October 30, 2004
Mount Rose is a minor peak in the Olympic National Forest, just outside of the southeast corner of Olympic National Park. On the morning of October 30, 2004, the weather looked rather reasonable and so I decided to go for a short hike. The Mount Rose Trailhead is located near the shore of Lake Cushman, a large, man-made lake created when, I suppose, the North Fork of the Skokomish river was dammed up.
The weather had worsened during the 80 minutes it took me to drive out from Lakewood and got even worse on the walk up. Rain began to fall and the grey mist blew in and I pondered if I really wanted to continue up, as there would be nothing to see once I topped out. I took a break under a tree and pondered the situation. However, nature decided. The rain more or less ceased and, while the sun was still buried in mist, the outlook was beginning to brighten. I began moving up hill rather casually, even taking time to make a brief side trip over to a small waterfall.
The trail stiffened and brought me up to a fork. To the right ran a ridge route to the summit, to the left a more direct, in-the-trees approach. Given the weather, I took the direct route, which climbed steeply to snow line, although it was rare to find snow more than an inch thick.
There were no tracks in the snow, which meant that I should have the summit to myself, although with the cold air I did not expect to linger for very long. Shafts of sun came down through the forest canopy and the weather seemed to be getting better as I got higher. The trail became gentle as it wound around the flanks of the mountain searching for an easy way up. The weather was almost completely clear up here, although I could look down into the valley, far below, and still see quite a bit of grey. Making a last climb, the trail pushed through a little more snow and I gave a whoop as I neared the summit, which seemed to be only a minor rock. Two other hikers reached it from the ridge route almost at the same time I did. They told of a surly hunter out on the ridge who apparently was hunting and didn't want them to be on the trail. The three of us, and their two poodles (no, not the toy kind) scrambled out onto the snow and rock for a view.
While much was still covered in mist, it was still nice to be up high for a little while. Lake Cushman lay far below in the valley and could occasionally be seen through the blowing clouds.
The hikers and their dogs left shortly, leaving the summit to me. It was, however, rather cold and I stayed only for another ten minutes before beginning the descent. I decided not to take the ridge route down, mostly because of the hunter. I loped on down hill and reached the parking lot just as the other hikers were preparing to leave. It was crystal clear out now and the day would probably have been better spent on a longer hike. Still, Mount Rose was a nice little bit of exercise and really rather pleasant up high (except for the cold).
Logistics To get to the trail, take HWY 101 north out of Olympia and drive to the town of Hoodsport on Hood Canal. In the middle of town, take a left at the sign for Lake Cushman and Staircase. Drive the winding, and paved, road about seven miles to where it hits a T-junction. Make a left and drive another few miles down the road until the pavement ends (my Camry has no problems here). Drive another mile or so until you see a sign for Mt. Rose Trail on the right. Most cars car make it up the spur road and into the parking lot, but I chose to park on the main road and walk twenty extra feet.
The entire trail is located in Olympic National Forest, which means that you can bring dogs and guns and things like that. You'll need to pay for parking, which means that you'll need a Northwest Forest Pass, which you can purchase from the ranger station, located in Hoodsport, just after you make the left from 101. Or, buy a Golden Eagle Passport for about $60. It is good for a year and covers all entry fees into National Parks and all forest related fees.
My guidebook (Olympic Mountains Trail Guide) lists the Mount Rose Trail as being 4.8 miles in length and gaining 3500 vertical feet. The seat of my pants tells me that this is not quite right, as it took me about an hour and forty five minutes to make it up at a leisurely pace, and I wasn't particularly tired when I got up. However, you might find things different.