Playing in the Snow: First Divide

The Trillium were thick in the lower Skokomish and Duckabush valleys
The Trillium were thick in the lower Skokomish and Duckabush valleys

What to do when the sun is out and the forecast calls for several days of warm and dry weather? Read a book? Surf the web? Pull weeds in the garden? Go to the Olympics? I think we have a winner at last. I have been slowly working at my snow travel skills, and this seemed like an ideal time to get in some more practice.

The boardwalk between Camp Pleasant and Nine Stream
The boardwalk between Camp Pleasant and Nine Stream

I had a couple of things I needed to do on Monday, so planned to go up the North Fork of the Skokomish to about Camp Pleasant for the night, then cross First Divide and drop down to the Duckabush on Tuesday and then over LaCrosse Pass on Wednesday and out the Dosewallips on Thursday. Depending on conditions, I had left open the possibility of skipping LaCrosse Pass and coming out the Duck on Wednesday.

Monday went well and I made it up to Camp Pleasant with a few hours of daylight left. A branch of the Skokomish is currently flowing through the middle of the camp, leaving two of the sites on an island in the middle of the river. Walked a log across the dividing stream and hung between a couple of trees with a nice front lawn. Ate dinner, cleaned up in the river and enjoyed the solitude for a while before bedtime.

A herd of Roosevelt Elk just above Camp Pleasant
A herd of Roosevelt Elk just above Camp Pleasant

Tuesday morning I was on the trail around 7:30 and shortly after ran into a herd of elk; who went stomping off to and across the river. I counted 14 of them, but there could easily have been more I didn’t see. 15 minutes later I saw another solitary cow. I love seeing elk, although the feeling does not seem to be mutual.

The log crossing over Nine Stream. Too small for me to walk across, but big enough for scootching.
The log crossing over Nine Stream. Too small for me to walk across, but big enough for scootching.

Mid-way between Camp Pleasant and Nine Stream I was surprised to run into some patchy snow. It was not an issue at all, but was much lower than I expected. When I got to Nine Stream, I searched upstream for a bit, looking for a log or a good place to ford, but nothing looked too enticing, so I went back down to the ‘official’ ford location and found a small log that spanned the creek. Way to small to attempt to walk across, but I am not above sitting and scooching across. I was not so lucky on the stream just above Nine Stream, and, not for the last time, was forced to actually ford.

There was a single small tent set up at Nine Stream, but no sign of an occupant. I found Fay halfway up the switchbacks, just up from Nine Stream. She was an older woman just out to bag a peak or two. She has apparently bagged all the named peaks in the Olympics and is now working on the unnamed ones. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Looking toward Mt Hopper from First Divide
Looking toward Mt Hopper from First Divide

The snow started shortly after the switchbacks, and by 3500 foot it was pretty continuous. I popped my Microspikes onto my Altra Lone Peaks and headed on up, and eventually getting out the ice axe as well. But the snow was soft, postholing was common and progress was slow. And my inexperience with snow travel showed. I had the track from an earlier trip on my phone and attempted to follow it. In retrospect, it would have been easier to just strike out for the pass and forget about trying to follow the hidden trail.

I had expected to be down to the Duckabush by mid-afternoon, but it was 3 P.M. before I eventually reached the pass, sat down for lunch, and reconsidered the rest of the trip. If First Divide was taking this long, I was not optimistic about being able to get across LaCrosse pass in a day, and did not relish the thought of spending the night up there somewhere. So I used my inReach to contact my wife and arrange for the Duckabush pickup the next day.

From the Home Sweet Home meadow, looking back up to First Divide
From the Home Sweet Home meadow, looking back up to First Divide

That done, I started down to Home Sweet Home. Midway through the second long traverse I could see a long clear section without trees that ended down in the meadow so I flopped down and tried my hand at glissading. The biggest problem was that the snow was too soft and I just ended up being stopped by the mountain of snow I was pushing up in front of me. After a while of that I finally just stood up and postholed on down the rest of the way.

I met back up with the trail just before the creek crossing near Home Sweet Home. And it did not look to appealing. 10 feet down a vertical snow bank, then 10 feet back up another vertical snow bank; with a full pack on. I ended up backtracking to about where I had come off the pass and crossed the two creeks on snow bridges and then across the meadow back to the trail and started the descent.

Snow was continuous on the descent to about 3800 foot and then clear by 3500. But then when I got to the Upper Duckabush camp, I found nearly 6 inches of snow over most of the camp. I found a pair of trees to hang from with no snow between them and setup camp. It was dark by the time I made it to bed, as well as cold, and I was quite tired.

