July 16, 2008

Lake Cushman is Cool Respite From Summer Heat: Outings

By Chester Allen, The Olympian, Olympia, Wash.

Jul. 16----What: Outing to the north shoreline of Lake Cushman along Olympic National Forest Road 24, which eventually leads to Staircase in Olympic National Park.

--To do: This is the most beautiful part of Lake Cushman. The steep shoreline features huge boulders, large trees -- and plenty of spots to swim, picnic, fish or just loaf away a hot day. Some visitors jump into the cold lake from boulders along the shore, but that's a risky way to have fun. Fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout -- plus the odd landlocked chinook salmon -- can be very good along this shoreline. Swimming in the cool lake water is a treat on a hot summer day. Campsites are available at the end of Forest Road 24, where Staircase -- one of the jewels of Olympic National Park -- awaits. Admission to Staircase is $15 per car, but the pass is good for a week.

Staircase also offers good hiking trails along the scenic North Fork Skokomish Trail, the Rapids Loop Trail and the Shady Lane Trail. Camping for a night at Staircase is a great way to get away from urban life without spending too much money on gasoline or a motel.

For more information about camping and recreation at Staircase, go to www.nps.gov/olym.

--Other activities: A stop at Potlatch State Park, which is just south of Hoodsport on U.S. Highway 101, is fun on the way to or from Lake Cushman. Potlatch has a nice beach right on Hood Canal, and it's a popular picnicking, camping, fishing and crabbing spot. Many people also take clams and oysters in season.

Hoodsport itself is a nice small town with shops, boating and restaurants.

--Directions: From Olympia, take U.S. Highway 101 through Shelton and on to Hoodsport. In Hoodsport, look for state Route 119 -- it's easy to spot a big sign pointing out the route to Lake Cushman. Turn left onto Route 119, and follow it along the shoreline of Lake Cushman. Eventually, Route 119 makes a T-intersection with Forest Road 24. Turn left onto Forest Road 24, and you're soon driving along the lake shoreline. Forest Road 24 transforms from a asphalt surface to gravel, so drive slowly.

--Equipment: swim gear, sunscreen, sunglasses, fishing tackle, binoculars, cameras, picnic supplies, water and camping gear if you plan to stay at Staircase.

--Safety: Lake Cushman and the North Fork Skokomish River are very, very cold. Don't swim out too far. Don't jump off the cliffs or huge boulders -- unless you are willing to risk injury. Don't make fires in this wildfire-prone area. Look for falling rocks along Forest Road 24. Don't let children out of your sight near water or on trails.

For more information on the Forest Road 24 section of Olympic National Park, call 360-765-2002 or go to www.fs.fed.us/r6/olympic.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Olympian, Olympia, Wash.

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