Thursday, March 1, 2007

Nude Hike: Putvin Trail, Olympic National Forest

Mount Pershing as seen from the Putvin Trail
(Photo from USFS Trail Description)

Great nude hike report on the Putvin Trail # 813, in the Olympic National Forest; as posted in Naturist Hiker's Yahoo Forum by Steve. Steve recounts a hike he took during the summer months. Given the snow dump we've been having in the Northwest, I doubt the roads and trails are easily accessible, nor the hike necessarily a nude-friendly one at this time of year. Nevertheless, I've set this hike as one I'll attempt myself later this year.

Steve's adventure . . .

Here's another favorite hike in the Olympics that I enjoy: The Putvin Trail #813 starts near the end of the Hamma Hamma River Road (FS #25) in the Olympic National Forest of Washington State. The trail is a way trail originally used by hunters and trappers. As opposed to a "real trail" a "way trail" in this case is a boot worn scratch in the dirt that generally takes the shortest route from point A to point B which, in this case, is straight up the side of the mountain.

The Putvin Trail is about 3.7 miles from the trailhead ( elev 1530 ft.) to Lake of Angels (elev 4880 ft.) at the nominal end of the trail. The first half of the trail is through tall timber and across an avalanche chute. The second half breaks out above the timber into a series of narrow valleys that step their way to the ridgeline above. The first and lowest valley is sub-alpine and heavily vegetated vine maple, alder and mountain misery with areas of grass. At the upper end of this first valley is the "headwall" that must be climbed to make the step up to the next valley. The headwall is really a 300 ft high rock cliff. The trail follows along a steep, narrow ledge up the face of the headwall. In some places both hands and feet are required. It would be a difficult climb with a pack of any size, but it's clear that people often do.

The top of the head wall marks the start of the second and shorter valley. At this point there are some excellent views of Mt. Skokomish and Mt. Pershing. The scene is much improved as the trail enters the third valley. Here you fine lush green grass and heather meadows ringed by short stands of alpine fir. Stark talus slopes rise on one side of the meadow all the way to the beige, treeless summit of Mt. Stone. Mt. Skokomish boxes the meadow in on the other side. Small streams meander lazily through the meadow connecting a few of the shallow ponds eventually to Whitehorse Creek, which is the primary stream in this series of valleys. This is my favorite of the four valleys because it fits my definition of a perfect alpine meadow.

The first time I hiked this trail, this is as far as I got. I was content to explore this meadow nude and enjoy its beauty. The trail does continue on up one more "wall" to the final valley at the end of the trail. The wall in this case is really a steep grassy meadow that the trail climbs before abruptly ending at Lake of Angels. This lake is a shallow one acre lake nestled in a small hanging valley below the peaks of Mt. Stone and Mt. Skokomish. Much of the terrain above the lake is treeless and barren except for heather and lichens. However, the meadow ringing the lake is lush, green grasses and heathers. It's a beautiful setting for camping and is usually where you find people if there are any to be found. There are some large flat rocks away from the lake that are great for sunning. Swimming is possible in the lake if you don't mind really cold water.

If you still have the energy, exploration of the ridges and peaks above the lake is an option as well. I did this on one hike when I discovered a group of fishermen on the shores of the lake. I ditched my day pack at one of the aforementioned sunning rocks and did a nude recon of the ridge above the lake. The fishermen were probably unaware of my presence. No other hikers were encountered.

I've hiked this trail several times in the last six years, usually during the week, and I seldom have met other hikers on the trail. I have met one bear. Fortunately, the bear was more startled than I was and yielded the right of way immediately.

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