Hiking Spider Lake

Posted by on Apr 15, 2013 in Hiking | 0 comments

Spider Lake, Washington

Spider Lake, Washington

Tucked in between a couple of evergreen-lined ridges, hidden in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, sits pretty little Spider Lake. If you don’t know it’s there, you’ll most likely drive right by it. Around the perimeter of this modest aqua gem, a trail weaves in and out of the surrounding forest, offering a hike that is so technically easy that you could finish it in 20 minutes if you’d want to. But why in the world would you want to?

A lazy, sporadically rainy Sunday morning found my wife and I wanting to get out of the house; wanting a distraction from the 4 walls that seemed to encapsulate our souls for the past few wet months. Luckily, the Pacific Northwest, in all of its moist but beautiful glory, offers both the cause and the cure of cabin fever. Donning the proper gear, one can hike perhaps a hundred different trails within a 90-minute drive from home in Olympia.

The objective was to find a relatively popular trail next to the Skokomish River, northwest of Shelton. But almost there, a sign beckoned us up a different forest road. “Spider Lake, 8 miles,” it said, with an arrow pointing to the left. Why not? I checked my odometer and up we drove.

We were expecting a trailhead, a sign, a turn-off… something. Instead, the road widened enough for two vehicles to pass. It was about 8 miles from the sign, so logic told me we had to be in the right spot. A few short yards from there, a defined path led downhill in the direction of where the lake should be, so down we went.

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The most difficult aspect of the entire hike is descending the hillside about a hundred feet in elevation to get to lake level. After that, if one can lift a boot— not that hiking boots are really needed in this case—over an 8-inch log, one can circumnavigate the lake with very little effort. The trail comes to a T at the near side shoreline; the beginning of the loop. From there, the forest opened up to offer us a sneak preview of the blue-green waters, as the sky opened up and offered blue sky.

The setting was like a microcosm of larger, typical NW trails. It offered creeks and waterfalls of various sizes, spewing from the mountains above the lake. Alder-lined springs of clear water seemed to rise out of nowhere, trickle across the ground then disappear, seeping back into nowhere. Ferns, salmon berries, moss and salal lined the forest floor. Great cedars, firs, and hemlocks stood guard over the area. In one particular spot, old-growth trees towered into the low, wispy clouds, with trunks wide enough to drive a car through. Some of the behemoth evergreens now lay strewn about the forest floor as if it were a giant game of “pick-up sticks.” Some were sawn to accommodate the trail, with 6-foot diameter wheels of red wood scattered nearby.

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The sunlight succumbed to the heavy gray clouds, as nearing the end of the loop, Mother Nature decided to put on a show. First, common drizzle. Then a steadier rain. Quickly, the rain froze, and rock-salt size hail poured from the heavens. The clear water now boiled as a billion chunks of ice interrupted its once-calm surface. Hidden underneath a mighty western red cedar, we watched in protected awe the spectacle that was before us. A minute later, it was over. Ten minutes later, we once again basked in sunlight as we sat and admired the beauty of our surroundings.

It was really quite simple. But at the same time, it was infinitely complex. So many things—events, organisms, minerals, plants, animals, wind, rain, snow, days, years, centuries—had to exist in order for Spider Lake to be just as it is today. It’s nothing fancy, nothing that will make any “top ten destinations” list. But it is special. It’s unique. It’s beautiful. It’s Ma Nature doing what She does best: subtly impress.

Spider Lake... after a hail storm.

Spider Lake… after a hail storm.

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