Hike: Mt Ellinor (WA)
Hiking from the Big Creek Campground to the summit of Mt Ellinor is not an easy task, but we did it! Actually we made it a two day hike. Last July we hiked from the upper trailhead to the summit, and then we “camped” for 10 months back in Seattle and finished the trail today by hiking from Big Creek Camp to the upper trailhead (nearly 10 miles and 2900’ elevation gain). Our July trip was hot and dry but the clear skies gave us some incredible views of Lake Cushman, Puget Sound, nearby peaks, and a small herd of mountain goats near the summit.
Today we hiked under less clear skies but with much milder temperatures. Arneta and I had been on the Big Creek Loop in January this year and were pleasantly surprised by the new bridges and trail that allows you to begin the hike near the picnic shelter. We hiked up to the Ellinor connector trail which we expected to be lacking in scenery and were pleasantly surprised by a great viewpoint with a panorama of the Lake Cushman area (Mt Rainier was even visible in the distance, although it was too hazy for a photo).
Arneta and Jerry had hiked from the Lower Trailhead of Mt Ellinor years before and remembered the trail as long and uneventful. It was neither; the biggest surprise being the openings in the trees which got us up close and personal with these Southern Olympic peaks.
At the junction with the Upper Trailhead we turned around. There was a lot of snow still on the peak. We were tired and out of time and had gone beyond our original goal of the morning so it was a good place to turn around. I was panicking the last 2 miles of our return trip as I had not yet spotted a new wildflower. There were numerous trilliums and yellow violets in bloom (there will be a lovely rhododendron show in another month), but that was it for flowers. Then on a side trip to the confluence of Big and Branch Creeks, we spotted 4 small purple flowers, which, on closer inspection, were the very exotic looking calypso orchids.
Would we ever do Big Creek to Ellinor Summit in one day? It would be a long grunt, but with enough water, time, and rest breaks, why not?