Mt Townsend via Little Quilcene River trail

Five of us took advantage of a crystal clear, sunny October Saturday to hike up Mt Townsend via a little-traveled north side approach...

Five of us met early Saturday morning in the Central District of Seattle, and were on the ferry at 8:55 heading towards the Olympic Peninsula. We enjoyed watching a low-hanging cloud of fog obscure the tops of the growing collection of tall buildings in downtown Seattle (including the Space Needle) as our ferry headed west across a clearing Salish Sea. We knew that the logging road up the little-known, and even lesser-travailed north approach to Mt Townsend (Little Quilcene River trail) was going to be rough, so we left one car about 4 miles in, and squeezed into one higher-clearance vehicle for the final 6 miles. Towards the very end, the road is extremely narrow with a gullley on the left, and a heart-stopping drop-off to the right, not to mention large rocks to dodge along the way! Nevertheless, we reached our trailhead where there were 5 or 6 other cars, and were delighted to be able to see downtown Seattle as well as the top of Mt Townsend from the parking lot! Wow.
After reviewing our topographical map, and the 10 essentials, we agreed that no one would hike alone today; there would always be two people together at all times; we also agreed to meet at the one turn-off in the trail, about 2/3rds up. The first 1/3 of the trail is up fairly steep 3rd growth forest. Lots of Pacific rhododendrons, so this would be delightful in June or early July. Then you reach a forested pass, and the second 1/3 is along the north side of Mt Townsend, with peek-a-boo views to the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, and is fairly level. We ran into a couple of friendly bear hunters dressed head-to-toe in camo, with pump-action rifles and magazines full of ammo; we otherwise encountered only a half-dozen other hikers on this approach. We reached the trail junction in 1 hr 10 min, then headed up the last 1/3. This breaks out of forest and starts bringing on full views of the interior of the Olympics, with back-views of Sequim and eventually Port Angeles itself. It was hard to keep ourselves from stopping and taking in the beautiful views; thus, this last 1/3 took us almost an hour.
At the top, of course there were swarms of people, who had arrived via the traditional trail (which is 1.2 miles longer with 1,000 more feet of elevation gain). Nevertheless, we found our own solitary perch from which to surveil the entire Salish Sea basin, from the northern-most Cascade volcano (Mt Garibaldi in BC) down to Washington's southernmost volcano (Mt St Helens), and with Baker, Glacier Peak, and Rainier in between. Also visible were Port Angeles; all of the San Juan Islands; the entire Port Townsend peninsula including its lighthouse; the Hood Canal bridge; our trailhead including our vehicle(!); Everett; Edmonds; the tank farm near Shoreline; downtown Seattle including the Space Needle; Poulsbo; the Bangor nuclear submarine base; Blake Island; Vashon Island; and just about every Cascade Peak from north to south. On the west side, we could see Mt Deception and the tip of Mt Mystery, with the Grey Wolf ridge indicating where the Royal Basin and Needle Pass were. Clear to see was how much snow had already fallen in the North Cascades, versus the Central and South Cascades. It was truly a sweeping view. We enjoyed our lunch while a couple of our party ventured to the true highest point along Mt Townsend's very broad shoulder. No mountain goats were spotted, however, we were treated to a pair of bald eagles who were checking us out at the beginning of our descent. [Kelly and I saw something breeching in Hood Canal but cannot be certain what exactly it was.]
We made it back down to the trailhead by 4:30, and got to Winslow in time to wait and board the 6:30p ferry back to Seattle. It was great to get in yet another sunny hike before our seasonal rains come in full force. Thanks to all who made this a special get-away.

Submitted: 11/02/17
Article By: J, Mike

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