The trail is buried in many places by extensive blowdowns
The trail is buried in many places by extensive blowdowns

Wednesday morning I was up and gone by 7:30. The first obstacle was the Duckabush. It was much higher than I had ever seen it, and no possibility of a log across. In addition it braided somewhat and it was had to tell what was on the other side. So I struck out for what looked like a promising exit point and slowly moved across. The water was over my knees most of the way, and pretty swift, not to mention cold. But I eventually made it across, climbed through some brush, over a snow bank, through some more brush, a few smaller braids and eventually onto the far side trail; about half an hour of fun. The trail was mostly buried for the first mile, but was fairly easy to follow, and then patchy for another mile.

One of many small creeks along the Duckabush trail that had to be forded
One of many small creeks along the Duckabush trail that had to be forded

I had to ford half a dozen smaller streams on the way out, although none that were to difficult. The bigger problem was all of the blowdowns and debris on the trail. At times it was hard to follow because it blended in with the rest of the forest floor. And there were hundreds of trees down across the trail, sometimes in large clumps. Especially for the few miles downstream of Ten Mile Camp, a section that had recently burned. Progress was slow and tedious. But once I hit the ascent up Big Hump, there were no trees, and hardly any little branches the rest of the way. I expected to be out by 4, but it was closer to 6:30 when I finally staggered out to the car.

The trail clings to the side of a cliff just upstream from Big Hump on the Duckabush
The trail clings to the side of a cliff just upstream from Big Hump on the Duckabush

All in all a very challenging trip, but I think it was a good preparation for the PCT through the High Sierra this summer. Apart from the trail conditions, the upper Duckabush is rugged and remote and really worth the trip up it if you get the chance. And the Trilliums were busting out all over the lower elevations of both valleys; more than I had ever seen before.

And the biggest lesson; 7 hours with microspikes and wet trailrunners does not make for happy feet.

 

Skokomish to Duckabush Via First Divide

The weekend forecast looked good finally.  Time to pack up and go play in the snow.  Plans were made to leave the truck at Staircase and start walking there.  My wife would pick me up 3 days later at the Duckabush trailhead and take me back to my truck.  By the time I got to Staircase on Friday morning, the forecast had deteriorated somewhat, but I decided to push on.  What’s a little rain anyway.

When I left the trailhead at Staircase late morning Friday there was only one other car in the parking lot, a good sign for a solitary individual like me.  And wherever they had gone, it was not where I went.  I managed to not see any sign of people, other than boot prints in the mud, until camp on the second night.  There were quite a few people the last day, especially once I left the ONP, but the first couple of days were pretty isolated.

The trail is pretty gentle for the first 10 miles to 9 Stream, where I spent the first night.  From there it begins to climb pretty steadily, gaining about 2700 feet over the next 3.3 miles up to first divide and then losing most of that in the 2 mile descent to the Duckabush.  From that point the trail mostly follows the Duck until the trailhead about 17 miles later.  There are a few climbs along the way, notably up to Big Hump, but by and large it is an easy trail.

Or should I say it should be an easy trail.  In reality it was a nightmare.  I am by nature a counter, and I ended up counting all the trees across the trail.  I counted everything bigger than about 3-4 inches in diameter that required me to step or climb over, duck under or go around; and there was plenty of all three. The trail was cleared from Staircase to Spike Camp, but from there to 9 Stream there were 87 trees across the trail, including two whose root balls had taken out the trail.  There were another 17 trees between 9 Steam and continuous snow around 3500 feet, and 12 from the time the Duckabush side cleared at 3900 down to the Upper Duckabush camp.

From Upper Duckabush to 10 Mile Camp I counted 102 trees down, plus a massive blowdown that was so thick with branches I could not get a count.  By the time I got to 10 Mile I was pretty whopped from the snow and scrambling over miles of down trees and stopped for the night.  It got worst.  In the 4 miles, to the park boundary, there were 150 down trees.  368 down trees between Spike Camp and the park boundary on the Duck.   Only 1 tree for the next 6.7 miles, all the branches removed from the trail, good tread and few swampy spots.  Stepping across the park boundary into the Brothers Wilderness was like stepping into another world.  It makes it very clear how much the trail crews do to make life easier for the rest of us.  Two thumbs up for the WTA and other organizations for their terrific work on the trails.

