ELK MOUNTAIN HIKE
Contributed by Alan Tracey / David Sellars
Country: United States
Location: Olympic National Park, Washington State
Round trip: 6 km
Start elevation: 1860 m
Final Elevation: 2060 m
Map: 1:62,500, Hurricane Ridge, Custom Correct
Drive to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Centre from Port Angeles and then take the gravel road east to the parking lot at Obstruction Point
PARTIAL PLANT LIST
Collomia debilis var. larsenii
Lupinus lepidus var.lobbii
Orobanche uniflora var.purpurea
Penstemon davidsonii var. menziezii
Leaving the parking lot at Obstruction Point and walking along the trail heading north and east toward Elk Mountain one need progress no more than 1 or 2 km in order to find numerous, and some of the less abundant, plants of the Olympic mountains. Not far from the parking lot and located in a few rocky crevices two Olympic endemics will be found, Campanula piperi and Viola flettii. Viola adunca is also found in this area but V. flettii is distinguished by its kidney-shaped leaves with purple stems and veins and cannot be confused with its cousin. Further along, the trail passes through scree fields where our featured plant, Collomia debilis var. larsenii will be found. This beautiful highlander is not endemic here but is quite rare throughout its range. Another highlight of the Olympics is Douglasia laevigata with its blossoms of various shades of pink and red and it will be encountered throughout this walk as will a third Olympic endemic, the paintbrush Castilleja parviflora var. olympica which is almost identical in its pink colouration to the Owl clover, Orthocarpus imbricatus, with which it associates. These are partially parasitic plants, feeding off the roots of other plants. Another parasitic plant, the diminutive Orobanche uniflora var. purpurea will also be seen by the careful observer.
This is a good non-strenuous walk that gives access to many plants not otherwise easily found. A little scrambling into rockier areas will prove even more rewarding with such plants as the diminutive Phlox hendersonii, the hairy-leaved potentilla, Potentilla hirsuta, and ever more colour forms of Douglasia laevigata.