
After enjoying the view and eating lunch on Bogachiel Peak we headed back down the spur trail and continued on across the High Divide. We stopped here to filter some water out of this snow-melt stream that trickled down the rocks beside the trail for a section.
Here we encountered the largest section of trail that was completely covered by snow on the trip.
Below you can see Seven Lakes Basin, now to the North / Northwest of us.
Here's a panorama of the view. See a larger version.
Still on snow...
Even though these snowy sections were pretty much flat, it was still nice to have trekking poles for extra stability. I'm getting to appreciate them more and more each time I use them.
I brought a couple of extra pairs of trekking poles and Chihiro took me up on the offer to use some.
I was a little nervous for her at times because she didn't have hiking shoes or boots with her. As I was walking behind her on this section the contrast was just so stark... hiking across the snow with trekking poles and wearing low-cut street shoes with ankle socks. She did really great though. No twisted ankles, and she didn't even get her feet wet. The worst she got was a mild blister which we treated with moleskin. This was her first ever backpacking trip and she did really well!
Kanako's footwear had a completely different issue. These were her old boots--seven years old I think she said--which she left at her host family's house last year after she used them on our trip to Yellowstone National Park. But sadly this trip was definitely their last. As the hike progressed the bottom of each boot started coming loose starting from the heel, the right one being the worst. On day two we taped it up with some medical tape I had in my first aid supplies. It sorta worked, thankfully.
As we got farther away from the snow covered part of Seven Lakes Basin we began seeing more distinct lakes and kept trying to guess if any of them were Heart Lake, which we knew we had to pass shortly before we arrived at our campsite for the night at Sol Duc Park. It's sort of hard to see the biggest lake in this panorama, but I think we may have suspected it at one point or another. As we progressed we realized it definitely wasn't and would've been quite a stretch to consider it heart shaped. See a larger version.
Just a closer view of the left-most part of the previous panorama. Nice snowy scenery.
Here is another panoramic view of the valley from farther east along the High Divide. Once again we were guessing about the lakes we were seeing. Was this the lake we were looking for? No, not yet, but this was the spot where the trail started to turn Northeast and make it's descent toward Heart Lake and then further North toward Sol Duc Park. We took a break here to enjoy the nearly 360 view and talked to some other people who were trying to snap photos of Mt. Olympus as the clouds shifted (see the next photo for that view). See a larger version.
This was the view from just about the same spot as the last one, but looking South instead of North. To the left of the trees in the center you can see the curve of the Hoh River Valley separating the Bailey Range on the left and behind and Mt. Olympus and its foothills on the right. The summit peaks of Mt. Olympus are right behind the clouds to the right of the trees in the center. See a larger version.
As the clouds were slowly moving in and out I spent a little time here trying to get a better shot at the peaks of Mt. Olympus but this was about the best I could get. If you look closely I believe you can see the Blue Glacier curving up just below the cloud line on the left of the photo. See a larger version.
About a mile and a half down the trail from that last viewpoint we finally arrived at Heart Lake, and we definitely knew we had. It is quite distinctive!
This is one of the places where we could have potentially gotten campsite reservations had they not already been full, and possibly the only change I would consider making to our trip itinerary. I think I liked this area as a possible campsite a little more than the more forested Sol Duc Park only a half a mile or so down the trail from here. Both were beautiful in their own way, but this nice open meadow scenery surrounded by the snowy slopes of the High Divide was pretty hard to beat.
There was still a decent amount of snow up above Heart Lake, so much snow that the signs were nearly covered. Probably were a few weeks ago.
It looked like the rangers probably added this makeshift sign when the signs were actually covered in snow, probably not too long ago.
Heart Lake from the trail beside it.
Pretty neat view from around the lake. Like I said, it would be a nice place to camp in the future.
The section of trail just below Heart Lake was some of the most beautiful local scenery of the trip. Bridge Creek paralleled the path to the left and meadows stretched quite a ways off to the right before meeting the steep slopes that bordered the valley. This was very close to the place where we spotted our one and only bear of the trip, too! It was safely way off to the right in the meadow, thankfully. We were glad to see one, though, especially after Kanako and I kept expecting to see some in Yellowstone last year and never did.
Bridge Creek has some magnificent cascades.
These next few images feel sort of out of order because I took them in the morning the next day. Shortly after that last photo we arrived at our campsite at Sol Duc Park. I was fairly tired and it was starting to get a little dark, so I didn't take the photos I generally would have. This nice waterfall was very close to our campsite--our site was to the left of the falls and a bit closer to the camera. In the morning we walked down here to filter some water and to capture some of the scenery on (digital) film.
When we first arrived at the camp we heard some guys yelling, which kind of annoyed me as I like the quiet and solitude of being in the wilderness, but it turns out they were yelling because they were playing in the waterfall, which is snow-melt from only a half a mile away! Man... super cold. It looked so nice it was mildly tempting, but I passed.
This was our now vacant campsite after we had packed everything up. It was pretty spacious.
This was the south end of Sol Duc Park campground. The path on the right is where we came from and the path on the left led to the one meadow campsite.
The campsite sign
The entire third day was spent in the forest going gradually downhill and following the Sol Duc River. I didn't take too many photos because it was mainly forest with tall trees, lots of downed trees and occasional views of the river. This was one of the crossings and an interesting waterfall that was really hard to capture a photo of for some reason.
This was a three photo vertical panorama of this little waterfall. It's still a little hard to visualize. I think it was because the drop was so close to the bridge where you sort of had to take the photos from. Anyway, hopefully you get the idea. See a larger version.
Here's just the top a little bigger.
There were definitely some really beautiful spots along the river. I've always loved scenes like this where the white water is juxtaposed with the deep greens of moss-covered rocks. I don't know that I've ever captured it very well in a photograph.
This is looking downstream from the same spot. Super beautiful.
We stopped for a rest at this campsite right on the trail.
These tall purple flowers were sticking up way above the ferns and other surrounding plants near the campsite. I wish I knew the names of things.
This was the campsite itself. These huge downed trees were pretty common along that section of trail. They made for a good place to sit while we drank some water and ate some trail mix.
Chihiro had some jelly beans that she kindly offered me several times throughout the trip. I made a mental note to add those to my list of things to bring on a hike. Those and gummy peach rings that my friend Troy often brings. And while I'm rambling about backpacking snacks, on this trip I saw a suggested list of compact high calorie foods to bring along that would fit inside a bear canister and one of the suggestions was cheese and summer sausage. Made me wonder if there is such a thing as vegan summer sausage. I need to research that. There is definitely such a thing as vegan sausage and vegan cheese (although I'm not a big fan of the latter necessarily). Anyway...
Before we set out that last morning I re-wrapped Kanako's broken boot with this ace bandage that I always carry with me in my first aid stuff. This worked much better than the medical tape did. It held nicely all day. Duct tape would've worked even better, although it's a bit messy when you try to take it off. Both excellent things to have with you.
Our diverse footwear.
And a mile or so later, we were back at the trailhead parking lot where I took my traditional shot of our gear by the car. The third day went really quickly for us and we were surprised when we realized how close we were to being done. We think the direction we did the loop and the places we stopped were pretty ideal. The only way it could've been better is if the clouds had lifted a bit higher so we could've gotten a better view of Mt. Olympus, but that just gives us an incentive to do it again! Thanks for reading and checking out the photos. :)