In the last two weeks I have taken two hikes from two destinations to look at what is just about the same view.
It happens to be one of the most spectacular panoramas anywhere: the view of the Olympic Mountains towering at the end of Grand Valley with Grand Lake and Moose Lake clearly visible.
Two weeks ago my hiking partner Diane and I were joined by my wife, Candy, and we drove up Blue Mountain to the trail head for the Grand Ridge Trail. We headed toward Maiden Peak.
Most days this is a quiet, lonely hike. We typically see two or three other hikers.
On this day, July 3, we saw 34 folks on the trail ... that's more than the total number of folks I've seen on five or six hikes to Maiden Peak.
Still, it's a really nice hike with lots of great views and a wonderful array of wildflowers. And when you've just about reached Roaring Winds Camp, there's the wonderful view up Grand Valley.
The following week, Diane and I drove up to Hurricane Ridge and went out to Obstruction Point. There we took the Grand Ridge Trail toward Blue Mountain and Deer Park.
For years this trail intimidated me to the point that I wondered if I would ever have the courage to actually walk up it.
From the trail along Lillian Ridge, this trail is a faint gray streak that seems to hang on the side of Elk Mountain in defiance of the laws of gravity. It seems to climb forever up the mountain side with barely enough room to pass another hiker if you need to or if you met someone coming the other direction.
It looked like the trail dangled a thousand feet above anything.
When I finally tried to walk up this trail, it actually was pretty tame. But ... it still makes me wonder about my sanity when I look at it for any length of time.
The truth is that after the initial climb up, the trail evens out. It is, however, the highest trail in the Olympic Mountains and stays above 6,500 feet for almost two miles.
The view is constantly fantastic, with a view of snow-covered peaks for most of the year. Just before the trail takes a nose dive down to Roaring Winds Camp, your view up Grand Valley is almost the same as that from Maiden Peak.
The difference is that you are much closer to the valley and also might catch a glimpse of the third lake in Grand Valley, Gladys.
If you get tired or bored with the fantastic views, you can make your way back to Obstruction Point by way of Badger Valley, which has been hanging down below your toes for most of your hike out from Obstruction Point.
I cannot easily decide which of these two hikes is better. The approach from Blue Mountain is perhaps more varied in terms of the area that you walk through. The trip from Obstruction Point gives you a never-ending panoramic vista.
Perhaps Laura Bush had the best idea: Begin at Blue Mountain and walk over to Obstruction Point?
Of course, the travel arrangements are a lot easier for a president's wife than for a retired bureaucrat. I'm not quite sure that any of my friends are willing to drive me to the top of one mountain and then pick me up on another mountain maybe five or six hours later.
Besides, two hikes in paradise are always better that one hike. And, I'm sure that Candy someday will want to see the other half of these two wonderful trips.
It is a wonderful gift to live in such a place as we do.
Richard Olmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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