Grove of the Patriarchs and Laughingwater

Forecast is for chance of rain so we decided to head into Packwood to pick up ice and a few other groceries before hiking in hopes that it would clear up. Entering town there were tents set up along sides of the highway and lots of activity, lots of cars parked and people wandering about. Packwood is a very small town so we asked at the grocery store what was going on . . . Flea Market that runs all weekend long. One of the checkers was really excited to get out there and starting “selling”. It would have been interesting to walk through but not interesting enough to give up the time to do so.  A big sign at the grocery check out read “Enter to WIN A FREE GUN SAFE.” There were a lot of pretty gnarly, weathered looking folks in the store and town; I know this was a lumber town for many years but don’t know if that is still the case.

Restocked we headed back to the park to look for an elusive trailhead, Laughingwater Creek. With the overcast and chance of rain there wasn’t much use driving up to Sunrise where, on a clear day, the views are breathtaking instead we wanted to do a forest trail where clouds don’t matter. The Laughingwater Creek trail takes the hardy hiker 6 miles to three lakes or in 7.3 miles the Pacific Crest Trail but I had read about a nice picnic spot just a mile in that overlooks the creek and after yesterday my legs and knee needed a lighter day of hiking. The problem was we couldn’t find the trailhead. Directions were pretty specific in the book and we had asked the ranger who affirmed the directions but the trail sign and entrance kept eluding us.

We drove the section of the road very slowly and still could not find it so decided to move on to another beautiful forest trail, Grove of the Patriarchs, a virgin forest of ancient Douglas firs and western red cedars that have been in place from well before the Normans conquered England. Walking the trail is like walking through a grand cathedral of nature. A suspension bridge takes you to an island in the Ohanapecosh River where the trees stand protected from the ravages of fire and free to reach for the sky. Some are 25 feet in circumference and believed to be nearly 1,000 years old, they are magnificent and because this is a short trail, 3 miles round trip it is accessible to most folks.

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George and an enormous tree along the Gove of the Patriarchs trail

George and an enormous tree along the Gove of the Patriarchs trail

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Crystal clear waters

On our way back to camp with renewed resolve we again went in search of the Laughingwater Creek Trailhead, this time with success! From the description I envisioned a nice trail along the creek but we quickly realized that this was not along the creek, it immediately began climbing up through beautiful forest with carpets of moss and lime green vine maples to light up the path. We climbed and we climbed checking our mileage thinking we could at least go to the overlook that was supposed to be just 1 mile but by 1 ½ miles the trail still showed no sign of descending to the creek; my legs were tired so we turned around without ever seeing the creek. I will say though this is a beautiful section of forest, very quiet and well worth exploring. At this writing the trail to the lakes was blocked by downed trees according to the ranger and we did see evidence of many toppled trees even in the first mile. There is nothing like a great day of strolling through virgin forest to renew the spirit.

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Laughingwater Creek Trail

We arrived back at camp around 3:30 p.m. and just as the rain started campers started filling up the empty campsites. We have to vacate our site tomorrow and hope we can find another with the Labor Day weekend upon us.

It rained into the evening and at one point we turned on the floor furnace for a few minutes making the cabin nice and toasty.

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