Sunday, August 27, 2017

Big Creek & Mt. Ellinor

For a while I've wanted to do a hike out on the Olympic Peninsula, and I had once seen a beautiful picture of Big Creek, so I chose that hike to do this weekend. It's on the eastern side of the peninsula so it's only a 2 hour drive from the city. After looking at it further, I wanted to do more than just a 4 mile hike if I was going to drive all the way out there. I saw that the Big Creek Loop connected to the Mount Ellinor trail, so without knowing much about that mountain, I decided to do both.

Map showing the various trailheads. I started from the Big Creek Campground and took the red loop as well as the trail to Mount Ellinor.

It ended up being one of the more challenging hikes I've done as well as my 2nd longest hike ever. There are three trailheads for Mount Ellinor. From the upper trailhead, it's only 3.2 miles roundtrip, and from the lower trailhead, it's 6.2 miles roundtrip. From the Big Creek Campground, including the loop, my GPS clocked 14.2 miles roundtrip. On the way up, I was looking at the peaks around me and trying to figure out which one I was going to. When I saw Mount Ellinor and the neighboring Mt. Washington, I figured there was no way I was getting up there. It was across a valley and seemed so far away, but that is where I ended up.

Looking up at Mount Ellinor (left) from a mid point in the trail

The first 5 miles up were a gradual, steady incline, so it wasn't that challenging. The last 2 miles were steeper, with the last 1.5 miles filled with seemingly never ending stairs, scree, and jagged rocks.

I also didn't realize how popular this hike was or how crowded it would be. I'm used to solitude on the trails and I tend to get there early to beat the crowds. I started this hike around 8:30am due to the longer drive, but when I was getting up near the top it was later in the day and people were more likely to be hiking. Since the trail is short from the upper trailhead, this makes it more accessible to more people. I saw several people that weren't dressed right for a hike like this - wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and carrying a purse or just one bottle of water. But I guess if you're doing the 3 mile version, you'll survive. This was the first time I finished both of my Nalgene water bottles, and I'll have to bring a third if I do any more hikes with this distance and elevation gain.

Part of the trail. 

This was the most tired I've ever been on a hike. It was 7 miles up and almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain (4,898 feet according to my GPS), so it was already a tough hike to begin with. I ended up trudging along for the last mile. However, I think half of the reason I was so tired is because of all the people. I'm an introvert, so being around people is draining for me. Usually on a difficult hike with steep sections and loose rock, I can just focus on navigating the trail and going at my own pace. For this hike, I had to focus on all the people around me, including managing my pace and figuring out how to pass people who were going slow and if there was anyone faster coming up behind me that I needed to let pass me. There were several points where there were a few of us in a line going up, or times when I had to move over to the side to let a few people come down the trail. On the way down, I was happy to get back down past where the two trailheads joined so I could finally have some peace and quiet.

The awesome things about this hike were finally seeing mountain goats in person, and the incredible views. From the top, I could see Lake Cushman, Seattle, Mt. Rainier, a few other volcanoes/peaks in the state, and other mountains in the Olympic range. Had there been about 100 less people, I would have sat at the summit for longer.

There was a mountain goat on the summit as well, and two of them on the way up to the summit. I've heard they can be aggressive, but these guys were chill and just ignored us while the grazed.

When I was on the Big Creek Loop, the creek was pretty and it was much cooler down there.

I'm glad I did this hike, and I'm looking forward to exploring more hikes on the Olympic Peninsula!

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