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Lake Crescent: The Storm King Trail — June 2010

By Erin Meier

Driving along Highway 101 on a wet, stormy afternoon my companions exclaimed as we sighted Lake Crescent around a bend. Piling out of my old Saturn we stopped at the edge of the drop off and stared into the seemingly endless clear waters at logs and stones to the bottom. At 8-1/2 miles long and with a depth of 624 feet, Lake Crescent is a magnetic sight. Its fjord-like hills, resplendent in Douglas fir, Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar and their ilk, rise steeply above the calm waters.

At the Storm King trailhead, also the start of the Marymere Falls trail, we saw a few of the Columbian black-tailed deer grazing down by the lake. For those of you who might venture forth despite a heavy downpour such as we encountered, I recommend the shelter of the Ranger Station's covered porch, if you have lunch in mind. Fortified by our repast, we strolled along the wide, flat Marymere Falls trail. On our left, after some peaceful observation of the ubiquitous Polystichum munitum and Kindbergia oregana we found the "Storm King Trail" sign. The rocky, twisting path may seem as daunting to you as it did to us, but keep in mind that while the elevation gain is approximately 2100 feet, it is only 1.7 miles to the top.

Despite the switchbacks, we were rewarded almost immediately, by a sighting of Calypso bulbosa. The goddess-nymph Calypso bewitched Odysseus and kept him in thrall for many years before he could return to his beloved Penelope. A more fitting name for this orchid, I can't imagine. Its delicate, yet lush features are enchanting. Farther up the trail we found Viola glabella and Linnea borealis chastely gleaming among the mosses at the side of the trail. Frog pelt grew in abundance over many of the boulders and we caught a glimpse of the lake as we turned the corner of a switchback.

Of the many botanical thrills this trail provides, none can compare with the Arbutus menziesii. Their reddish-orange bark slick with rain, the twining branches and dark, green foliage…the Pacific Madrone is incomparable. As we examined one stand of them, we caught a deer peering at us from above, her dainty face stilled with caution. Later, we were also pleased to encounter that true harbinger of the northwest, the banana slug. As we swapped stories of banana slug encounters from childhood and beyond, we soon found ourselves at the top. Even on a misty day, the mist blows away if you stand there long enough, and we were lucky enough to see the broad mirror of the lake framed by evergreens. The bell-shaped blossoms of Arctostaphylos columbiana brightened the gloaming of the day, and well satisfied with our adventure we proceeded downhill replete with pleasant memory.

Directions: From Port Angeles, follow 101. At about milepost 228, follow the signs to the ranger station.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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