This weekend was all about winging it. We decided to go camping at 7:30 in the morning on Saturday and spent about 5 minutes deciding where to go, with very little information. Sometimes the most haphazardly planned mini vacations are the best there are! On Sunday morning we awoke to a glorious day in the Olympic National Forest, having camped in Campbell Tree Grove Campground. We had the whole day to do with whatever we liked! We had noticed a trailhead on the dirt road we took to get to the Campground the day before and decided to give it a shot.
Luckily, Bobby had downloaded maps for the whole area on our GPS app GAIA so we had a detailed map of the trail. The trail was located in the Colonel Bob Wilderness. It was called Pete’s Creek Trail and led to the summit of Colonel Bob mountain.
It looked tough, with lots of elevation gain, but we decided to give it a go and have our only expectation be that we reach a beautiful vista of the Olympics and then turn around!
Reaching that scenic vista proved more difficult that we had anticipated. The steep and rugged trail we were faced with was one of the more difficult hikes we have tackled in awhile. The trail was narrow, overgrown by low-growing shrubs in many places, and rocky.
We had left our trekking poles at home, thinking we would take an easy stroll rather than such a rigorous hike we had opted for. We were in the thick forest for the majority of the hike and had both been silently wishing that we would emerge into a beautiful vista-filled field. Instead, when the trees finally broke we were only greeted with the blazing sun and views of destruction. We were faced with a mountainside that obviously played host to numerous avalanches every year causing the side of the mountain to be barren and rocky.
As the sun and heat pounded down on us our legs began to feel like unruly and large weights attached to our hips. We were stopping frequently and cursing the incline that we were faced with. Latigo had taken to waiting for us to catch up with him in the few patches of shade that he could find. As hot and sunny as it was and had been for the last several days in the area there was still snow on the trail as we reached the basin where the snow from all the avalanches of the past winter season had accumulated in a small valley between two avalanche shoots. We lost the trail for awhile until we finally saw it and had to traverse a snow field on a slight angle, making for slippery going.
Latigo was thrilled at the snow, as it gave him a reprieve from the heat. He lapped it up and rolled in it sliding down the hill as he did it, with his big dopey dog grin on his face.
The last two switchbacks were next to impossible but it finally happened. Throughout the day we kept hoping that every turn we would make would lead to an unbelievable view that would make the arduous journey worth it. And sure enough it happened! In front of us stood the glorious Olympic Mountain range!
The trail at this point became impassable due to the amount of snow on the ground.
We had passed two men earlier in the day who had managed to make it the whole 7.2 miles and more than 4,000 feet in elevation gain the previous day. They, however, had ice axes, gaiters, trekking poles, and packs full of gear. We had hiking shoes, not even boots, just shoes. This was clearly our turnaround point, like so many before us, according to the log book at the beginning of the trail. We stopped for lunch sitting directly on the trail. With snow in front of us and wildflowers all around us we didn’t have much of a choice.
We munched on tuna salad sandwiches with cucumbers and tomatoes, washing it down with an orange gatorade. We turned back, more than ready to go downhill for a change! Our pace quickened exponentially on the way down when compared to the snails pace we had endured during the hike up. Slips and spills were inevitable with all the loose rock on the trail but speed makes it easier on the knees and we made it safely down and out. We encountered four other groups total on the trail and stopped and chatted with an Australian couple, who, like us, were keen on finding a vista and then happy to turn around without summiting Colonel Bob which stands 4,492-feet tall, making it the second tallest point within the Colonel Bob Wilderness.
This hike is challenging but the views are spectacular. I wouldn’t do this hike in winter and would probably have preferred to have done it later in the season with the hopes that the snow would’ve been clear making the summit easier to reach successfully and more safely.