OUTDOORS: Many Olympic National Park facilities open for Memorial Day weekend
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Mike Beer of Hamilton, Ohio, takes a break while setting up camp at the Heart o’ the Hills campground in Olympic National Park on Wednesday. — Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

Remember the basics when in wild

By Rob Ollikainen

Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Before heading out on that wilderness excursion, pack the 10 essentials, check current conditions and tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back, Olympic National Park officials advise.

The Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles is a good place for updated conditions, park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.

Located within the Olympic National Park Visitor Center at 3002 Mount Angeles Road, the information center, which can be reached at 360-565-3100, offers planning assistance, backcountry permits, wilderness education and bear canisters.

Rangers are available daily between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Current conditions and safety tips are also posted on the Olympic National Park website at www.nps.gov/olym.

“The most important thing, always, is that [visitors] learn about current conditions,” Maynes said.

Checking trail conditions is especially important in the spring and early summer, she said, because of variable snow levels and blown-down trees that haven't been removed.

Those obstacles can double the amount of time it takes to get to a destination, she said.

Officials say to avoid fast-flowing streams and check tides when trekking along the coast.

“Another piece that is extremely important is to let somebody know where you're going and what time you expect to be back,” Maynes said.

The 10 essentials of wilderness travel, considered to be the minimum that should be carried, are extra clothing, extra food, a topographic map, compass, flashlight with extra batteries, sunglasses and sunscreen, pocket knife, matches, candle or fire starter and first aid kit.

Visitors can carry guns but not discharge them.

Although a 2010 federal law allowed the possession of firearms in national parks, it is still illegal to discharge a gun in Olympic National Park.

“We urge people, particularly in the wilderness area, to be self-reliant and to meet the wilderness on its own terms,” Maynes said.

Rather than packing heat to stave off a bear, Maynes suggested using bear canisters or hanging food to keep the critters away.

Bear canisters are available at the park visitor's center and are required along the coast because of raccoons.

Cellphone coverage is spotty in Olympic National Park and shouldn't be relied on.

“Never count on cellphones as a wilderness tool,” Maynes said.

“You might have reception, but it's really important to resist the temptation to count on it.”

Said Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum: “Visitors should always be prepared for changing conditions, as snow is possible any time of year at the park's higher elevation and weather can shift rapidly.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — For many families, a camping trip on Memorial Day weekend marks an unofficial start of summer.

Olympic National Park is rolling out the amenities for the holiday weekend, announcing the return of migrating birds and blooming wildflowers in the lowland forests.

“Spring is a great time to experience Olympic National Park, and we invite people to come out and enjoy the warmer temperatures and sunshine,” Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said.

Over the past three years, Olympic National Park averaged about 128,000 visits in April compared with 282,000 in May.

The park counts visits, not visitors. Traffic counters on the entrance roads count vehicles passing over them, so a family that travels to several destinations in the park is counted multiple times.

“It's really clear that our visitation in each of those three years pretty much doubled from April to May, either doubled or slightly more than doubled,” park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Thursday.

Maynes added that visitation in the million-acre park “always depends on the weather.”

While the high country remains snowed in — there were 51 inches of snow at Hurricane Ridge on Thursday — most facilities in the lowland valleys and Pacific coast are open for the holiday weekend.

Here's a rundown of what's open in Olympic National Park:

■   Hurricane Ridge Road and Heart o' the Hills

Hurricane Ridge Road is generally open 24 hours a day, weather permitting, during the spring and summer.

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is staffed weekends through June 8 and will be staffed daily beginning June 13.

Hurricane Hill Road, which leads to the trailhead 1.5 miles past the visitor center, is expected to open by mid-June.

Obstruction Point Road, reaching elevations of 6,000 feet, is expected to open in mid-July, snow permitting.

Heart o' the Hills campground is open year-round with drinking water and flush toilets.

The Olympic National Park Visitor Center at 3002 Mount Angeles Road in Port Angeles is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

■   Elwha Valley

Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed just beyond the Altair Campground for the ongoing removal of Glines Canyon Dam.

All sections of Olympic Hot Springs Road are expected to reopen by the end of the year.

Hikers can access the heart of the Elwha Valley via Whiskey Bend Road, which is open 24 hours a day.

Drinking water and flush toilets will be activated at the Elwha campground today.

Altair Campground will be open today through September with drinking water and flush toilets.

Olympic Raft and Kayak, located just outside the park at 123 Lake Aldwell Road, offers guided trips on the Elwha River.

■   Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent Lodge is open through Jan. 1. It offers lodging, dining, boat rentals and a gift shop.

Fairholme campground, which opened Wednesday, will remain open through Oct. 6 with drinking water and flush toilets.

Fairholme General Store will open daily through the summer.

The Log Cabin Resort will be open today through Sept. 30 for lodging, RV and tent camping, a boat launch, dining room and store.

The Lapoel picnic area opens Saturday.

■   Sol Duc Valley

The Sol Duc Campground and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which offer lodging, dining, hot springs and a small store, are open for the season.

■   Hoh Rain Forest

The Hoh Rain Forest Campground is open year-round with drinking water and flush toilets.

The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is currently staffed Fridays through Tuesdays.

It will be open daily from June 18 to Sept. 1.

The visitor center will close Sept. 2 for renovations and is expected to reopen by spring 2015.

■   Pacific Coast

Olympic National Park's road-accessible coast campgrounds — Kalaloch, Mora and Ozette — are open.

The Kalaloch and Mora campgrounds offer drinking water and flush toilets. The Ozette campground is primitive with pit toilets and no potable water on site.

South Beach campground just south of Kalaloch opened May 16.

■   Deer Park

Deer Park Road and campground are scheduled to open by mid-June, snow permitting.

While most of the road is dry, the upper elevations are snowed in.

■   Staircase

The Staircase campground is open year-round.

■   Dosewallips

Dosewallips Road remains closed because of a washout outside the park boundaries.

Access to the campground requires a 5.5-mile trek.

■   In Grays Harbor County, Quinault Loop Road and Upper and Lower Queets roads are open, as are the nearby campgrounds.

For information on Olympic National Park, visit www.nps.gov/olym.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 23. 2014 9:44PM
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