Imperfectly planned hike goes awry

Phone first. It's a hiking lesson I've learned in the past but it hasn't sunk in. It's particularly important for winter hiking.

Unfortunately I often don't pick my hikes until the night before, after ranger stations are closed, and don't always think to check the Internet.

I'll say it again, because it bears repeating: Phone first.

I didn't do that on my latest foray into the woods and was stymied thrice, albeit the last was due to a balky barker and a fast-setting sun, not a problem with trail access.

My first unsuccessful foray was to Fletcher Canyon, a three-mile hike near Lake Quinault.

Southshore Road was blocked by a "Local Access Only" sign shortly before the trailhead. I might have been able to make it but I didn't want to risk it.

Plan B: Hike the first 1.6 miles of the Bogachiel River Trail to the Olympic National Park border. Short, easy and dogs are allowed. There aren't too many trails - plenty of Forest Service roads but not many dog friendly, winter, bona fide trails - between Quilcene and Sequim.

Unfortunately, a sign at the beginning of the access road said it, too, was closed.

Plan C: Have lunch in Forks and take some "Twilight" photos for the 13-year-old cousins of my wife, Mandy.

Plan D: Hike Kloshe Nanitch, a relatively steep ascent to a replica of a 1926 fire lookout cabin. It almost was a good plan.

There was a sign here, too, noting no access to the lookout. I take it the Forest Service road that winds its way to the ridge top was closed. The trail seemed open.

The first quarter-mile is along the abandoned roadbed of the old U.S. Highway 101 route. Moss and pine needles obscure the edges of the road, which is reverting to its undeveloped state.

Such roads make me think of the 1985 film "Return to Oz," in which Dorothy returns to a much-changed Oz.

The Sol Duc River surged below the crumbling road's edge to the right. The vibrant turquoise water foamed into brilliant white where the river coursed over stones and boulders.

There's supposed to be a swimming hole. I didn't see anything in the rollicking torrent that looked good for swimming ... maybe in the summer.

There's a wooden sign on the left indicating the steep ascent to the lookout. After the pleasant stroll on the former roadbed, it looked a bit forbidding.

Our puppy Dodge was fine with the trail. He didn't like the first bridge we soon had to cross. At all. Despite coaxing, treats and every trick we learned in obedience class, there was no way we could get him onto the log bridge that wouldn't undue his trust and existing training.

I looked at the sun as it dropped lower on the horizon. Six miles round trip, without flashlights or sufficient emergency clothing. I wasn't going to risk it. We went back down.

I've hiked the trail before. It switchbacks up three miles through second-growth fir. At a juncture with the Mount Muller loop in three miles, bear left through a meadow to another steep ascent to the lookout.

The last time I was on the trail, it was knee-deep in snow starting at the juncture. That day, my hiking companions and I worked our weary way to the shelter - white and covered in pristine snow and icicles.

On a clear day, one can see the entirety of the Sol Duc Valley and the High Divide all the way to the Pacific. It was snowing when I was there: no view. Nice place for a picnic, though.

On this trip, it was sunny enough to have had a view, but we'd have been stumbling back in the dark. Dodge the dog was onto something, I guess: I call it Plan E. We hiked the half-mile or so of the old highway bed alongside the Sol Duc River.

Dodge had to be coaxed to leap over a rivulet that crossed the roadbed. He had no qualms about it on the way back. The old roadway ends in somebody's backyard. They've got a basketball hoop and "No Trespassing" signs.

We enjoyed the magnificent view of the river, glinting bright in the afternoon sun as it curves around a bend, and headed back to the car.

Sometimes even Plan E can be pretty good.

Hiking Kloshe Nanitch

How hard: moderately hard

How long: 6.4 miles round trip to lookout; 1 mile round trip on former roadbed

How to get there: Take U.S. Highway 101 37 miles west of Port Angeles, about a half-mile past the Klahowya Campground. Turn right onto Snider Road. There's a sign for the Snider Work Center. Continue past the work center to the trailhead and a parking area at road's end. Animals and hikers are allowed. A pass is required.

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