THE GRAY OUTDOORS: EXPLORING SEVEN OF OLYMPIC’S BEST ‘BAD WEATHER’ HIKES

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As the gray covers the Pacific Northwest, negative attitudes about the weather become as commonplace as raindrops. When the clouds and dreariness return, a collective sigh is emitted, and pictures of the summer make #tbt that much more special. It seems like years ago that we were in swimsuits (hell, even in shorts) on the beaches or lakes, standing on top of mountains and drinking beer around campfires. We were cuddling in tents, tired after long days of exploring ever inch of of glaciated basins and tide pooled beaches. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were outside, falling in love, connecting with our friends, family and smiling in the wilderness. Then the gray returned.

The gray comes with winds. It comes with heavy rains flooding. It comes with an oppressive depression that blanketed the region. The drab sky also arrives with snow, which constantly needs to be returned to the mountains. The gray seeps into our brains, souring us on spending any time in the dwindling daylight hours. Retreating indoors, we check the weather, searching for a day of blue in the colorless, longterm outlook. In the streets of the cities around the Pacific Northwest, defeat is easily read on our faces.  Locals switch attitudes like daylight savings time, our beaming summer smiles drop away, only to return after the Fourth of July. The color from the sky disappears and so does the optimistic spirit of the Pacific Northwest.

When the gray returns Pacific Northwesterners collectively duck, both the call of the wild and raindrops. While we don’t break out umbrellas, we do put on our raincoats or just avoid nature altogether. Regions once packed with nature lovers become empty shells of what they were on a sunny day. The now damp and windy Olympic Wilderness, just a few hours drive from Seattle, isn’t attractive to us. We used to look at it longingly, begging to to be in it, exploring and discovering. Now, we’d rather Netflix and chill, watch the game at a bar, or get lost in a book. We used to be so close to nature, but with the return of the gray, everything changed.

It probably won’t rain forever, and most are content in waiting out the bad weather in hopes that next weekend it will be sunny. As someone who grew up on the Washington Coast, I’d like to say “good luck with that.” Growing up in the rainforest, I quickly became immune to the rain. Sure, I still complain, and the constant lack of sun brings on seasonal depression, but that is life in the Pacific Northwest. We have to embrace the rain. We need to  celebrate the wind. We need to fall in love with the gray, for better or worse.

While almost any trail in the Pacific Northwest can be considered a great “rainy day” hike, the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park is a region where the weather truly doesn’t matter. In the heaviest of rain, when the ferns are soaked flat against the rainforest floor, the greens of the wilderness shine unlike any other time. The rivers roar, the waterfalls rage and the trees dance with the clouds in a timeless and soaking samba. The beauty of Olympic National Park in the rain is unlike anywhere else in the world and it needs to be seen by all. Next time the forecast calls for the dreariness to continue, buck up and head out to one of the seven amazing destinations. You can thank me later. That is, after you dry out your clothes and your toes/fingers get less pruney and wrinkly.

Remember to be safe and prepared for bad weather in Olympic with our helpful tips.

 THE DESTINATIONS

STAIRCASE

With numerous mountains to climb, trails to explore and secret hidden lakes, the Staircase region of Olympic National Park is one of the most underrated areas in the National Park Service. In the summer, this region is ideal for hiking, backpacking, camping and swimming. The true beauty, however, is during the off-season when the rain is heavy and the trail becomes muddy. Your best hiking option will be the short 2.2 mile Staircase Loop Trail. If you haven’t explored the wonders of Staircase, this loop is the perfect introduction to this beautiful region. next to the tumbling powerful river, dodge muddy trail sections until you reach an amazing suspension bridge. take in all the sights and make sure you see the seven wonders of Staircase. For a longer option, consider the 10 mile round trip trek up the North Fork of the Skokomish River to Big Log. Keep in mind that during heavy rains, this option may have a few creek crossings that are impassible.   More Staircase hikes can be found in our Definitive Guidebook to Olympic National Park and Peninsula.

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