I have written many newsletters about Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula, but I neglected to give directions. Here are simple and easy directions to Hurricane Ridge via the Little River.
Finding the Little River
There is a trail that leads into Olympic National Park called the Little River. The trail-head is small and easy to miss if you are moving too fast and carelessly along the roadway. A small, faded wooden sign and a slight cut of the trees, marks the opening into the forest. If you have drifted too far or have become distracted for too long, step into the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula to find yourself again. Floating and drifting aimlessly across the liquid plane of the planet, bring yourself to solid ground by following these simple and easy directions to the Little River Trail.
Forty-eight degrees arcs across the northern, deep blue Pacific and will pull you into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. When the sea is angry, take shelter in the small harbor of Port Angeles. The curve of the rocky spit will reach for you and take you in amongst the black turnstones and polished pebbles. If the darkness hides your way, move slow and hold fast to the lights of the city shore. Drop anchor alongside the massive tankers and cargo ships whose towers are high above the sight-line of the horizon. The pounding thunder of their enormous anchor chains falling and grinding to the bottom will make you feel irrelevant and small. Listen for the water falling as the ships empty the ballast holds; salty water back to the salty sea. Glaucous-winged gulls, posted and guarding, will scream and laugh at you as you try to find your way. Look west, the huffing and puffing pulp mill whistles and blows with ghostly steam that reveals the course of wind that carried and keeps you here.
Logs are everywhere; floating in the harbor, stacked on the land. Loaded trucks with pup trailers in tow, haul logs down the gravel mountain roads, giving way to the rusted yellow lift trucks and jammers rounding the stacks to be piled high, while diesel engines growl. The smell of cedar, pine and mud, drifts on the wind as the stripped bark and shredded coats of the trees reveals a core of inner strength. Bulker and reefer ships float in the harbor, waiting for the next load that will lower them down the waterline, giving force against the resisting waves. The sea dogs gather en masse on the sorted and chained logs floating in the sheltered bay. They snort and bark at the day and through the night, belching and groaning to be heard. At the tip of the hook of land, which makes the rocky promontory, sit the bright orange and rescue readied boats and helicopters of the Coast Guard and the neighboring house of ship pilots waiting for their next run of maneuvering freighters through Puget Sound. Keep an eye alert and you might catch a glimpse of the hard, gray steel underwater predators of the navy. Find your way to the marina waterfront of fishing and pleasure boats and the north edge of the Olympic Peninsula. This is the port of Port Angeles; where tall, corrugated steel buildings house the boats and their builders who work to restore what the sea has taken and repair what has broken for those who have faltered.
Board your dingy, paddle ashore and take to the land following the route of the Black Diamond. The wet, dark pavement will take you away from the edge of the cityscape and through a small band of rural scenery where you will find the lovely gardens of homesteaders and small wineries. At the edge of this countryside, the vast Olympic Wilderness of nearly two and a half million acres begins and so too begins the Little River trail. Step onto this mountain path and find yourself in a thick, glistening rainforest of big trees and big ferns. The understory is a blanket of soft, spongy moss and forest debris. The color green is everywhere with infinite hues you never knew. Don’t expect to swiftly cover much distance with your boots on the ground, for around every bend is another moment that slows your stride with one more big breath of wonderment.
Small Pacific wrens will alert the forest of your arrival; they are
brown, plain and very small, but their chirps are decisive and loud
and direct all to hear as they dart and hide beneath the fallen trees and broken branches on the forest floor. The regeneration and persistence of life never pauses; no sooner does a branch or tree fall, when a new life starts to grow on what has fallen. The trail follows alongside the Little River with numerous waterfalls and cascades that bubble and roil out loud as you find your way through the cool, misty world of rain and forest. There is a lot of distance that can be traveled on this trail. The beginning of the trail is an easy slope that meanders alongside the river, but the trail will begin to climb and if you choose, you can continue up the trail for eight miles and rise four thousand feet through the trees to find yourself on the summit of the bent and crumbling horseshoe of Hurricane Ridge. Climbing to the heights of the wind-swept cumulus clouds, you are soaring on top on the world and looking down on the reflecting sea below. Look to the southwest and you can see the bright glaciers, coursing and crushing down the mountain ranges, one after another. Standing tall atop this precious alpine vista and amongst the little, colorful wildflowers at your feet, your discovery and your treasure will be the time that was spent on this small patch of earth that gave you those lasting thoughts of love and beauty that surrounded and held you for those short moments.
Kaiyote Snow, May 2020
Now is the time to to visit beautiful and diverse Washington and see what you can find!