Royal Basin

In between finishing my dissertation and planning for an international move, we squeezed in a weekend trip to Royal Lake in Olympic National Park. I haven’t done a lot of backpacking, so the 7+ miles up with a pack was a big push for me (not to mention the return 7+ miles down, feeling every step!) The whole trip was stunning, and absolutely worth the effort.

The trail started in mossy forest, which sported funky fungi along the path, and followed along the noisy waters of Royal Creek. After some climbing, it opened out to rocky slopes and bits of late fall color (mostly vine maple, ocean spray, and slide alder). A few more miles and switchbacks to Royal Lake, at about 5100 feet. We set up camp here and climbed pack-free another 600 feet to the Royal Basin area, which features the rough peaks of Mount Deception, Mount Clark, and the Needles range rising above rocky mountain meadows. The crowning glories were the blue glacier-formed tarn, and the slim crescent moon hovering just above the ridge.

After a decidedly cold night, the return trip featured the sun creeping in to frosty meadows, calming time on mossy trails, and some final eye-catching mushrooms.

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Where the Elwha meets the strait

In August I got to attend a National Park Service event for volunteers who had worked on the Elwha restoration. After hiking around former Lake Mills, we visited the Elwha delta, where the river lets out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Washington and Vancouver Island. Before the dam removals, the delta beach was fairly limited. Removing the dams allowed enormous quantities of trapped sediment to move downstream, building up the beach into expanses of space for native coastal plants, birds, and other wildlife. A lagoon area has formed where thousands of seagulls were hanging out as we walked along. And I’ve been told it’s even improved the surfing options!

Someday after Whiskey Bend road is rebuilt I’d like to do a hike into the park following the Elwha upstream. How cool would it be to see the Elwha from source to sea!