Hamma Hamma Since the Record Fires

Steve meets up with fellow photographer Matt White and they turn their lens toward the Hamma Hamma and see signs of last summer's record-setting fire season.

Dosewallips Basecamp

It’s been a while since the last time I camped in the Dosewallips State Park. It’s placed in a perfect location for accessing the Olympic Peninsula, but its proximity to Hwy 101 and its heavy truck traffic has always been a bit of a put-off. It’s also very popular with families and has open sites with no privacy from your neighbors, but visit during the shoulder season and it’s worth a visit.

Hamma Hamma - Matt White
Matt climbing his way to the top of Lena Creek Gorge. We were rewarded by a spectular view.

For this weekend’s adventure, friend, co-worker, and talented photographer Matt White was joining me. We’ve gone out in the field together in the past, but like most things with COVID-19, it’s been quite a while, so we were both looking forward to catching up and enjoying the outdoors.

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Steve meets up with fellow photographer Matt White and they turn their lens toward the Hamma Hamma and see signs of last summer's record-setting fire season.

Jefferson Lake
Jefferson Creek flowing into its namesake lake with Mt. Washington as the backdrop and the ‘hangmans’ tree to complete the photograph.

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Lena Creek Falls

Like much of the west coast, just last year, the Olympic Peninsula endured a record-breaking fire season, including unbelievable unhealthy air conditions. Included in these fires was the Hamma Hamma drainage and specifically Mt. Lena which was sparked by a lightning strike. Much of this area was closed during and after the fire so we were unsure if we’d be able to access some of the waterfalls we hoped to photograph.

Finishing a quick breakfast, we jumped in the FJ and headed south to see how far we’d get. Turns out we were in luck and we were able to visit most of the waterfalls we had on our wish list. There were certainly signs of the fire present in blackened tree trunks and scorched underbrush. What struck me was that you’d have very defined areas that were burned with others seemingly untouched right next to them. Some of this was certainly due to the valiant effort of our firefighters, but some had to be due to the whimsical nature of fire.

Washington Pass

In addition to the fires, we encountered quite a bit of blow-downs as we headed up towards Jefferson Lake. Patches of snow were also present in the spots that never receive sunshine. Despite this, I was anxious to see if we couldn’t get over Washington Pass and down into the Lake Cushman drainage.

I had noticed this web of Forest Service Roads on the topo maps some time ago but never had the chance to get up in the thick of it till now. Matt was game so we headed up. It was a long bumpy ride, but the view from the actual pass was worth the time and we paused to get out of the rig and soak it up.

The only moment of real concern was as we made our way down towards Lake Cushman and had a FedEx truck come barreling and sliding up the dirt road. I gave him a wide berth and he flew on by. Guess it was just getting in touch with his inner rally racer.

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