Hiked: March 15, 2019
Elevation Gain: 1170 feet
WARNING: Lake Cushman has some of the most terrifying port-a-potties (In Washington, we call them “Honey Buckets”) you will ever see. Do like the dogs doo-doo and go in the woods.
I discovered Lake Cushman last year on our hike up Mount Rose. Just west of Hoodsport on the Olympic Peninsula, it’s a vast, gorgeous (if touristy and heavily trafficked) lake, worth the horrific restroom facilities for the beauty.
I’ll just come right out with the sad news that we did NOT make it to our destination. And I’ll tell you why. Later.
The trail begins among private cabins, everything shut up and deserted in still snowy mid-March. We then skirted Lake Cushman, or the sandy, stumpy margins somewhat near the actual body of water before hiking up, up, up.
Now I’ve hiked a share of hills, but there was a certain added element that made it more difficult than usual and that element is called snow.
Aggie is a pretty intrepid, snow-seasoned dogs, first chilling her paws in Iowa where snow is something that comes to you, not the other way around. Charlotte, on the other hand, is clearly PNW born and bred and prefers to nap in snow rather than hike through it.
We trucked on about a mile and a half until the snow grew knee deep on me, and then I used old bones Charlotte as an excuse to turn around. I’m pretty sure she was just throwing a fit because she’s a very scent driven dog and the snow wasn’t giving her much to smell.
The cool thing about the snow, though, it allowed us to see that a solitary elk had traveled the trail before us. I had seen droppings pretty much from the get go, and though I suspected it was from something larger than a deer, it wasn’t until I saw the hoofprint I knew we weren’t long behind the creature.
Things got better once we returned to the lake and it was SWIMMING TIME. Charlotte magically regained her energies and dove into the clear, green water to perform her signature swimming stroke, the “fluffy float.”
The landscape here is almost extraterrestrial, a world away from the dirt and snow of the trail. Partly sandy, mostly rocky, stamped with truncated tree trunks, normally underwater during the summer, but, like Alder Lake, reduced to low levels in winter. Those dam controls, I tell ya!
We made our hike into a loop by skirting the edge of the forest, climbing along the dry lake bed until we rejoined the trail.
This will be a redo in summer; I’m looking forward to the canyon and to seeing how different the landscape looks with rejuvenated water levels. Until then, some classic selfies to tide us over.