It has been almost 6 months since this trip…better late than never.
This was my first time to the Pacific Northwest, but it won’t be the last.
We flew out to Seattle on Saturday, August 11th. After picking up the ugliest rental car (neon green Ford Fiesta), we stopped by the Olympia REI for some fuel, met up with friends for some food and headed out towards the coastal community of Kalaloch, within the Park boundaries. We had reserved a site at the Kalaloch campground on a bluff overlooking the pacific. It was pretty crowded. But, it was beautiful. It was now that James realized he had left his GPS on the plane. Not good, but what can you do? We set up camp and walked down to the beach for the sunset. After some handstands in the sand and a little stroll, we turned in for the night.
August 12th – Graves Creek to O’Neil Creek, 6.5 miles. We woke the next morning to a thick fog and cool temps. We packed up and drove north to Ruby Beach. Spectacular. It was peaceful and the fog was thinner up there. The sun was beaming down through the trees on the bluff and the waves were gently smashing the sea stacks.
We said goodbye to Ruby Beach, stopped for breakfast, picked up our permit at the Quinault Ranger Station and were at the Graves Creek trailhead at noon. We stopped for a long break right before the Pony Bridge, climbed down to the river and watched naked backpackers jumping in the cold water. The further down the trail, the larger and greener the trees became. Pretty easy going day, no rough spots in the trail. Ended the day at O’Neil Creek Camp, blue skies and mild weather. O’Neil had a bear wire, pit toilets and a few good neighbors.
August 13th – O’Neil Creek to Enchanted Valley, 7 miles. A family at O’Neil were coming back from Enchanted Valley and had told us that this place is so beautiful that you will wonder where the unicorns are. Another girl on the trail said that there was a possibility of fairies at sunrise. Needless to say, our hopes were high today. Broke camp at 8am. Chilly morning. Took a break about an hour in. As we were getting ready to move on, James noticed a bear coming down the trail and told me to get the camera. As the little bear moved closer, James yelled at him to go away and he left the trail and let us pass without thinking twice.
It was a hot day but felt cool under the canopy of the big, hairy trees. Love those trees. We stopped to snack at a massive fallen tree.
We reached a horse gate on the path and knew we were getting close to the valley. I wanted to see some unicorns! Soon we crossed a high bridge over the river and made our way into this enchanted place. Views of Anderson Peak began to show. Once we entered the valley (around 2pm), we checked out the Chalet, built in 1930, closed for accommodations in 1943, and used as an aircraft warning system in WWII. It is now only used as an emergency shelter. I picked out a site in the trees, took a bath with a view in the freezing cold glacier river and napped a couple of hours. Enjoyed the evening in the valley, few other campers. Many many waterfalls on the side of the valley. On the valley wall, near our camp, there were bears rustling around. Camp had bear wire and pit toilets. Another easy day. Although we saw no unicorns or fairies, Enchanted Valley was a wonderful place that I enjoyed and appreciated very much.
August 14th – Enchanted Valley over Anderson Pass to Honeymoon Meadows, 7 miles. Packed up camp at 8am. James took my food bag today, because I was being a wuss. Big day today, over our first pass. We left the valley and headed up into the forest. Crossed dozens of small waterfalls and streams flowing down the ridge. When we reached the end of the valley, the views came to us. So amazing. Looking right down into enchanted valley.
There were two big avalanche shoots we had to climb over. Basically a messy pile of trees and melting ice and snow. Not safe, but we stepped carefully and made it over with no issues. Found a nice shady spot to stop for lunch at noon. As James was bandaging up my blistered feet, the naked backpackers from the first day came by. They had spent the night in the valley as well and were headed up to Anderson Pass and out the Dosewallips River Trail. The switchbacks started after lunch. The views made it much less grueling. The trees surrounding us were all curved downward, it was something I had never seen before. I think it is due to the heavy weight of the snow the trees hold in the winter.
Reached the pass at 2pm. Not too exciting, the sign was destroyed. To James’s dismay, we skipped going up to Anderson Glacier. Pressing on, it was all down hill to camp. Crossed a peaceful meadow on the way and ran into a very interesting solo hiker who had a lot to say. Set up camp about 3:30pm. After bathing and settling in, we realized we had left our only map up at the pass. :( So, now we were GPS-less and map-less. We suck. As we checked out the camp, we discovered that half of it was destroyed by a massive avalanche, there were downed trees everywhere, in piles, in the river. It was crazy. I enjoyed this camp though. After dinner, I laid outside the tent, staring up into the tree tops and blue skies (yea, we had blue skies the whole time!). So relaxing.
