Monday, May 19, 2008

The Lena Lake Experience

Historically, I have not been a fan of the Olympics. It is true that I took my family there in 2006 and spent three days exploring the “exterior” of the peninsula. We visited Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls and the Hoe Rain Forest, but the experience of looking out over the range never intrigued me to the point of saying “I have to go out there”.

Bring on the winter of 07-08 and the massive snows of which I have had a love/hate relationship and the desperation to find quality, early season, yet snow-free trails. For this purpose, I should mention that I follow a couple of websites, most notably Washington Trails Association and to a lesser extent, Northwest Hiker where participants post information and photos about the hikes that they have taken. Still being a newbie to Washington, I read with great interest and have map for assistance in finding those hidden spots close to Lewis County.

Late last week, I noticed a name that kept coming up. I read the “hike reports” and checked the map. It was going to be right on the edge of the 2 hour drive from the local area. I searched trip reports from years passed looking for photos. Not too impressive, but what choice did I have. The boys and I got up early, grabbed a friend and headed towards Lena Lake.

Getting to Lena Lake means driving north to Olympia and then taking Highway 101 by Shelton and Hoodsport. 14.2 miles north of Hoodsport, take a left on Forest Road #25 and drive for about 7.5 miles. It is a well used trailhead and marked visibly from Highway 101. You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead.

The trail to the lake climbs about 1000 feet in the first 2 miles, but it is really a rather moderate hike. The last mile rises a net elevation of 300 feet as you reach the Lena Lake Basin. The trail was in excellent condition for an early season hike until you reach the northern end of the lake. From there, the elements still had the upper hand with downed trees and on this weekend, flooding.

A group of boy scouts from Issaquah reported that the water rose enough to have them move uphill from the lakeshore on Saturday night. When they got up the next morning, their former tent site was completely under water.

Just in the two hours we were there, the water level rose about 6 inches and covered the trail on the north side of the lake near the East Fork of Lena Creek where you can access the falls.

In this photo, salal growing at the base of a cedar is covered by the rising water level. I would say several to six feet based on locations of trees.

I looked all over the web and there was nary a reference to the falls! I can see where most of the day hikers stopped at the viewpoint of the lake on the southwest bluff, but I urge visitors to continue on to at least the East Fork of Lena Creek's confluence into the lake itself. What a great spot to end a great hike on a day when the water was roaring with snow melt.

Temperatures climbed rapidly and snows melted quickly in the higher elevations. Water in the lake was rising fast and covered the trail. The upper bridge crossing at Lena Creek resulted in wet shoes and boots just to access the bridge. The increased flow meant something very special at the confluence of the East Fork Lena Creek and the lake. At that location, the creek drops about 90 feet and empties into the lake. Next time I go back, it will probably be so mundane with less water flow!

The aforementioned photos that I had observed of Lena Lake were few and far between. More importantly, they didn’t do the lake justice. The lake and the basin is stunning. As we crossed a trail junction to Upper Lena Lake or stopped well short of “The Brothers”, it was all my boys could do to keep me from going farther. In my mind I couldn’t help but say to myself, “I’ll be back“!


Anonymous said...

We had our boy scout troop up at the lake this weekend as well, and boy, did the water raise on the lake. You aren't far from the truth that it came up 4 to 6 feet in the 24 hours we spent at the lake. In fact, one group of boys had their tent set up in the afternoon what appeared to be a far enough distance from the lake that it didn't seem to be a concern. By the evening, it was still a foot below their tent, but close enough to make them move. When we got up in the morning, the spot they moved from was a foot under water. Goes to show, don't take mother nature for granted.

Brian said...

How was the snow once you gain some elevation from the lake towards the upper lake/brothers trail?

Gregg P said...

Hi Brain:

Thanks for dropping by. I really didn't go far above the falls so I really don't know. My feeling is that patches of snow were going to be covering the trail soon.

Brian said...


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