Merry Widow Mountain and Mount Russell

October 3rd, 2020
~ submitted by Jason Pineau, non-club trip

This was a 4 day trip up island for some car camping, hiking, and exploring. On our second day we left one vehicle at Atluck Lake campground and proceeded to Merry Widow Mtn on the backroads, coming at it from the South instead of the more common route via Port McNeil. (We wanted to find the Vanishing and Reappearing Rivers on the way. We only found the Vanishing but it was impressive!) Previous reports had said the climb up the hill on Merry Trail Main was deactivated, and in fact the sign saying so is still at the bottom. We quickly discovered a nicely graded road, and after a quick chat with a couple guys in a Western Forest Products pickup we discovered there is currently active logging both right at and beyond the trailhead. This is good for an easier drive up the road, but we were slightly more concerned at meeting a loaded truck, and the soundtrack to our hike consisted of chainsaws and machinery noises.

The trail is in great condition, and we summited in just over 1.5 hrs, taking the same amount of time on the way down. Conditions were hazy so views were probably not as great as they could be, but still decent.

A couple days later I went up Mount Russell, between Sayward and Woss. The road up is still in good condition for my stock Tacoma, although the only two cross-ditches are on the hairpin turns, and 4-low was useful for those. The road ends abruptly with some very large deactivations, so that’s where I parked. I had a GPS track as guidance since there’s no trail, and it helped save some time on the way back down.

A short 5 minutes got me to the end of the road, where I found an elk / bear trail and started through 10 minutes of logging slash. After that I was in the old growth and there was lots of room to find my way. After about 45 minutes I broke out onto a plateau and the sub-alpine. I weaved around some beautiful tarns and up the obvious route to the ridge. It was an easy hike to the summit, but the cliffs on the other side were impressive. Once again it was about 1.5 hours up, and the same back down. It was a refreshing change to wander through the alpine meadows without a trail, and really no signs of other humans the entire hike.

I’ll upload more photos of the hikes and our other exploring in the area to flickr.com/jspitfire.

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