August 15th – Honeymoon Meadows over LaCrosse Pass to Crazy Creek, 10 miles. All evening and into the morning, there were deer sniffing around camp. Two campers graciously offered us an extra map they had, a pretty crappy visitor center map that was almost useless, but it was better than nothing. These 2 guys had it made, they both worked for Intel and one of them had an 8 week sabbatical and the other was retired. I want an 8 week sabbatical! Anyway, we headed out around 8am for a long day. We had our first rough creek crossing shortly after, made it across a log successfully. The next creek, however, did not go as well. Both of my feet slipped into the water and as I was trying to balance with my trekking poles, one of them got stuck and I yanked it out, only to lose the bottom half in the water, the creek swept it away. I was hating on that creek. After the creeks, the switchbacks started. There were a few blow downs we had to climb over or under but not too bad. Soon enough, we emerged from the forest and hiked through an amazing alpine meadow. We were surrounded by wildflowers and mountain vistas. It was sunny and we were hot but the flowers and the snowy peaks and buzzing bees made it worth it. I couldn’t help but sing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.”
We carefully walked through 2 slippery snow fields and reached the top of LaCrosse Pass around noon. We decided to have lunch there, had the place and the view to ourselves. Definitely the best view of the trip. As we were eating lunch, I realized I had lost my small blue Nalgene somewhere on the trail. Total bummer. I had that Nalgene for years and would miss it tremendously. As we started to pack up, James mentioned how bulky his pack was since he was carrying my food bag and insisted I take some of his items to slim down his pack. I told him to just give me my food back but he started throwing his stuff at me! Gloves, hat, and….a ring box. My first thought was “what is he carrying in this box? This doesn’t pack well at all.” Then, I realized that it must have a ring in it, an engagement ring! He smiled and sat down and I opened the box and started to cry. I asked him if he was going to ask me. And he asked if I would marry him. I continued to look at the ring and put it on my finger and he asked “Are you going to answer?” I said, “Yes.”
After some pictures, we started on the descent. Switchback after switchback after over grown, muddy switchback. The views on the other side of the pass were just as gorgeous as the way up but once they were out of sight and we were back in the forest, I just wanted to get to camp. The trail was really over grown in some places, and very muddy in others, a few small blowdowns and a hot sun. But, we made it to the trail split and headed into the Duckabush area.
About a mile after the split, a couple of backpackers came up behind us (they were also camped at Honeymoon Meadows) and they asked if we had lost a blue bottle!! My Nalgene! They had picked it up at a blowdown! Yes! This lifted my very tired, sore spirits. After what seemed like forever, we made it to camp Crazy Creek. Not a marked campsite, but we found it. It was the first night where we had no human neighbors. The sun was spotty through the trees so my boots would have to stay wet. Slept.
August 16 – Crazy Creek to 5 Mile Camp, 7 miles. Late start, woke up slow. Departed camp about 9:40. The Duckabush trail was insane. You could tell we were on the dry side. Much different from the wet rainforest we started at on the west side. Also, the trail had just recently been re-opened after some major forest fires-one by lightning, another by careless campers. There were lots of blow downs. One particular blow down from Hell that stole my sanity for a few minutes. There were a dozen large downed trees and I started climbing over them without thinking, and ended up way off the trail. So, I started climbing over them angrily and when I looked up, I was back on the other side where I started! I did make it over the blow down and continued down the trail. The ground was covered with needles and sticks and was hard to see in some places. At other times, the ground was covered in what looks like a carpet of moss. Over everything.
We took a break at 10 Mile Camp, nice camp. An hour or so later, as we were sitting and snacking, Paul came walking up. He was supposed to meet us at 5 Mile but had come out a day earlier and had spent a night already. He chatted and snacked with us. He pulled up his pant leg to reveal a huge swollen knob on his shin. He had hit it pretty hard on a tree stump or something. Days later, he would be taking antibiotics for it. We finished up the last few miles with Paul. Had a few more blow downs and messed up trail to maneuver but made it to camp about 5pm. Had dinner, laid out our gear to dry and crashed. James and Paul stayed up drinking beer that Paul hiked in.
August 17th – 5 Mile to trailhead, 4.5 miles. Tried to push it out fast today. Trail cleaned up quite a bit once we left the park and entered the National Forest. Got to trailhead early, where Paul’s car was waiting for us, and a burnt up car that was left in the lot.
Drove to Shelton and had some real food. Paul took us back to Graves Creek TH and we were on our way. Took the ferry across the sound from Bremerton to Seattle during sunset, checked in at our hotel by the airport and slept in a real bed. The next day, the day we left, was overcast. :)
Even though this trip took the GPS, my trekking pole (which managed to finish off the trip with a stick as the bottom half), our map and almost my Nalgene, it always gives you so much more in return. The views, the engagement, the appreciation for running water and of course, that clear, peaceful connection to the universe that you can only get from being in the wilderness….and getting your butt kicked by mother nature.