First Divide was, obviously, still under quite a bit of snow.  I could not tell if anyone had been by that way recently, although the Staircase ranger seemed to think I was the first; hard as that is to believe.  There were footprints wandering around but I finally realized coming down into Home Sweet Home that at least many of them were elk.  Backcountry Navigator on my Droid Bionic made it possible to stay at least close to the trail on the way up.  Heading down I just followed the elk prints into the upper Home Sweet Home meadow and then the GPS to get down to clear trail.

The snow was mostly soft and I did a little postholing, but not bad so long as I steered clear of protruding branches or obvious soft spots.  I did wear microspikes through most of the snow and I am sure they helped a bit.  And the ice axe was very handy following the elk into Home Sweet Home, nearly straight down the slope.

The weather was decent, although not great.  I saw a few brief moments of sun, had half an hour of rain up in the snow on Saturday, and it was generally cool and damp.  The snow appears to be melting rapidly now and with sun and warm predicted, a lot more of it should be melted out soon.

Hit the treadhead Sunday just after noon, waited for a couple hours for my ride to Staircase and then home.  A trip full of memories.

One of my favorite bridges in the park is this one over Madeline Creek  on the Skokomish trail.  Just a big old log with one side flattened and a railing put up to help with balance.  The creek rushes past about 20 feet below.  Quite an exciting walk across if you have any fear of heights.

I saw elk every day out, for the first time ever.  Four different sightings of  small herds, from 4 to 10 cows.  This is the only one that posed for me long enough to get a picture.  Most of them disappeared pretty quickly.  Also saw a couple of deer and lots of bear poop.

Still quite a few Trillium, especially around 9 Stream.  Probably my favorite flower in the park.

There were also quite a few Fairy Slippers around the higher elevations.

The North Fork Skokomish running past my camp at 9 Stream, along with my own private beach access. 

Home away from home.  First time I have had my Cuben Fiber tarp from HammockGear deployed over my hammock in the wild.  A really nice, 5.2 ounce, tarp.

Mt Hopper from the Skokomish trail.

Lots of water features along the way.  This is a small stream that flows into the Skokomish up beyond 9 Stream.  Nameless on the map, but maybe 10 or 11 Stream :).

The hill behind the missing shelter at Home Sweet Home as seen from 1st Divide.

Looking back up to First Divide from the bottom of the descent in the Home Sweet Home meadow.  Quite  an interesting and slow descent in soft snow.

Looking across part of the Home Sweet Home meadow.

One of the countless streams that flows across the Duckabush trail.  In addition to fording the Duckabush itself at the Upper Duckabush Camp, I had to splash across 5 or 6 of these small streams.  Between the snow and all the fords, my feet stayed pretty wet the second day out.

The Duckabush flows across from right to left with Crazy Creek  crashing down from above.  I caught a glimpse of this through the trees and wandered over to get a picture.

Every once in awhile you see an inverted tree like the one  near the center of this picture.  The top  falls out of a tree and lands straight enough, and hard enough, to impale itself into the ground, upside down.  That would have been a bit spooky if you happened to be walking along when it happened in front of you.

A cluster of little mushrooms.  I have no idea what kind they are, but have always liked these little colonies of fungus.

Starflowers, and numerous other even smaller flowers were pretty abundant. 

A clump of Maidenhair fern, one of my favorite ferns.

Quite a bit of Bunchberry was blooming throughout the trip.

Another peak at a waterfall into the Duckabush seen through the trees from the trail.  Too tired and the undergrowth too tangled to try and get a closer picture.

This log has been here long enough that it has actually become the trail.  It perfectly overlays the trail for its entire length and you balance along the top as you head down the trail.

Quite a few Rhododendrons in bloom along the Duck. 

Don’t know what this flower is, but I have always enjoyed it.  Can’t find it in either of my books.

The Duckabush during one of it’s milder moments.

You can see 5 trees across the trail here, with the 5th just barely visible beyond the double.  They were usually spread out a bit farther, but this was not real uncommon.  Each of these were high enough that I would swing one leg over and sit down to swing the other over.  Not to bad occasionally, but over and over and over again.

Jumbles like this required a detour.  I fought through a few of them early on, but finally gave up and looked for a way around these clumps of bushy trees.

One of the few snakes I have managed to see in the park.  This guy was sunning himself in one of those rare sunny moments.

A big cluster of Queen’s Cup on the ascent up Big Hump.  Lot’s of these around, but this was the nicest patch I saw.

Up near the top of Big Hump on the up stream side.  This is a left over from the 2011 fire.

