Somewhere Over the Rainbow ~ ONF, High Divide and the Grands – August 2020

“God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us – in the dreariest and most dreaded moments – can see a possibility of hope.” Maya Angelou

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/seven-lakes-basin

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/grand-valley

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/grand-ridge

The trails have been pretty crazy these days. So, when it came time to plan for our big anniversary hike we decided to hop on-line and see if we could get some backcountry permits/reservations in the Olympic National Forest. Permits can be a pain – but they do secure you a place to camp and take a little stress out of hitting the dirt path with so many other hikers hungry to escape this slightly crazy world right now. The kicker is, you have to plan ahead. And although you might snag yourself a lovely spot along the wild and wondrous trails in the heart of the Olympics – you can’t predict the weather or plan around it.

As in life, storms come and storms go and you don’t really get a say in them. But, I have found that if you can walk through the storms, with your head up and your heart strong, you’ll find beauty there as well.

My family was hit by something heavy and hard this summer. I cannot say I didn’t see it coming. But, I definitely didn’t see it coming the way it did. We never could have planned for it or around it or prepared for it. We didn’t get a say in it. It just was. And is. And now, always will be a part of our story. But I know we all have the capability and choice to walk through this life, as unpredictable and unprecedented as it might be, step by step, earnestly searching for God’s goodness and grace through it all.

God never promised us a life without storms. But, He sprays color coded conglomerations of refracting light through the raindrops of this life to remind us He is in all things. Even the hard things. Maybe mostly the hard things. Just look up – and you’ll see his beauty reflecting and refracting and radiating through it all it.

This is one trip with many parts.

Three little chapters in a short story, full of love and life and rain and light.

Chapter One

Its quite a drive from our little corner of the world to the Olympics so we decided to do two hikes while we were out that way, The High Divide and a little shimmy up and around Grand Pass.

Our first destination was The High Divide, a hike we had done years before when we took Mikey’s little sis and her sweet hubby out on their first backcountry adventure. It is a lush and lovely trail that rambles along the Sol Duck and then zig-zags its way up to an incredible stretch of ridgeway with grand views of Mt Olympus and the Hoh river to the south and the Sol Duc valley, Seven Lakes Basin to the the north, before dipping back down in the glorious green forest floor passing by Deer Lake and back down to Sol Duc Falls.

We had two luxurious nights booked for this ‘High’ly esteemed loop hike but both nights were foretold to pour rain. My Mikey could endure most anything. But, I am a fair weather girl and we knew my mind and body could only really endure one day of sopping wet, rain soaked trails – so instead of pitching a tent along the Sol Duc on our first night, we stopped short, just outside of Port Angeles, on a Thursday afternoon and posted up at a quaint and quintessential motel rightfully named, The Emerald Valley Inn.

We arrived a smidge before check-in so we grabbed a bite to eat next door at good ol’ Granny’s Cafe.

Granny’s is well known for it’s amazing soft serve ice-cream. But, her burgers proved to be just as fabulous.

Just as the clouds began to douse us with rain we were granted a Covid safe code that gave us contact-less access to our room. It was so surreal. We NEVER saw our hosts.

The walls were paper thin, just like a tent. But, you could hear doves cooing just outside and strangers laughing next door and I absolutely loved everything about it. Being cozied up next to my fella all dry and warm was just icing on the cake.

Sometimes we uncover the most unexpected treasures when things don’t go our way. And then we realize – they actually went just the way they should.

With morning came more rain, just as we had expected. So we took it slow, enjoying the friendly farm animals nestled next door and filled our bellies one last time with some of Granny’s farm fresh eggs.

Then we bid farewell to this unexpected gem of a place and headed down the road past Lake Crescent towards the High Divide Trailhead.

As we wove past that seemingly never ending crescent shaped lake with the wipers working hard, a rainbow spread its wing wide across the waters perfectly framing in the mountains unfolding before us.

That iridescent wonder stuck with me as we put on our packs at the Sol Duc Trailhead with rain persistently pattering down on our backs. Its perfectly place arc reminded me of promises and the possibilities that lie ahead of us, always. And I was hopeful that we’d find magic even beneath that drab heavy ceiling of gray gloom.

So, we set off down the sodden dirt path that bent out before us.

As we passed the turn off for the falls, veering left towards Heart Lake, taking a clockwise approach to the loop, the heavens let loose a bit more and soon everything on us and around was sopping wet. Even the earth beneath our feet pooled with water as if it longed to be a stream rather than a path to possibilities.

We passed a few friendly faces along the way, but even the wilder ones seemed weary of the wet.

