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Olallie Meadow and other Wetlands — September 2001

A September day in the Olallie Meadow area provides options for hiking, botanizing, and/or picking huckleberries; and also a place to enjoy seeing garter snakes, cascade frogs and pacific giant salamanders. The focal area is a series of bogs and fens just a few miles east of Snoqualmie Pass at Windy Point. Much of the area has been logged in the last 10 years. There are two redeeming features about this. The meadows remain beautiful and this formerly privately owned land is now in public ownership thanks to the checkerboard project of the Cascades Conservation Partnership (CCP).

From the parking area (see directions below) take a short walk on the Pacific Crest Trail south i.e. away from Snoqualmie Pass. In September such a hike may take an hour or so because you will pass by at least three species of blueberries/huckleberries ripe and ready. For my effort, the best of these is Vaccinium membranaceum. The bushes are tall enough so one does not even need to lean over to pick and the dark purple berries are as fine on the palate as any huckleberry in our area. Some will be more inclined to go for Vaccinium deliceosum berries. A classic blue berry with glaucus blush and fine taste. Most will agree that the third common species, Vaccinium ovalifolium is well worth eating but not as tasty as the other two.

If you make it 100 yards or so notice an opening to the right at a depression and small stream crossing. This leads to a series of wet pockets with fine opportunities for botanizing. Work your way along the wetlands, bushwhack down a small hill to a pond [Menyanthes trifoliata (bog bean) in the pond], and follow the series of sloping wetlands uphill. When these run out, look to the right and see the road where you parked (if you don't see it, you will sense it just down a small incline). Admire the views of the Tooth in one direction Granite Peak in another and notice a variety of interesting plant species: Eriophorum angustifolium (narrowleaf cottongrass), Tofieldia glutinosa (sticky asphodel), Trientalis borealis (northern starflower), two insectivorous plants, Drosera anglica (giant sundew) and Pinguicula vulgaris (common butterwort). Carices and other graminoids abound. The common sedges will be Carex lenticularis (lenticular sedge), C. echinata (prickly sedge) and C. scopulorum (Rocky mountain sedge); rushes include Juncus filiformis (slender rush) and J. covillei (Coville's rush); common grasses are Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint reedgrass) and Deschampsia atropurpurea (mountain hairgrass). Also note in abundance the less common species Scirpus cespitosus (tufted clubrush).

Return to the cars for water, snacks etc. Then proceed about ½ mile the other direction on the PCT north (toward Snoqualmie Pass). Once again passing by dense stands of the aforementioned berry species. In about ½ mile the trail intersects with Olallie Meadow proper. It is big, it is on your right, there is a sign, and you can't miss it. Before entering the meadow, where the trail crosses Olallie Creek, look for Pacific Giant Salamanders in the stream. Then take a tour of the Meadow. It is colorful (especially in the fall) and it is botanically rich. See the species mentioned above in abundance, look for the scarlet berries of Viburnum edule (high-bush cranberry) and Botrychium multifidum (common grapefern) if you are lucky (look in the higher dryer parts of the meadow. Don't leave the meadow until you have seen your fill of the magnificent Gentiana calycosa (mountain bog gentian). As you proceed through the meadow you will be paralleling the PCT that you just walked down.

When the meadow runs out retrace your steps or look for an easy route to go X-country up a slight incline to regain the PCT. Return to the cars and spend your remaining time filling the berry buckets before heading home. There is much more to see, but no more space to write about it. Return anytime next summer for a magnificent display of flowers.

The particulars. The trailhead is 4.5 miles from the I-90 interchange at Hyak. From exit 54 at the bottom of the off ramp turn right towards the Hyak ski lodge then left on FS road 9070 (reached by entering the Hyak Lodge parking area and following the blacktop road to the left leaving the parking area). In 4.5 miles you will reach Windy Point where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses FS road 9070. Park here and follow directions above. This is also the starting point for hiking up Silver Peak if you are not worn out from berrying and botanizing. A plant species list is available from our WNPS keeper of the lists, Sarah Cooke at Cookess@aol.com. Feel free to email me at fredwcrx@aol.com if you have questions.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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