A viewpoint from just below the top of Big Hump.  I remember my dad taking us up here when I was a kid.  It has a nice view of the lower valley, but the low clouds obscured the hill tops Sunday.

Looking back up at Big Hump’s hump.

The lower Duckabush valley.

I passed a couple of places like this with a dripping waterfall over a rock face covered with moss, ferns and small flowers.  This one is midway down from Big Hump, heading downstream.

2013 Shakedown Trip to the Dosewallips

With the forecast calling for another couple of nice days, I decided it was time to head out into the Olympics for a night, just to shake off the rust and make sure I still knew how to hang a hammock.  I wasn’t looking to go very far so decided to hit the Dosewallips River, hiking from the road washout up to the Ranger Station.

After running some errands Friday morning, I heading for the Olympics and got to the Dose trailhead/washout just before 2PM and started walking.  It’s about a 5.5 mile road walk up to the campground at the end of the road, but it has been just a trail for long enough now that some parts of the road actually are no longer anything but a trail.  Much of it is still pretty broad, but it is a pleasant walk and was accomplished in a bit under 2 hours.  The Dose is running hard and loudly now, but the trail/road was pretty dry; only a couple of small wet spots where water was seeping across the road.

I found one Rhododendron blooming along the road, along with a few Dogwoods, a patch of Columbine and a scattering of Strawberry, Dandelion, Paintbrush and a few other small flowers.  Not a great display, but pleasant nonetheless.  The waterfall about 4.5 miles up was really roaring as well; a really pretty sight.

I found one other guy in camp when I arrived.  He invited me to share his fire with him, but I declined.  I really don’t have much use for campfires normally.  He ran his that evening and again this morning; and then broke camp and left it still going.  Wish I knew his name so I could report him.

If you have not been to the Dosewallips campground adjacent to the ranger’s station, it is a nice destination.  Prior to the winter of 2001/2002 it was a frontcountry campground with about 20 or so sites; each with a fire ring, picnic table and some food storage boxes.  All of that is still there, although the potable water and restrooms, apart from a pit toilet, have been turned off and/or closed.  There are a lot of branches and trees down on the road and sites, but it is still generally clean (unlike Elkhorn closer to the washout), and a great destination.  It also makes a great place to stop when heading out into the backcountry.

A couple hours after getting into camp my hiking buddy, Dwayne, showed up and we had a pleasant evening talking about our kids and the state of the world; watching the river flow by; and watching a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes and one of Harlequins swimming and diving.

Spent the night in my new Traveler hammock from Warbonnet, swinging between a pair of trees near the river.  The night was pleasant and the sleep was restful; just something about hanging out in the woods near a river.

After breakfast Dwayne broke camp, put out the neighbors fire, and headed back, while I spent a couple more hours watching the river and praying.  Finally, after a second breakfast, I broke camp and headed back to the truck.  On the way out, I passed 28 people, and 3 dogs, on their way in.  About half were day hikers, but it appears like the campground will be hopping tonight.

Grand Valley and Lillian Lake

With the weather looking promising for the weekend, I took off for the Grand Valley in the Olympics with a buddy.  We got reservations for a couple of nights at Gladys Lake and planned to hike over to Lillian Lake on the day between those two nights.  I have seen Lillian from a distance a couple of times and knew that it was reachable, but had never headed that way before.  I was hopeful that we would be up to the challenge and be able to check off another location from my bucket list.

My buddy still has a real job and had to put in a few hours on Friday so we were late getting started, hitting the trail head at Obstruction Point about 3:30.  We discovered at the trail head that the two guys prepping next to us were heading for the same lake, and since it only had 4 spots and we needed suitable trees to hang from, the race was on.  Fortunately the old legs of our crew had more than enough life to win the race this time and had our pick of spots at Gladys Lake.

If you have never hiked Lillian Ridge from Obstruction Point I would highly recommend it.  The first couple of miles are pretty mellow and offer fantastic views of the Olympics, assuming the skies are clear.  Unfortunately on both the trip in and coming back out the sky was pretty hazy with smoke from the eastern Washington fires and visibility was limited.  At the end of the ridge walk the tail takes the express elevator down to the floor of the Grand Valley, dropping about 1400 feet in about a mile, so you need to be prepared for a serious return climb once you leave the ridge.

We scored a nice spot on Gladys overlooking the lake and the upper valley, including a great view of Low Pass, our entry point into the Lillian drainage.  We quickly setup camp, ate and cleaned up just in time for dark and bed.  Apart from a pesky deer and a visit from the ranger, the evening was quiet.  The night was a bit cold and breezy, but nestled in our down cocoons we was nice and toasty.

