Hiking Deer Ridge with the Klahhane Club

By Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 10 miles round trip – Time out: 5 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 2 – Pet Friendly: Yes

March 8th 2012.

The Klahhane Hiking Club is an Olympic Peninsula-based hiking club. The club hikes regularly all year long. I was invited to join the group for a hike, but I was a bit nervous as I don’t head into the forest much in the winter. I bought a pair of micro-spikes and gators for my hiking boots and lashed my snowshoes to my daypack. My equipment ready, I met the group, ready for a snowy adventure.

We started up the frozen trail around 10am. Though it had snowed recently, there was just a skiff of snow on the trail. There was more snow on the last few miles of road than at the trailhead. Our four-wheel drive bottomed out a few times on the last mile of rutty road. The light snow on the frozen trail was slippery, so I pulled on my micro-spikes.

The group told me that the Klahhane Club, like the Sierra Club in California, the Mazamas in Oregon, and the Mountaineers in Seattle, is an old hiking club. The Klahhanes trace their beginnings back to 1915. In Chinook jargon, Klahhane means, “Good times outdoors.” They even have a cabin of their own at Olympic National Park.

Starting up

Starting up

Back on the trail the frozen greenery and scrub gave way to a snow-covered forest floor. After a couple of miles, some of us switched to snowshoes, walking in front and breaking trail. But the snow wasn’t too deep so my micro-spikes gave me the traction that I needed. The air was brisk and cold and the blue sky shown between the straight firs along the ridge. The trail was steep but it didn’t seem to bother any of the Klahhanes. There were women in their 70 and 80’s who were setting the pace. I hope I’m in that good of shape when I’m that age!

We arrived at a couple of wooden benches where we stopped briefly in the sunshine and ate a snack. Soon after we crossed the National Forest boundary and entered Olympic National Park. We were at 4,750 feet. Here green-bearded mosses were hanging from the firs. Mixed with snow, they gave the forest the unique look of a frozen jungle.

Frozen moss

Frozen moss

The trees began to thin and the views became more expansive. The snow was getting deeper; soon I’d need to switch to my snowshoes. We decided to halt for lunch at around four miles into the hike. We sat down in a clearing and enjoyed our lunch. I drank a thermos of hot mint tea. After a sunny morning, the Gray Wolf Valley and the ridge beyond began to cloud over. Deer Park was just another mile further on but we decided to call it a day and head back. I enjoyed myself and hoped the Klahhanes would invite me on another winter hike.

When I arrived back in Seattle later on that week, I was excited to see that there was an application to join the Klahhane Hiking Club. As part of the membership application, I needed to hike with the club on six scheduled hikes. Looks like I’ll have an opportunity to head back on the trail with this interesting group of dedicated hikers soon.

To get to the Deer Ridge Trailhead from the Quality Inn and Suites, Sequim:

  • Head west on Highway 101 toward Port Angeles for 1 mile
  • Turn left at Taylor Cutoff Road and drive 2. 5 miles to where it turns into Lost Mountain Road
  • At Forest Service Road #2870 turn left
  • At Forest Service Road #2875 turn right
  • Follow Forest Service Road #2875 for four miles to the Slab Camp Trailhead

Do not attempt driving to the trailhead in the winter without a four wheel drive!

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