Continuing to get our legs and shoulders ready for our PCT section, we planned a three-day, two-night trip including the ascent of a steep ridge we’d never been up before. This is the report of that trip in early July 2022.
We’re always looking for places we haven’t been. For a long time, I’ve wanted to take the Six Ridge Trail that leaves the North Fork Skokomish River trail, and climbs west into the interior Olympic Mountains.
Approach to this trail was through the Staircase Campground at the north end of Lake Cushman. This campground is one of the front country areas of Olympic National Park. From our house, it’s an hour drive right passed the same trailhead we used on the last trip.
The plan had us hiking to camp up at Big Log Camp 5 miles from the trailhead. There were lots and lots of people visiting Staircase on this beautiful sunny day. The trail to Big Log is generally easy. We did stop along the way for a bite of lunch away from the trail right next to the river. Beautiful!
At one point, the trail climbs above the river for a really nice view.
We traveled on and found our way to Big Log Camp. Lots of big logs around and lots of backpacking campers although we did locate a very nice spot for our tent about 4:30 in the afternoon.
As soon as we were set up, it was time for hot drinks and snacks. We also brought a bottle of wine along which really hit the spot with dinner. No glass bottle though. We use our reusable plastic bottle that weighs way less. We had one glass and saved the rest for the next day.
Very quiet and pleasant night. Just the sounds of the nearby rushing river. Surprising how many dreams I have when I sleep on the ground. Sleep and dream for an hour and a half, wake up, then start the whole process over again.
Up around 7am for 2 cups of coffee. A real treat compared to when we’ll only have one cup while hiking the PCT section that’s coming up. 9am found us on the trail headed for the Six Ridge trail intersection. Just the other side of the bridge spanning the river, we turn left as everyone else was going right up the river trail. The Six Ridge Trail heads a little ways downstream before ascending the ridge. We were surprised though when the trail came to Seven Stream – and there was no bridge. This stream is about 30 yards wide and maybe a foot deep in the middle. Nothing to do but just ford across. This would get our shoes, socks pant legs, and feet wet. Done this many times before, and we actually enjoyed the experience as it brought back wonderful memories of our 2018 PCT hiking adventure where we crossed many streams – many quite challenging. Eventually, feet would dry.
After the crossing, the trail eventually came to a right turn, and there we found an old sign. We cleaned it up a bit and then headed up the ridge.
The trail switchbacks steeply up the spine of the ridge. Our fortune included the recent maintenance on the trail. When we checked in for our permit in Hoodsport, the ranger there was excited (as much as rangers get excited) to know we would probably be the first to get up this trail after the recent trail crew cleared it.
Heading for the top of the ridge at 4500’, the maintenance ran out at 2700’. After that it was brushy but not too difficult too follow. There are some nice views from this trail. Here are a few.
When the trail started to climb less, then it was an up-and-down experience. Go 100 yds, drop down 100 feet, climb back up 100 feet. Climb 50, back down 50. This occurred over and over making progress much slower. Not only that but we started to run into some significant snow. Snow is not too much of an obstacle for us as long as we can follow the trail.
The Six Ridge trail is historically significant. This was one of the routes into the interior that was explored originally by the O’Neill Expedition back in 1885. It does access some remote and rarely seen areas of the south flank of the Olympic Mountains. Along the trail, we came to a high point and found where a sign had been attached to a tree. What remained was some old nails and wire plus the scar on the tree where it had been. The size could have been 2×3 ft at it’s largest but knowing what it signified we’re not sure. Now it’s certainly inside the boundary of the National Park, and it was strange that it would be facing away from us as we hiked along. Maybe it was put there when the park had different dimensions and it was a warning to hunters that hunting was not allowed past that point? It will remain a mystery for now.
We reached our lunch and turn-around spot where we could see ahead and do some planning for a future trip. From here, we went back down the ridge trail toward camp and felt it was a good workout plus an interesting exploration. Upon our return to camp, we found most other campers had left and we enjoyed a late afternoon snooze followed by our dinner with games of cribbage.
The next day, we leisurely broke camp and hiked the 5.5 miles back to Staircase Ranger station. Fortunately, our legs had responded very well and we would not have to endure the extreme soreness like after our last hike. We were back home within a couple hours while discussing our plans for our next trip down to California to finish a section of the PCT. That will be a 170-mile trip. How will it go? Will we manage this long section that will connect up the southern part of the PCT we’ve already completed with the section from Crater Lake to the Columbia River? Watch for our posts from the trail when we get started from Seiad Valley CA starting the second week of July 2022.