Saturday morning was in the low 40’s with some wind, but it soon died down and the sun warmed us up.  We headed up the climb to Low Pass and took a look across the drainage to the Lillian Lake bowl, plus the long traverse over to it.  For the first half of the trip there was an intermittent trail with a few cairns over the talus fields.  But the last couple of miles were pretty much without any indication of a trail that we could see, other than a few game trails.

Apart from getting around the toe of a ridge about a mile into the journey, the going was fairly straightforward until crossing the runoff stream from Lillian Glacier, the low point of the trail.  The trail was steep and hard to find in places, but we generally felt like we knew where we were.

But about a half mile from the stream crossing we lost any semblance of a trail and were on our own.  The old trail description that I had found indicated that the valley floor was a big meadow and all we had to do was go down it until we found the outlet from Lillian Lake and then pick up the trail to the lake.  Unfortunately we did not find anything resembling a big meadow and ended up wandering through the trees along the valley wall for a while before dropping a bit and finding easier passage.  At some point we found muddy boot prints heading up for the lake and followed them until they disappeared.  We then just charged up hill and managed to come out into the bowl below the lake, hiked across it and then up to the lake itself.

Lillian Lake is a beautiful little lake nestled down in a shallow bowl with steep walls around about 1/3 of it, and snow right up to its edge in places.  It was well worth the 3.5 hour journey.  We took the opportunity to eat lunch and rest for a while before the time came to head back out.  As we were leaving we meet a trio who had crossed over after us and were planning to spend the night.

On the way out we followed the outlet creek down for a while, along an intermittent trail and then struck off along a traverse that brought us back to our original stream crossing.  One more shortcut put us back on our trail in and we followed it back to Low Pass and on to Gladys in about 2.5 hours, a big improvement from the outbound trip.

Once back to camp we took advantage of the sun and took a spit bath by the lake, because it was too cold to swim, and then lounged in the sun for the remainder of the day.  To bed at dark for another restful night hanging in the trees and then up this morning to 35 degrees and a return of the hazy conditions.  The trip out was uneventful and another wonderful weekend out in the creation was over.

This yearling and mom took a break half way up the hill to Lillian Ridge.  I knew the trip up was hard for people, but apparently we are not the only ones.

Moose Lake from the north end.

This guy had sentry duty on the trail by Gladys Lake.  

Lillian Lake

A smaller lake near Lillian.  This one still has quite a bit of snow on it.

Looking down from the Lillian Lake bowl, across to Low Pass.

Looking back to Lillian Lake from near Low Pass.  The lake is behind the clump of trees in the center of the bowl.

Gladys Lake from Low Pass.  We were camped in the trees just back of the bare spot above the  left half of the lake.

Low Pass as seen from our camp site on Gladys Lake as the sun is rising.  Beautiful setting.

The trail running along the top of Lillian Ridge back toward the trail head.  A hazy day obscures much of the distant  mountains

Crossing the Olympics: Dose to Enchanted Valley

With the weather forecast looking promising, and the need to keep out in the woods for a while, it seemed like it was finally time to head back out in the ‘the park’ (the Olympics that is).  I was wanting to be able to walk for several days, in preparation for my August PCT trip, so that generally means I am going to have to cross a pass or two.  I decided to go over Anderson Pass on this trip, mostly because it has been over 25 years since I have been up into it, or been in the Enchanted Valley.

Wednesday morning my wife and mother-in-law dropped me off at the road washout on the Dosewallips road and I headed out.  The 5.5 mile road walk is looking less and less like a road all the time as the forest is reclaiming all but a narrow strip through much of its length.  I used to really wish they would get the road fixed, but now I think of it more as just an extension of the trail.  The trip up to Diamond Meadows was fairly uneventful and only saw 2 parties of 2 each on the trail during the day.  Plus 6 more coming down past Diamond Meadows as I was setting up camp.  One of the earlier groups had come through Anderson Pass and I got some good info from them.  The 6 had come through LaCrosse Pass and were pretty heavily loaded.  I heard later that there were actually 12 of them but I missed the other half.

All ready to go from the Dosewallips trail head.

Rabbit stew anyone?

The mighty Banana slug.  Saw quite a few of these monarchs of the forest floor.

A colorful spot along the road walk.

This is a part of the area that burned about 3 years ago.  It is coming back nicely.

I wonder if the NPS would consider renting out this little summer cottage?  It seems not to be used for anything else since the road washed out.

