By Craig Romano, feature columnist
Craig Romano, is an author of more than twenty hiking guidebooks including the bestselling Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Books), which includes detailed descriptions for 136 hikes throughout the Olympic Peninsula. Visit CraigRomano.com for more information.
Take a leisurely hike back into time on this delightful trail along the Hamma Hamma River to the historic Hamma Hamma Cabin. Constructed by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), the cabin was used as a guard station in Olympic National Forest. Today it stands as a testament to the craftsmanship and hard work of the CCC. Learn more about “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” and their legacy on this family friendly interpretive trail.
In April of 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression, newly inaugurated president Franklin D Roosevelt established the CCC through an executive order. Roosevelt’s aim was more than just putting young men to work and allowing them to provide for their families.
"Roosevelt strongly believed in the spiritual and physical values of working in nature, and in the importance of conservation of our natural resources for the nation’s health and prosperity."
At its height in 1935, more than 500,000 young men were stationed in more than 2900 CCC camps in every state as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. At the program’s close in 1942, more than 3 million men (nearly 5% of the country’s male population) had served in the CCC. This trail sheds some light on what life was like for these men during their time in the Corp—and highlight some of their achievements and legacy.
Among their many projects, CCC recruits were responsible for building vast amounts of infrastructure within parks and forests throughout the country—including both the Olympic National Park and Forest.
They also fought fires, reforested large tracts of land and worked on flood control projects. There were camps established right within Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest, including one in the nearby Staircase Region. Nearby Twanoh State Park on Hood Canal also was the site of a large CCC camp.
Hit the Trail
Start your hike east on a wide and level path through a riparian forest of large mossy maples and speckled barked alders. The first quarter mile of this recently refurbished trail is ADA compliant. While this trail emphasizes the historic role the CCC played in this corner of Olympic National Forest, there is plenty of natural beauty to be enjoyed long the way as well. It is the only trail (albeit just for a short stretch) that runs along the Hamma Hamma River.
The river’s name come from the Twana (whose ancestral lands included much of the Hood Canal region) word Hab’hab, which refers to a reed along the river’s banks. The name means big stink, or literally stinky, stinky in reference to the aroma the reeds emitted. The trail hugs a bank above the river allowing for some excellent views of the pretty waterway.
Stop and look for dippers—robin sized birds that feed on aquatic insects and nest along the shorelines of rushing water. In spring look for Harlequin ducks returning from the Salish Sea. One of the prettiest sea ducks, they build hidden nests along rapid moving creeks and rivers.
The trail climbs a small bluff granting an excellent view of the pretty waterway, before leaving the river for forest. At 0.5 mile the trail turns north to cross Forest Road 25. Now walk along cascading Watson Creek climbing about 100 feet to a wooden bench on a perch overlooking the creek. It’s a great spot to sit and enjoy the sound of nature’s water music. By late spring nesting thrushes and other songbirds add a wide range of melodies.
The trail now turns west to soon reach the historic Hamma Hamma Guard Station. Built by the CCC from 1936 to 1937, it was used for administrative purposes for forest fire and trail crews. Today this eloquently rustic structure with its hexagonal bay window can be rented out for an overnight stay recreation.gov. Please respect the privacy of any guests staying at the cabin by not walking on the grounds. Otherwise wander around the structure. Note the landscaping too, especially the rhododendrons which will be in bloom come May.
After admiring the historic structure continue west on the loop crossing a small creek and traversing a grove of mature second growth firs. The way then descends into a ravine before re-crossing FR 25. Continue hiking passing some big beautiful old trees before reaching the campground loop road near campsite no. 6. Now turn right and walk the loop road a short distance back to your start closing your loop hike at 1.8 miles. Reflect on some of the achievements of the Corp including the thousands of miles of trails they built, more than 3400 fire towers constructed, nearly 3 billion trees planted, and the development of amenities and infrastructure in more than 800 parks across the nation. Many of their works are still standing and in use in Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest as well as at several nearby state parks. The Corp’s legacy continues to live on for the next generation of outdoorsmen and women.
First .25 mile ADA; Leave No Trace Principles
Land Agency Contact: Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal Ranger District, www.fs.usda.gov/olympic
Recommended Map: Green Trails Olympic Mountains East 168S
Trailhead directions: From Hoodsport travel north on US 101 north for 13.7 miles turning left at milepost 318 turn onto FR 25 (Hamma Hamma River Road). Then continue west for 6.0 miles turning left into the Hamma Hamma Campground. Proceed for 0.1 mile to trailhead located near site no. 12.
Trailhead facilities: campsites (fee), privy