This weekend provided beautiful weather and excellent opportunities for adventure! With Em, I was finally able to visit the Mima Mounds near Olympia, then with Patrik B. and his friend Erin, I finally got to see the renowned views from the summit of Mt. Ellinor.
The Mima Mounds is a nature preserve surrounding the “mysterious” earth mounds that fill the area. A dome shaped information station located a few yards in from the main parking area provides placards with the various theories on how these mounds were formed, from permafrost and glacial movement to the work of local pocket gophers. The loop trails through the area are relatively short but one could easily add up the miles by walking each trail and looping back around for a change in perspective.
According to the signage, there are different wildflowers in bloom from early spring to late summer, and seeing the lovely blends of colors on the hillsides caused me to make a mental note to return again to see the different blooms.
The only downside of this place is that the nearby Capitol Forest has a shooting range and our walk was punctuated by the sound of gunshots. However, signs at the beginning warn you to expect this, and after a while they just became background noise to the extent that memory fails to distinctly finish if it was truly silent or if the noises were that insignificant. In either case, the Mima Mounds are beautiful and quite worth the visit. In our short hour, we logged approximately 2.5 miles. I look forward to returning and doing more!
The next day was another hike but at a different pace and elevation. Patrik and Erin invited me to join them in summiting Mt. Ellinor in the Olympics, and I was eager to go. I first did this hike in 2013 with my family and we took the winter chute (it’s like walking up a snowy staircase for several hours then sliding straight down in a snow trough), and the neighboring Mt. Washington in 2016. In both cases, the clouds were thick and the views nonexistent. This time, the forecast was perfect and the promise of seeing the renowned views too great a temptation to refuse.
Although it is July and the treacherousness of the chute diverts most hikers/climbers to the summer trail, we quickly discovered that the summer trail is still deep in snow. Our anticipated hike turned out to be more of a snow scramble for the most part with dirt trail at the very beginning and end. Luckily the summit was clear and Patrik and Erin were experienced enough that it only took a few tips for them to excel in their glissading abilities on the trip down. We saw other hikers in shorts and tennis shoes with minimal gear, some turning around at the snowline and some pushing all the way to the summit. To each their own, but we were grateful for the gear we had as it made for a much more pleasant (and safer) experience.
At the summit, we had the pleasure of seeing several mountain goats, the local animals I have heard of time and again but until now have never encountered personally. We gave them their space and followed goat protocol as had been posted on the signs at the beginning (such as moving around them with caution, not feeding them, and being prepared to chase them off if they are too aggressive. See this link for more information). Having them blocking the trail at several points became interesting, but we managed to work around them and did not have any negative encounters. Plus we got some awesome photos so that was a bonus!
Roundtrip from the upper TH is 3.2 miles with 2,444′ elevation gain (that’s a lot in 1.6 miles to the top) so this hike is rated as expert/strenuous. With the current snow conditions, it is definitly still a scramble climb. However, there are bootpaths to follow and it is perfectly doable with the right preparation and gear.
The snow scramble, with Patrik and Erin in the upper left glissading down.
As the snow continues to melt, summer trail will become clearer and provide and excellent, challenging hike for the rest of the summer. For extra mileage, start at the lower TH for a 6.2 mile RT with 3,300 elevation gain.
To follow our trail…