The high bridge across the Dose.  As far as I know this is the highest bridge in the park.  You can feel it moving as you walk across it, although not as much as its predecessor.

The view looking down from the high bridge.  Looks like 100 feet or so.  Makes you really thankful for the handrails.

The Diamond Meadows campground.  This big open area can handle  several groups with  room for another at the edge of the meadow, several more on the hill to the right and a few more in a spot just up the trail.  Could probably easily accommodate 8-10 parties, complete with a privy and 2 bear wires.

Thursday morning I left camp about 7 and headed up stream.  The crossing of the Dosewallips required you to pick out a route across a jumble of logs, none of which appeared to go all the way across.  I believe it took me three logs to make it.  Patchy snow started just past the crossing, although only one large patch on a steep slope presented any real obstacle.

There are multiple braids in the Dose here and it takes several logs to get from one bank to the next.  

Just below Honeymoon Meadows there was a very large blow down, probably 100 yards long.  I had to take the pack off for part of this and pass it under logs and then either crawl after it or find a way around or over; quite a mess. 

The trail goes right through the middle of this mess, for the next 100 yards or so.  It is on a steep slope so it is hard to go around, leaving over or under.

I love Avalanche lilies.  Hit the first patch of them just above the big blow down.

I didn’t like the looks of any of the logs across the Dose at Honeymoon Meadows so I ended up fording there, up to mid-thigh in one place, but not too bad.  The lower meadow was mostly snow free, but the snow started in the upper meadow and continued most of the way up and over.  The only real exception was a series of switchbacks in the woods; they were clear enough that I could mostly follow the trail.  

Honeymoon Meadows just after fording the Dose.  Looks good here, but just over the small rise in the middle of the picture, the snow starts.

I am not the most proficient navigator in snow country so I had Backcountry Navigator on my phone to help me out.  About every 10-15 minutes I would pull it out to check my position relative to the trail.  About half the time I was right on and the other half I was a bit above the trail.  I eventually made it up into the pass, a real sense of accomplishment.

The view from Camp Siberia

Anderson Pass; finally!

Heading down the other side was a real adventure as well.  I was probably half way down before I saw any evidence of a trail.  I ended up just cutting down the steep slope in the general direction of the trail until I came out into the clear and started finding periodic sections of trail.  

Toward the bottom of the pass was the debris field from a large avalanche, probably 1/4 mile across and 1/2 mile long.  The trees looked like pick up sticks just tossed all over.  Quite fun crossing that mess.  Once past that the snow diminished enough that the travel became easier, and by the time I hit the O’Neil Pass trail the snow has mostly disappeared.

I had not remembered all the waterfalls falling into the Enchanted Valley.  While there were not any I saw with massive amounts of water, they were falling many hundreds of feet, and pretty frequently.  I could see about 8 of them from my campsite alone.  I did manage to see a couple of bears just above the camping area and a couple of deer that wandered through the next morning.  Also experienced my first mosquitoes of the season, although not to terrible.

One of the waterfalls in the upper valley.

Caught this picture just as he put his head back down to graze.  Good sized bear just about 50 feet of the trail.  More interested in eating than in posing for a better picture.

Not sure just exactly what he was eating, but it must have been good.  He was slowly mowing his way across the meadow.

Some of the waterfalls across the river from my camp at Enchanted Valley.  None of them had a large flow, but there were lots of them.  This is 3 of the 8 I could see across the way.

The Chalet / Ranger Station 

I have grown fascinated with the world of mushrooms.  These were growing out of the cut end of an old log by my camp.  There were just about fingernail sized.

Are you looking at me?

There were 4-5 other camp sites occupied that night, and one of them beat me out in the morning although I never saw them.  The most amazing thing to me on the trip out was the number of people coming up the trail.  I do not believe I had ever encountered so many people in the back country before.  In the first 6.5 miles I encountered 3 day hikers and at least 3 dozen backpackers heading for the Valley.  One group of 10 and another of 8 were both planning on going over Anderson Pass the next day so I talked with them for a while.  I suspect I encountered nearly 100 people on the trail before I got to the trail head and pickup point.  It was really crazy, especially from the Pony Bridge out.

A very interesting bridge across the Quinault just below the Valley.  No passing allowed.

What looks like abstract art is just what is left of an old tree.  The rest of it has rotted away.

The base of a fallen Red Cedar.  The base is nearly 30 feet across.  The trail  zigs around  it here.

There were a few places along the East Fork of the Quinault that looked almost manicured.; like walking in  a county park.

