Slab Camp Creek and Gray Wolf River, Cedar Lake Way
May 22, 2010
- Type of Outing
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Slab Camp Creek and Gray Wolf River
- Region: Olympics -- East
- Agency: Olympic National Forest - Hood Canal Ranger District
- Avg Rating: 3.50
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Cedar Lake Way
- Region: Olympics
- Trails: Cedar Lake Way (#94)
- Avg Rating: 2.25
- Why You Should Go Now
- Wildflowers blooming
- Be Aware Of
- Clogged drainage
- Water on trail
- Snow on trail
- Avalanche danger
We got to the Slab Camp trail head just before 7AM after spending the night at Kent's place in Poulsbo. Our goal was to hike up the Graywolf River drainage to Falls Camp and hopefully make it up to Cedar Lake (@ 5200 ft). The 2.8 mile hike down from Slab Camp to the Lower Graywolf River crossing was steep in places and muddy in others. At the river crossing there is a huge bridge that has three large steel support beams... It has been written that this bridge will never get knocked down (a death sentence for any bridge in the Olympic Mountains).
After crossing the bridge and going over a number of downed trees we made the connection with the Lower Graywolf Trail. Trail then goes straight up for about 800 feet through even more downed trees and passes through Slide Camp and gives you a number of great views across the river valley. There is a lot of future trail work to be done on this section. Trail crews have laid out survey tape to indicate the areas of work including a number of slide prone areas. The trail eventually drops you back down to the Graywolf Camp near the Three Forks (intersection of Upper Graywolf, Cameron and Lower Graywolf Rivers).
We began the last leg up the Upper Graywolf by first having lunch along the river. We still had 5+ miles to go before arriving at Falls Camp. Again the trail had a large number of downed trees but in general was in the best shape of all the trails. At this point I was getting tired so Kent started to push forward to find camp…. He was fortunate enough to see a black bear as he crossed a large avalanche chute… Unfortunately by the time I got there the bear was gone. We did see lots of signs of bear (scat mostly) and a few cat like scat (bobcat, cougar… not sure?). We passed Camp Ellis since there was already a group there and made our way up to Falls Camp. The old Falls Shelter was burned to the ground a number of years ago, I believe as part of the Olympic National Parks effort to lower maintenance costs. I remember staying at this shelter back in 1994 so it was sad to see it as burned out pile of logs. Above about 3800 feet we started to hit a number of snow patches and at Falls Camp (4000ft) there was only a few spots without snow. I inspected the Cedar Lake trail and it just had too much snow, too many downed trees, and it was too late in the day to continue up… So we made camp, enjoyed some food, enjoyed the views and then headed off to bed as the temps dropped around freezing.
Overnight we had a little rain but overall it was clearer skies in the morning. We contemplated heading up to Cedar Lake in the morning but decided adding 5 miles round trip to our already required 13+ miles was not a good idea. Sadly we said goodbye to the camp and our missed chance to see one of the best lakes in the Olympic Mountains (oh well it was most likely buried under about 8 feet of snow). The trip out was fairly easy with the exception of the two big uphill sections (Graywolf Camp to Slide Camp and Lower Graywolf up to Slab Camp). The rain started to come down over the last 8 miles but we avoided it mostly by staying in the trees…. As we drove out towards Hwy 101, all we could see was a huge rain cloud forming over the mountains and felt happy to have the heater blasting and not being stuck in the rain.