OUTDOORS: Another way to Olympic Hot Springs while the road is closed

By Jordan Nailon
For Peninsula Daily News

Upcoming outdoors events
Sekiu salmon derby

SEKIU — The Sekiu Salmon Derby is Saturday and Sunday.

The derby is part of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series.

Tickets are available at Olson's and Van Riper's resorts in Sekiu. Tickets are $25.

First prize is $1,200, second place receives $500 and third place wins $300.

There also is a $200 prize for the largest sockeye, and many more prizes.

Tuna tournament

LA PUSH — A Tuna tournament will cast off from the LaPush marina, 71 Main St., at 6 a.m. next Saturday, Aug. 30.

Weigh-in and prizes will be awarded at the conclusion of the tournament at Riverview RV Park, 33 Mora Road, at 6 p.m.

A barbecue will be served for contestants following weigh-in and awards.

There is a $200 entry fee per boat.

Participants must register by 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29.

For more information, phone Gary Grahn at Olympic Anglers, 360-640-4820.

Peninsula Daily News
“Two monsters, one Quileute and one Elwha, met occasionally in massive combat at the boundary between the Elwha and Quileuete territory. Evenly matched, they laid waste to a vast area and wounded each other grievously, but neither ever killed the other. After the last such battle, both monsters limped home to their caves, walled themselves in, and cried over their wounds. The steaming hot tears of both have run out of their lairs and accumulated to make the Sol Duc and Olympic Hot Springs.”

—Traditional Quileute “Time of Beginnings” narration as told in the book, “Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula: Who We Are,” pages 135-36.



DAYTRIP ACCESS TO the fabled Olympic Hot Springs could be delayed until next year as work crews attempt to finish the Elwha River dam removal project and then refurbish the main access road to the popular trailhead.

Despite proclamations of its near completion, the project is now pushing on into its fourth year.

Thankfully, salmon and steelhead are already benefitting from the work, but would-be park goers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the project delays.

According to Barb Maynes, spokeswoman for the Olympic National Park, the end date of the project is a bit of a mystery, subject to the whims of man and nature alike.

“What we are saying is that we are hoping to have it open sometime this winter,” Maynes said on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, park officials estimated that the main access road along the Elwha River would be reopened by September, but inevitable river induced setbacks along with natural human tardiness have combined to extend that finish line.

In October of 2013, infrastructure at the Elwha Water Treatment Plant became clogged with sediment slurry unleashed from the Glines Canyon dam removal project, resulting in a large cleanup effort that delayed other work on the project.

According to the project contractor, another factor stalling the project has been higher than helpful river flows. This is in spite the fact that the river has experienced record low river flows over the last three years.

According to Maynes, river flow must be extremely low in order for the last bit of dam removal to be completed.

Even then there will still be more work to do before hot spring revelers can access the Olympic Hot Springs trailhead by road.

“High river flows” throughout the summer prevented the contractor from restarting work on the project until just last week.

With the unrivaled rainy season of the North Olympic Peninsula just around the corner, further setbacks could be just a matter of time.

“We're not quite sure what that end date will be, and we know we have somewhere between six and eight weeks worth of work to do on the road and parking area once the contractor has left,” Maynes said.

Although road access to the Olympic Hot Springs will not be open for the foreseeable future, there is another route to backcountry paradise.

It is not an obvious route, nor is it for the faint of heart or conditioning, as it turns what normally would be a quite leisurely 2.5-mile hike from the Elwha Valley trailhead into a full blown wilderness adventure.

According to Larry Lack, Olympic National Park trails supervisor, “Without the road open, you have to go up the Sol Duc and over Appleton Pass. It's 13 miles one way.”

Either park visitors don't know about the Appleton Pass route or they consider it outside of their comfort zone. Maynes said that she believes the long hike has kept most visitors at bay since the road closed.

“My understanding is that it has not been utilized all that much,” she said.

For those that can't wait for the Elwha project to reach completion before they visit the burbling hot springs, it would be best to plan for an overnight, if not a multiple-day, trek into and out of the wilderness. And be sure to bring a topographical map.

The extra time will allow hikers to saturate in the living naturescape and thoroughly absorb the revitalizing properties of the hot springs without feeling rushed, and regrettably exhausted, at both ends of their journey.

Determining just when these bubbling pools of an immortal's tears will again be readily accessible to the public is a bit of a snake to pin down.

“We don't have a very firm estimate, because it's very much dependent on the completion of the dam removal, which is very dependent on weather and river flows,” offered Maynes.

“Hopefully we will have it open by the end of this calendar year. But it's very difficult to say at this point.”

In the interim, out of doors enthusiasts who enjoy a little pampering at the apex of their journey will have to continue their headlong pacing as the final stages of the dam removal project grind to completion.

________

Jordan Nailon is a veteran outdoors writer in western Washington. He is an assistant baseball coach at Forks High School who in his spare time is a hog and vegetable farmer and beekeeper.

Last modified: August 23. 2014 9:34AM
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