One of a small stand of big old Red Cedar’s.  This one appears to have a diameter of 8-10 feet.

If you look closely you will see an elk print with a deer print on top of it.

If you blow this picture up, you will be amazed at the number and types of bugs pollinating this Cow Parsnip.  They were just swarming over it.

Looking back up the gorge under the Pony Bridge.  The bridge is hard to see here, but it is at the center and toward the top of the picture.

The Dosewallips trail end is just over 34 miles away.  It appears like the road above the washout is now considered a part of the Dosewallips trail.

All in all a very good trip, although I did fight with a pulled calf muscle for the last day and a quarter.  Backcountry Navigator worked well until I changed the battery on the phone to start the third day; it was lost after that.  Fortunately I didn’t need it for navigating the trail out of the Valley.  SPOT tracked along OK, although the heavier tree cover down low blocks it a lot.  Going stoveless is getting easier, finding a better variety for dinner.  All of the rest of the gear seems to be working pretty well so I think I am about ready for a much longer trip.

If you are looking to head out over Anderson Pass it should be easily doable now, so long as you can handle the navigation issues.  I made it with trail runners, micro-spikes and trekking poles.

Trillium Galore, and Some Snow

Sue and I headed out this morning to hike up the North Fork Skokomish River in the Olympics.  It was a bit cool and lightly overcast but looked promising.  We were a bit late getting away from the house and didn’t get to the trailhead at Staircase until about 9:30.  And for the first time ever we pulled into an empty parking lot; although 3 other cars followed us into the lot, a group of 11 younger folks.

Our goal was to make it up as far as Camp Pleasant, nearly 7 miles up the trail, eat lunch and then wander on back to the car.  All looked well for the first 4 miles.  But then we hit Spike Camp and found the snow.  The next mile and a half was patchy snow with the last mile and a half almost continuous snow of about 2-3 foot deep.  Most of the snow was fairly soft which resulted in some post-holing and a lot of slow travel.

In addition to the snow, the trail had seen no maintenance so far so there were a lot of trees and branches on or across the trail.  I threw off most of what I could lift, but were was still a lot of stuff that I couldn’t handle, including one tree over 4′ in diameter and a number of massive blowdowns that we had to fight through or around.  In the end we came just short of Camp Pleasant because of a blowdown that was just too big an obstacle.

The highlight of the trip for me, beside being in the woods with my love, were the flowers, primarily the trillium.  I probably saw more trillium today than I have the rest of my life combined.  They were thick in places, at least until the snow started and then they disappeared.  There were also a few yellow violets and an occasional random flower, but the trillium stole the show today.

All in all it was a seven and a half hour trip up and back with few people, cool but dry, lots of snow, lots of trillium, and a good time in the woods with the wife.  Over all, a pretty good day.

Western Wake Robin ?
The mighty Banana Slug out on the prowl
Great White Trillium ?
Turning pink as it ages
Bracken Fern Fiddleheads
Obstacles in the trail
Several times there were pairs of trillium growing together
Clumps of trillium
Here’s a triple shot
A trillium bouquet
Walking in the snow around Spike Camp
The fall above Madeline Creek bridge
Skunk Cabbage just getting started
Quite a bit of elk prints and poop
Shelf Fungus
Another trillium boquet
The first creek crossing with a few extra obstacles
Quite a few yellow violets as well
Some of the rocks on the drive out were covered with a little yellow flower

2011 Olympics Traverse

I have plans to do a nearly 200 mile hike later this summer and felt the need to get out and get some serious miles on the trail first.  Plus, I just enjoy being out in the woods with nothing to do but walk and think.  The biggest problem so far to this has been the snow pack in the mountains and the cool wet weather we have been having this summer.  But this past weekend promised to at least be warm and sunny so I decided to reverse a trip I had made a few years ago with a couple of friends.  That trip started at the Dosewallips road washout and ended up at the North Fork Quinault trail head.  It is a trip that is a bit shy of 60 miles and had taken us 7 days to complete, at least in part because of heavy loads (close to 60 pounds) and blisters.  The goal this time was for a swifter trip across, planning on only 4 days and only carrying half as much.

