Lena Lake Trail, Olympic National Forest
Whelan on Walkabout in Washington State
“This is a moderate climb through old- and second growth forest to a large sub-alpine lake with a big picnic rock overlooking the water.” So says the guidebook.
When we moved to Olympia, we bought several guidebooks for our new found back yard - Washington State. One such guide “Day Hike! Olympic Peninsula” by Seabury Blair, Jr., boasts “More than 70 trails you can hike in a day.” That sounds like a suggestion for a walkabout day hike.
One year after moving to The Evergreen State, we wanted to get out and see the countryside and use our fitness time to take a hike. I regularly walk our neighborhood, and when the weather is cold and rainy, I walk the treadmill at the nearby gym.
But only one-and-a-half hour drive from our front door, Hike #11 in the guidebook would take us on a hike in one of our new favorite areas, the Hood Canal. The Lena Lake trailhead in the Olympic National Forest is thirteen miles north of Hamma Hamma (an area well known for wonderful fresh oysters).
Despite the reputation of the weather in the Pacific North West, the sky held only a few fluffy clouds and no chance of rain. I think bright, beautiful weather is more ordinary than my fellow Washingtonians let on.
We parked at the trailhead and started our 6.5 miles with an elevation gain of 1,250 feet. The trail was listed as moderate difficulty. We worked our way up the switchbacks, a gradual steady climb. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, allowing me to look up from my footsteps and enjoy the surrounding scenery.
Large big leaf maples are dripping with moss reach overhead. Stumps were covered in Huckleberry and ferns. Along the trail, bunchberry, grasses, and small herbaceous plants I have never seen before. All intertwined and living in a magical vertical green garden.
The trail was well maintained, and it was easy to keep pace on the moderate grade up. About the time I was starting to think “what is for lunch?” we made it to “Lunch Rock.” Overlooking the lake, we sat and enjoyed our accomplishment and view. There is always something special about overlooking water; a lake, the ocean, a stream, a pond, and sometimes even a puddle can be mesmerizing.
I try not to be “The Snarky Traveler,” but the trail is loved too much for its own good. Despite the clear signs at the trailhead, we saw hikers cutting across the switchbacks. And despite the clear signs that dogs must be on a leash, we saw three of the four dogs running loose on the trail. “Really?” At our lunch spot, we picked up pistachio shells left behind. I don’t get it. There is nothing hard about Leave No Trace. You bring it in, you take it out.
On the way down, My new boots felt good on my feet, and I wasn’t too hot or too cold. I love hiking with hiking sticks. On the last half mile of the day, my knees started aching just a bit, and even though I was getting tired, it really felt good to be out on the trail.
Correction, it felt extraordinary.
What makes something ordinary feel extraordinary?
It was an ordinary hike, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary place, with ordinary stuff, and my ordinary hiking partner.
But at the end of the day, it didn’t feel ordinary.
It was special.
It was extraordinary that I was able to visit such a magical place so close to home. I didn’t need to travel far and wide. I didn’t need a plane ticket or advance reservations. All I needed was to get out and hike in the Olympic National Forest in our Washington State.
Two years ago, I started Whelan on Walkabout to save my memories and share my photos. I am pleased to still be at it, wandering in simple places and the exotic. I’m still having fun taking photographs and blogging about my travels both far and near.
Today was an extraordinarily ordinary day.
I think I’ll do it again soon.