It was a slow and soggy stroll through the woods but even in the dark and gloom with my hands numb as nothing – I could not stop trying to capture the beauty that surrounded us – even here, where our steps were heavy and the very air we breathed felt cold and cumbersome.

But, by the time we were climbing the winding staircase towards Heart Lake I had lost most of the feeling in my hands and my capturing capabilities were a bit brutish.

We were beyond wet and weary and wondering how we would get the tent up in the midst of the wind and rain – but we were still standing, heads up and hearts strong.

Our Marmot Passage has this amazing feature that allows you to put down the footprint and prop up the poles and wrap it all up with the rainfly – creating a shelter from the storm. So, you can actually put up the tent ‘under cover’. The wind was roaring and we had to chase a few bags and restart a few times – but against all odds we (and when I say ‘we’ I really mean ‘Mikey’ ) made a shelter out that humble abode. And it was a heavenly respite amidst the storm.

After a while, the rain let up a bit and when Mikey ventured out for a look-see he discovered we had a neighbor…

He was friendly enough – and busy scavenging for blueberries. So, while he bustled around on the hillside, we stocked up on water and got ready to make a feast of our own.

Then just as the rain began another visitation, we crawled inside and spent the night all warm and cozy in our safe Passage.

And then, just as that brilliant bend in the sky had seemingly promised – we woke up to a new day – beaming with blue skies.

Once again we took the morning slow and savory like, waiting for the sun to make its way to us – sipping coffee and admiring our beautiful black burley neighbor nibbling on a breakfast of berries just below the ridge.

Once the sun had crept down close, lighting up our camp, we wrung out our gear (including our underwear!) and spread it wide, letting those brilliant rays of light do their magic, drying things out and lighting our loads a bit.

And then we packed up and headed for the hills.

Leaving that fulled Heart-ed lake, that tended to us so well, behind.

Then in just a shimmy or two we were riding that infamous ridge line rightfully deemed – The High Divide.

There were low rising nebulas billowing forth from the Hoh River obstructing views a bit to the south…

But the basin to the north was beaming all bright and bleary-eyed.

We meandered along the way passing a friendly fawn and fella I just adored.

Until we came to the end of the High road.

From there we dipped back down to the rocky rugged path that leads you down past Deer Lake and then deep into the forest and back to the falls. We had ‘Grand’ plans to start hike number 2 by 4pm so we picked up our pace and did work as we wandered through the trees and make our way back to the car.

Once we were winding back past that promising Lake Crescent, with the sun dipping all too fast and the clouds gathering overhead once again we made another impromptu adjustment and grabbed a room back in Port Angeles instead of wandering back into the woods. I love the wild, but revamping and showering and repacking under cover instead of in the back of our car in the dark of night – was really a brilliant move.

Chapter 2

Early the next morning we headed out towards Hurricane Ridge to take on the first leg of our trip, that we had side-stepped the night before.

Hurricane Ridge is a wonder all it’s own and you can get to it by car!

Just before the parking area up top you can take a sharp left onto Obstruction Point Road, named as one of the deadliest roads in WA. It’s long and winding and crazy narrow at times with only loose looking shoulders to shimmy onto if a car has to pass by you, heading the other way. Luckily we only met one other car on our way in and it was near a wider berth in the road and we made our way, safe and sound, to the trailhead.

Our original plans were to stay at Grand Lake the night before and then to day hike up to Grand Pass and Grand Peak before we headed to a nice little spot called Roaring Winds:) So our morning was all about making up for lost time.

The hike to Grand Lake and its compatriots starts out high with Mount Olympus looming off in the distance. Its a moonscape of sorts at first.

With grand views all along the way.

At just a few miles in you come to a hight point that allows you to peer down into Grand Valley where three lakes lay hidden in the trees and Grand Pass lifts off into the distance.

At this point you pretty much plunge into the vibrant valley below, knowing that every step you take into this deep descent will later be an arduous climb.

And then the path evened out and it was pretty much smooth sailing from there.

We passed a multitude of deer and marmots seemed to poke their heads up around every corner as we meandered past Grand, then Moose and lastly – Myrtle Lake, with Grand Pass just off in the distance.

The Lakes were lovely – but we had our sights set on the pass beyond so we headed that way. And then just like that – views burst out before us.

But we didn’t stop there:) Instead we followed to the trail to the right and headed up to Grand Peak – where majesty is the only word that seems to make sense.

Up there, way up top, its as if the whole world consists of only magnificent mountain tops. Layers of loveliness forever.

We found a perfect little perch and had lunch.