Sue dropped me off at the trailhead shortly after 10 on Friday morning.  The lower Quinault is very mellow and easy to walk and the miles quickly flew by.  I stopped at Francis Creek for lunch and then pushed on, hoping to reach Low Divide that first night.  Between there and the 16 Mile ford I met a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) group that I had seen 3 weeks earlier on the Skokomish and a Boy Scout troop coming across from the Elwha.  The Boy Scouts warned me about the 16 Mile ford and it was a bit exciting when I got to it.  I explored around a bit but ended up crossing at the trail.  It was very swift and about a third of the way up my thigh (I am 6’2″).  But I got across without incident and started the climb to Low Divide.  Quite a few trees across the trail through here and started running into snow about 3400 feet, but generally not too bad.  Lost the trail briefly once but proceeded along and soon found it again.  Found a couple of bears in the meadow below the empty Rangers Station and got up to the upper campground about 6:45, set up camp, had dinner and fell into the hammock for a good night’s sleep.

 

 

Still some snow in the Low Divide meadows.

 

Lot’s of Avalanche Lilies all over the high country.

 

The Low Divide meadows had lots of Glacier Lilies as well.

 

Are you looking at me? Chowing down by the trail just below the Low Divide Ranger’s Station.

The second day dawned and I was up and hit the trail by 7:30.  The lakes were melted out and beautiful with some snow still around them.  There was no snow on the descent although a lot of flowers and a beautiful waterfall.  The Camp Chicago ford was about knee deep and not as swift so seemed safer than trying to balance on the small logs I could find.  Pulled into the Hayes River Rangers Station and Campground about 1:30 and decided that was a good place to stop, rest, get a bath and prepare for the ascent of Hayden Pass.  It was a very relaxing afternoon and I had a good visit with the ranger stationed there.  First thing she asked me after finding out where I had come from was how the 16 Mile ford was.  She was pretty incredulous when I told her because the Low Divide Ranger had been passing on that it was waist deep for a 6′ man.  As a result she had convinced 3 parties to turn around and not attempt the ford.  She apparently let everyone know that it was not that bad; next day a ranger I encountered near Hayden Pass had already heard the story of the 16 Mile ford and knew who I was.

 

Lake Margaret was beautiful!

 

Waterfall visible from near the top of the Elwha side of the Low Divide.  I think it is draining off the Martins Lakes area.

 

The Columbine were out on the way down to the Elwha as well as other locations on the trail.

 

The Western Starflowers were pretty prolific as well.  Lot’s and lot’s of flowers.

 

Set Up for the night at Hayes River.  Left the top down for the first time.  Very pleasant night lulled to sleep by the river.

Sunday morning I was up at first light and on the trail by 6:15.  The ascent up to Hayden Pass is nearly 9 miles long picking up about 4000 feet of elevation.  The trail is never really steep, but it is pretty steady up.  The lower part of the trail is fairly dry but as you get higher is gets pretty wet and finally about 5000 foot the snow started.  By about 5200 it was fairly continuous.  I soon lost the trail and struck out for a ridge line just above me, following some bear tracks.  I found the trail just over the top, although it took a bit to figure out which way it was going.  Just as I had got myself located on the map a ranger showed up.  We visited for a bit and then I set off following the tracks he had left coming down from the pass.  Hit the pass around 1, had a bit to eat and then started down.  The Dosewallips side of the pass is very steep and no footprints that I could find. Fortunately the snow was fairly soft and I was able to slowly work across the slope until I could find a place where I could see all the way to the bottom and finally took my first adventure with glissading.  I was pretty reluctant to really let go until close to the bottom but it was definitely easier than trying to sidestep down 500 feet of what looked to be a 45 degree (or better) slope.  Trudged through the upper basin and eventually found a piece of the trail and was able then to follow it to the bridge across the Dose.  After that there was more trail than snow and the pace picked up quite a bit.  Dose Meadows was very pretty although the camp sites were still buried.  Bear Camp was also beautiful but I went on the Deception Creek so I could more easily catch my ride out the next day.  The trail had some snow until about 4000 foot with some fallen trees but none that were too difficult to navigate.  Got into Deception Creek about 6:45, ate, set up camp, bathed and crashed.

 

I picked you a flower.  Some of the trails through the meadows had flowers even in the trail.

 

Traversing the upper approach to Hayden Pass.  Not much of a trail until after I had met the ranger.

 

Not a real good picture, but looking out at the Dose side of the pass.  It drops away pretty quickly and pretty steep.

 

Dose Meadows was all melted out, although the campsites were still buried.

Took my time breaking camp Monday morning and hit the trail about 7:30 or so and walked pretty steadily until I met Sue just above the big waterfall on the washed out road.  We headed on back to the car and home after a wonderful 4 days in the woods.

 

Pretty patch of flowers along the road on the way back to the car.
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