Thursday, April 7, 2016

Quinault River Hike, Olympic National Park - April 7, 2016

Close-Up - Enchanted Valley Chalet - April 7, 2016
I called it a night around eight o'clock. Of course, I was wide awake at around two. Crashing early in the evening can mean confronting reality in the moonlight. I opened my tent and stepped out under the stars. Insight into the immensity of our situation draws people together.

Climbing back inside my tent, I started thinking about what the next day would bring. I began tossing around the idea of hiking the fifteen miles back to the car. I knew that the weather would be pleasant, and I was aware of all of the obstacles. I fell back asleep with that in mind.

I woke with the idea that I'd pace myself and evaluate how I felt at each campsite. I didn't feel rushed, just excited to get moving. I packed my belongings and took several photos before leaving the valley. Will I return?

Around the Pyrites Creek camp, I encountered the musky odor of elk. Sure enough, a large herd had their eyes open to me as I came into view from behind a tree. Due to my desire to get video footage, they moved out quickly. Although I captured a short clip that I can upload to YouTube, was it worth it? It is a reminder that my intentions were taken as hostile by a large group.

I encountered a hiker just before the trail washout northeast of O'Neil Creek. He had met two other backpackers earlier who told him that the Enchanted Valley was closed due to the slide. They obviously didn't want to bushwhack too far off-trail.

Working My Way Down the Hill - Lost Portion of Quinault River Trail - April 7, 2016
Later, I met a father and son close to the Pony Bridge. They were headed to the O'Neil campsite. The young man looked to be about middle school age. It was heartening to see the two struggling along together. The trip will be remembered with fondness.

Feeling strong when I walked over the Pony Bridge, I decided to walk the final four-and-a-half miles to my car. I was, to be sure, tired but satisfied when I caught a glimpse of it. If every day could be this fulfilling...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Enchanted Valley, Olympic National Park - April 6, 2016

Sand Hoodoos - Quinault River Bank - April 6, 2016
I hiked approximately eleven miles today into the Enchanted Valley. Boy, were there a number of trees down over the trail. I'd say that I had to skirt twenty or more. Also, just past O'Neil Creek, one hundred yards of trail has disappeared into the Quinault. At one point, I decided to wade a short distance rather than hoof it up a steep sidehill. The park service has some work to do to open this route up. The new trail will need to be cleared high above the river. Summer work for young people contemplating their future? What better way than to place them outdoors. Of course, detours add incredible interest to hiking as well as life.

Enchanted Valley Footbridge
I'm composing this while sitting on my bear can in camp, facing the old chalet. Surprisingly, there is a bear just to the left of the building. I yelled out to him, we made eye contact and he went right back to feeding. I'm lower on the food chain right now and don't want a confrontation. I could scare him off if I wanted to, but it's enjoyable being in such close proximity to unchecked wilderness.

Elk Thoroughfare
Earlier today, I saw about five elk working their way through the forest just shy of O'Neil Creek. Later, a large branch snapped in front of me. My eyes focused just in time to see the first black bear of the trip crashing through the brush to get away. He was more timid than the one in camp. Maybe I just startled him.

Sighting the Chalet - Enchanted Valley - April 6, 2016
The old chalet is all boarded up. I had hoped that part of the building would be accessible. It has been moved off its original foundation and away from the riverbank. It would certainly be special if someone fixed it up and started offering services to hikers in the backcountry. It seems like there would be a grand volunteer opportunity here. I would certainly consider a three-week stint over the summer.

Chalet History - Enchanted Valley
It was good for me to come out here by myself. I'm currently fifteen miles from my car and haven't seen a single human being yet. I do enjoy spending time in my own head, but, honestly, I prefer a shared experience.

Tenting in the Valley - April 6, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pony Bridge Camp, Olympic National Park - April 5, 2016

Quinault Flow - Pony Bridge Campsite
Spring Break came on too quickly this year. As seems the case lately, Christina's spring vacation is different than mine. I started researching hikes in the Olympics as late as Saturday. I've been very interested in seeing the Enchanted Valley on the Quinault River. The weather forecast looked suitable, so I sent out a message to a few friends to gauge interest. All were busy with other trips or couldn't commit. On the bright side, this offered me the opportunity for some much-needed solo time.

I decided to take I-5 south through Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia on my way to Quinault. It was interesting putting on 101 through Aberdeen and Hoquiam. I haven't been down to Gray's Harbor in awhile.

Upon arriving at the ranger station in Quinault, I was promptly informed that part of the Graves Creek Road was out. My hike would start two miles before the actual trailhead. This wasn't a big deal. I had planned on tenting at O'Neil Creek, but, due to the time of day, would have to scale back and camp at the Pony Bridge (4.5 miles from the car).

Graves Creek Slide
The hike in was well-worth the drive. I was struck most keenly by the Maples. They stand like ancient men - long are their living beards. The ancient look of these trees are currently juxtaposed against the golden new growth pushing out of their limbs.

Nature's First Green... - Graves Creek
Last week, my class discussed Frost's poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay." I'm in this forest at a unique time of year. Maybe I can capture, in a small way, the beginning of this golden season. It will not last.

Distances - Enchanted Valley Trail
A Trail Story Told Many Times
After taking my time on the Pony Bridge, I found a beautiful spot to camp on a bank overlooking the Quinault. I'm living with the sound of water in seemingly all directions. It's easy to dream in these places because there is life patient and impatient - the trees and the river. Good night...

Tent Configuration - Pony Bridge Camp
View Dining (Foam Core Pad Over Bear Can) - Pony Bridge Camp