This is one of my favs – a jalepeno tuna packed avacado with trader joe’s corn chips:)

Then with a long road sprawling out before us – we captured one more shot and then headed back the way we came.

Along this way, I believe it was at Moose Lake, there is a little restroom nestled up in the trees – with an adjustable sign and all! We did’t use it – but I had to capture it’s brilliance:)

After that, there really was no rest for the weary. Only the long climb back up towards Grand Ridge.

Mikey is the most patient hiking buddy. He could have killed that hill in no time. But, even without a pack I had to take breaks at almost every turn. And there were SO MANY turns! But, he just kept telling me all we had was time. So we took break after break after break until Grand Pass shrunk off into the distance.

And where we had been was further behind us than where we had yet to go.

Chapter 3

By 4pm we were back at the trailhead packed up and ready for our final destination, a sweet little spot called Roaring winds, down the Obstruction Point trail a ways, just before Maiden Peak – that we knew we’d have all to ourselves.

I’m not going to lie. I was smiling but after another 10+ mile day I was a bit tired. Luckily we only had about three miles to go. It’s interesting though, how long and arduous a short stretch can feel when you are already a bit weary.

We stopped at Obstruction Point.

And few other places a long the way…

because Mikey knew I needed it.

And then we met a friendly little bird who was as drawn to him as I am.

Just along the way a bit more, after we passed this beautiful buck tucked away on the ridge…

We found our home for the night.

We rested our feet a bit and I made a cup of joe:) And then we explored.

Our sweet little spot was nestled down in between Elk Mountain and Maiden Peak. But, when we shimmied up the way a bit towards Maiden we found this lovely loft.

So we made some more grand plans to head back to camp to grab a few things before we headed back up here for a sunset dinner date.

When we got back to camp we had company:)

I suppose – he may have thought the same thing. It is more likely that we were likely ‘his’ visitors than he was ours. So, we respectfully whipped up our dinner…

And then we shimmied back up to our room with a view, giving him space to just be.

And then all high and mighty like – we dined…

And wined…

While the sun set slow and silent.

Then we packed up and wrapped up…

And headed back to camp, and discovered another brilliant beast.

He hung around for a bit while the sun continued its dreamy descent.

And then the night finally fell.

Sleep came quickly after such a long, adventurous day. And then sometime in the night or the wee hours of the morning we heard raindrops. We hadn’t expected the pitter-patter and dealt with it by dosing on and off for quite a while, hoping it would pass so we could pack up and head home to the other halves of our hearts sooner rather than later. Luckily the drops did start to fade and when we crawled out to access the day this is what we saw…

One moment I was begrudging the rains uninvited arrival and the next I was so thankful for its awakening. I would take rain every morning of my life if I knew it would rouse me early enough to see the sun lift above the horizon all sherberty and vibrant, like this.

I scampered down the trail a bit to go potty while Mikey tried to capture the new day unfolding.

And then just around the bend the new day got even more brilliant…

One bold bow bent perfectly over Elk Mountain while a soft and subtle double sat cradled in the hills beside it, fading gently into the clouds.

Storms come in all shapes and sizes. Expected and unexpected. But the sun sets and rises every day – none the less. And the light bounces off the beauty of stormy skies in a way nothing else can compare to.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Then, with a hop in our step, we packed up our wet tent and made our way back the way we came.

Periodically looking back to that place we were before, where the sky still spoke of a beauty I cannot really explain.

We wove our way back towards Obstruction Point catching glimpses of the trail we were leaving behind us.

And wouldn’t you know, that little bird met us along the path, just as it had before, and flittered along with us for a while once again.

As we made our way back to the car I was, as I always am, drifting on a dream of goodness and grace – so very thankful for the peaceful, perfect wild, in all its colors and glory, unpredictable and unprecedented and so soothing – to the deepest parts of my being. It may not hold all the answers. But it always reminds me that life is lovely – even if we can’t understand it. And that God is good and true and constant, through it all.

The Miles

Chapter One ~ The High Divide

Sol Duc Trailhead to Heart Lake – 8.5 Miles

Heart Lake, Up to the Divide and back down to the Trailhead – 10.5 miles

Total ~ 19 miles

Chapter 2 ~ Grand Pass Trail to Grand Peak and Back

Obstruction Point Trailhead to Grand Peak – 7 Miles

And Back – 7 Miles

Total ~ 14 Miles

Chapter 3 ~ Osbtruction Point Trailhead to Roaring Winds Camp and Back

Obstruction Point to Roaring Winds – 3.2 miles

And Back – 3.2 miles

Total ~ 6.4 miles

The Whole Story ~ 39.4 Miles

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