I am an adventure runner. While working expos and talking with interested customers with Altra I would often here the response, “Oh, I’m not a runner.” I’d then ask how much they do run and I’d hear, “oh, only a few miles 2-3 times a week.” I consider that a runner for sure. The other day someone asked me if I was a runner and I hesitated in answering. I thought back on those moments when I would reassure others that they, indeed, were runners. I don’t train very often, I rarely race, and I’m lucky to average 15 miles a month right now, but yes, I am a runner. I run for adventure. My body has done the distances so it knows how to do it. Once in a while, moreso when traveling, I’ll reel off a 20+ mile run.
While my wife was exploring Forks, WA and drooling over the house that Jacob, from Twilight, lived in I opted for a high country run instead. The perimeter of Olympic National Park can be covered pretty well by car. You can see lots of forests, beaches, some lakes, rainforest, and a little wildlife. However, if you want to explore Olympic National Park in its full majesty then you need to get into the backcountry of this park. I guess that is true for almost any national park. I decided to do just that and cover around 25 miles from one section of the park to another.
Saturday morning Les got up early to leave camp to head towards Sol Duc on a run. We woke up a little bit later, packed up camp and ate a light cereal breakfast and were off by just before 9am. We drove along the highway and up along the Sol Duc River and found Les just beyond the salmon cascades. She had covered 22 miles. After hiking to see the cascades and a fern forest we headed up to hike Sol Duc falls. Well, that was not going to happen on a Saturday apparently. The entire parking lot was full. So instead of doing the first mile with my family they dropped me at the trailhead and I headed off on my run.
The first mile was pretty mellow up along the river to a bridge over the falls. These falls were pretty, but not overly breathtaking as some that we have seen.
After taking a few pictures of the falls I continued up what seemed like the trail along the river, but it kept splitting and didn’t seem to go the right direction. Before I got to far I looked at my Gaia map on my phone. It appears that the trail went up the hill by the bridge. I back tracked to the bridge and sure enough there it was. Now the ascending begun.
I opted to take the route up and past Deer Lake. It was an ascent up through a river valley to get to the lake. There were quite a few other hikers out. Many were doing the high divide loop that starts and finishes at Sol Duc but loops around the ridges above Seven Lakes Basin. I would cover a portion of this, but then drop down to Hoh Lake and eventually the Hoh River valley.
Once I arrived at Deer Lake I enjoyed some views of the lake and indulged in watching the jumping frogs in the lake.
After running around the lake the climb continued. The higher I got, the better the views were.
Getting up into the high country in Olympic National Park is an awesome experience. There are some amazing peaks. It’s not Rocky Mountain with its 14,000 foot summits, or Yosemite with its granite walls, or Yellowstone with its abundant wildlife, but it holds some amazing beauty with lush green mountains and peaks for miles.
Atop the high divide trail is much like being in the Rockies, Winds or Wasatch. However, here at 5,000 feet is like being in a mountain tundra environment of 9,000ft+ in the Rocky Mountains.
The wildflowers were popping all over just like they are in Utah at 9,000ft.
After traversing around part of the high divide I came around the ridge to an overlook of a gorgeous basin. I had an excellent view down into Seven Lakes Basin.
I enjoyed these views for a bit as I ran above a few snow fields and along the ridge. These high country trails were amazing. After coming around Bogachiel Peak I came upon the best view yet…Mount Olympus. The Mt Olympus in Utah is pretty and fun to summit, but it doesn’t quite compare. Viewing this park’s Mount Olympus gave me the chills as well as a certain level of excitement. The glaciers on this mountain are unreal. I love how the Blue Glacier just sits there looking like a massive cloud resting in the cirque.
I have fallen instantly in love with this mountain. I need to come back to summit it at some point within the next few years.
After drooling over this marvelous mountain I moved swiftly across and down to Hoh Lake. What a gorgeous lake!
At the lake I watched a black bear on the opposite side for a bit, swam in the alpine waters, and ate some lunch to refuel.
Descending from the lake took me into the rainforest. Here there were a few gorgeous waterfalls, lush greenery and thick wooded areas. A very rich ecosystem for sure.
A vast variety of terrain and scenery along this 26 mile trail was just a sampling of what Olympic National Park has to offer. I am grateful for the sense of adventure to get out and push my body. I was certainly sore and beat up by the end, but after exploring this park for eight hours I am blessed. A truly magnificent park this is indeed.