A Royal Difference in snow cover

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22 July 2015
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Upper Royal Basin July 2006

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Upper Royal Basin July 2006

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Gentians in bloom at Royal Lake July 2015

So that’s what the small tarn in the upper Royal Basin looks like–and wow is it beautiful! Last week I returned to the Royal Basin in Olympic National Park. It had been 9 years since I had hiked to this rugged beautiful hanging valley in the northeast corner of the Olympics. In 2006 I made the hike in early July. This year I made the trip in mid-July. It was a completely different hike due to the difference in snow cover. While the upper lake covered in snow and surrounded by large snowfields certainly had a wild and rugged beauty–seeing the lake’s blue green waters at the base of glacial moraine on a bluebird day was spectacular. The slopes leading to the basin were verdant and speckled with flowers this time too. Last time–snow! And all of the flowers were on an accelerated blooming schedule. The gentians were already in full bloom.

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A completely different landscape in 2015 than 2006.

The great Washington drought of 2015 has certainly opened up some new viewing opportunities. With all of the threat of wildfire-fish die off and other looming environmental challenges that this record-setting year of warmth and lack of rainfall is creating–it has also created some unusual hiking opportunities. Take advantage of them-get up into the high country-go where you haven’t gone before-and hope that our weather patterns return to normal soon. For an Upper Royal Basin buried in snow is gorgeous too–and good for salmon, fire suppression, and keeping those watersheds at healthy levels.

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