Having made the trip up to Seattle to watch the Steelers play, my other to-do item was to get a hike in. I’ve done two other hikes in WA, before I found HAZ, so I don’t have those logged. Both of them were in the Mt. Rainier area, 2 years apart. I wanted to go out and explore a different area, and the Olympics is an area I’ve heard about that’s also very nice. My buddy sent me a link to www.wta.org
, which is a comparable site to HAZ as a resource for WA trails (although it still doesn’t match up quite as well). I finally decided on Lena Lake. It wasn’t too far from his house, roads are all paved, and the hike was intermediate both in terms of length and difficulty, so it wouldn’t take up the entire day. It was also lower elevation, so there wouldn’t be any snow, which could make for some unpredictable trail conditions.
The trail starts off of Hamma Hamma Road, at the bottom of a very narrow canyon adjacent to the Hamma Hamma River. It then climbs up the north side of the canyon, with many switchbacks and never gets too steep. Walking along this climb was actually very easy, mainly due to how well the trail is built. The trail then does a kind of an S-curve, turning south and then north again, finally getting up to a saddle along the north canyon side, and from there goes along the west side of the lake. The S-curve looks to be done mainly to cross Lena Creek, which flows down from the south end of Lena Lake. There is what appeared to be a dry stream bed crossing at one point, was well three bridges that are built to cross some drainages, but the very loud water of Lena Creek is never close to the trail. As you approach the curve, you can hear the creek, which flows pretty strongly, get louder and louder. After the trails turns to the south, you can get a glimpse of Lena Creek far below the trail into the canyon.
As you approach Lena Lake, the first thing you see through the trees are several floating deadfall trees that have collected at the downstream southern end of the lake. There is no overflow, so the stream out of the lake must be underground and then surface further down the hill. The dry stream bed we saw before is also visible at the southern end of the lake. I can’t tell if this is natural or manmade. I would think it has to be manmade, but this being a federal wilderness area, hard to tell.
For this day, the sunlight never hit the bottom of the canyon where the trailhead is. While the forecast for the day was 45 degrees, in reality it was cooler than that along most of the trail. At the trailhead, it never got above 26. Along Hamma Hamma Road and at the beginning of the trail, frost covers all the vegetation. It’s so thick at times it looks like snow. Sections of Hamma Hamma Road were icy enough to make us nervous on the way in. Once the sun hits the trail, it warms up quickly and the frost is gone, giving way to some very vibrant green. The deadfall trees in the lake are always sitting in the shade, so they are also frost covered. In the open sunlight of the lakeshore, it was definitely mid-40s. I wore two sweatshirts and was hardly sweating at all, as well barely using much water. This was the only hike in recent memory that the ice I put in my Camelbak early in the morning was still not melted once we got back home. So the temps were much cooler than what we normally deal with in Phoenix.
My buddy Kenny, who lives in Olympia, drove me out to the trailhead for this hike. He made it with me along the previous two hikes, well over a decade ago. However, since he’s now a disabled veteran (and getting older), he can’t really handle the climbing. However, his 12 year old son Tyler was up for it, and he did very well. Our total mileage up to the lake and back was 7.4, 2002’ AEG. He kept up the whole time, in fact he was ahead of me during most of it. We made it to north end of the lower Lena Lake. From there, the trails branches into two more trails. The left (west) trail, heads up to Upper Lena Lake, which is in the Olympic National Park (lower Lena is in the Olympic Wilderness Area). The right (east) trail go into a very narrow canyon into The Brothers WA, which seems to be named after two mountains. One of these brothers is visible from Lena Lake, giving some very nice scenery. There is an overlook at the south end of the lake, and then the trail descends down to the shoreline. We took our lunch at the shoreline, headed up the trail another 100 yards or so, and then headed back. At the south end of the lake on our way back I noticed a spur trail that heads to the south end of the lake, where we were able to get a closer look at the floating deadfall. There was a campsite nearby in the shade, which necessitated a fire that we could smell a half mile down the trail. The maps show an official campground on the north end of the lake by the trail junction, but we never got that far. I didn’t want Kenny to wait too long for us.
That wraps up my out of state hikes for 2015. Nice to have a year where I get some outer-AZ hikes in.