HEART of the OLYMPICS WILDERNESS TREK JULY 18-23, 2006
DAY 1– We left the gravel lot at 0815, headed for the Dosewallips River Road and the trailhead. The road was in good condition except for a partial washout near the end. There were a lot of hungry skeeters at the trailhead, but we soon left them behind as we climbed up over the bluff on the bypass trail. It was cool to hike a trail that we’d helped to build with the WTA folks last year. The road climbed gently past the Elkhorn Campground, within earshot of the river. Carol P and Rebbeca, our shuttle drivers, said goodbye and wished us happy trails. We rounded a curve and saw a great lunch spot by an inviting stream–so lunch we did. We had all packed our own lunches–interesting to see what folks chose to bring: from pilot bread and real cheese to pre-packaged tuna salad and crackers, Tillamook steak-bites and Cheez-its to Clif Bars and dried fruit.
Eventually the road dropped past a tall cliff of pillow basalt, and then climbed steeply alongside the Dosewallips Cascades, topping out at Muscott Flats and the old Dosewallips Campground and Ranger Station, both of which looked pretty deserted on this Tuesday afternoon. We dropped our packs and walked over to the river, and stacked rocks into towers while some of the Old Goats napped. Then we shouldered our loads and headed off on the trail, hiking another 1 1/2 miles to a campsite at Dose Forks. A trail crew was working on a stretch of puncheon boards over a boggy spot of trail leading up to the river bridge. The scouts selected a campsite downstream from the bear wire and the Old Goats found a choice spot upstream and a little closer to the river. We had a small bit of a fire after our supper, but didn’t stay up very late.
DAY 2— A leisurely start in the morning for all of us. Our destination was Honeymoon Meadows on the West Fork of the Dosewallips River, about 7.5 miles upstream. We crossed the “Lower Dose” bridge and contoured through open forest, rhododendrons and salal to the “High Dose” bridge, spanning the West Fork nearly 50 feet above the water. Some gentle climbing and then a bit of a descent to Big Timber Camp, a large, shady and gracious campsite by the river. We all met up again at Diamond Meadow Camp, which was sunnier, but seemed to sport more bugs. After Diamond Meadow, the trail crossed back over the river again. You had your choice of crossing over a log jam or fording. Fording was not too difficult–my river shoes and trekking poles kept me upright and stable. And the river felt great swirling up past my knees.
The trail rose through the forest and began to traverse across open avalanche gullies, offering us glimpses of Mount Anderson at the head of the valley. Then it turned a bend and climbed sharply up alongside a roaring cataract, cresting at the lower end of Honeymoon Meadows. We picked a couple of campsites–being careful to use the hardened areas and not the vegetated meadows. The view across the valley to the cliffs below Anderson Pass and the waterfall that fell in several stages down from East Peak was a restful one. We spotted a mountain goat working the cliffside later that afternoon. There was plenty of time for foot-soaking, washing up, napping and a wonderful two-course dinner of chicken dumpling soup followed by Spotted Dog (the “scratch” version). We discussed and developed a plan for the layover day on Thursday before hitting the sack.
DAY 3—We slept in until the sun struck our tents. Then we prepared day packs to carry on a “side trip” up to the climber’s high camp at the Anderson Glacier moraine. Two deer–one of them with a fawn still wearing spots–visited our campsite while we were having breakfast. We forded the river and hiked UP to Little Siberia below Anderson Pass. The morning was fine and already quite hot. The kybo at the shelter has a great view of Mount Elk Lick. The shelter at Little Siberia is in good condition except that the roof overhang has partially collapsed. We kept switchbacking UP and arrived at Anderson Pass a short time later. There was a tiny pond at the pass that sported several frogs and masses of eggs and developing tadpoles. It boggles your mind to imagine how these amphibians manage to survive a mountain winter to reproduce year after year. We took a left at the signpost and then began to really go UP a climber’s path that zigzagged up a south-facing slope. At a little cirque there was a “tarn with a view”-a shallow pond, partially ringed by a snowfield. Time for a dip, indeed.
We topped out at 5300feet on an old moraine, about a quarter-mile from the Anderson Glacier. Several hundred feet below there was a large, mostly frozen lake. The scale and distances were deceptive–until we located a solo hiker who’d pitched a tiny tent down by the lakeshore, and we decided that he was awfully far away. We had lunch up on top of the moraine and enjoyed views out to the west towards the Quinault valley, north to West Peak and Mt. Anderson, and south across the Dosewallips, back towards our camp at Honeymoon Meadows, and across the valley towards LaCrosse Pass.
Eventually we headed back down to our camp and some of us used the Solar Shower to clean up. The afternoon sun was relentless, so the Old Goats moved their camp a hundred yards or so back into the forest in search of shade. We had a bit of a fire before an early bed. Lots of talk about movie special-effects, and another visit by the fawn and his mum made for a pleasant evening.
DAY 4—We all got up early and were underway by 0645. Today was going to be the scorcher, and we faced a 3.1 mile climb to LaCrosse Pass at 5566 feet, then a 3.3 mile descent down a south-facing slope to the Duckabush River. Once at the river, the plan was to hike upstream another 2 miles or so to Upper Duckabush Camp for the night. There was a bit of a tricky second crossing of the West Fork Dosewallips that involved a flying leap across a hip-deep eddy, and then the trail settled into a series of gentle switchbacks as it climbed through the forest above Honeymoon Meadows. Eventually the trail broke out into open meadows carpeted with avalanche lilies, lupine, valerian and bistort, with views of Mt. LaCrosse and Mt. Anderson in the distance. The scouts spotted a bear grazing in the flower fields some distance below them. We encountered patchy snowfields at the pass and packed our water bottles with snow for the descent after having a quick lunch.
Initially we were rewarded with stunning views of Mt. Stone and Mt. Hopper to the south and Mts. Steele and Duckabush to the west, seeming to float above the heavily forested valley sides. The trail dropped steeply down into an numbing series of switchbacks that were relentlessly cruel to knees and toes. The sun was blazing hot, and even the shade was dry and dusty. Finally we clambered over a series of blowdowns and saw the slope begin to flatten as we approached the junction with the main trail. Most of us had very little water left and were really sapped by the steep descent, the oppressive heat–95 degrees–and the 2 miles to Upper Duck seemed to wind on forever…
Upper Duckabush Camp was shaded by huge mature Douglas Fir trees and sported a triple-rigged bear-wire and plenty of spaces for tents. We sacked out before dinner and discussed a hiking plan for Day 5–to make a 12.5 mile push to FiveMile Camp, starting early in the morning in order to beat the heat of the day. A group of hikers headed for Marmot Lake warned us to be on the lookout for a carcass near the trail between Punch Creek and TenMile camp that was being defended by a mother black bear and her cubs.
DAY 5–We got up early and had hot drinks while breaking camp. We were underway by 0645 again, feeling fortunate to have an overcast sky and a reasonably cool morning. After passing Punch Creek, we kept alert but saw no sign of the bear. Apparently she’d dragged the carcass away from the trail–although you could definitely smell it, it was nowhere to be seen. There were some bits of hair in the trail but that was all that was left. We reached TenMile Camp at 1130, refilled water bottles and had lunch. There were a few more “interesting” creek crossings, and the afternoon just stretched out with the trail as it meandered through brushy flats, over blowdowns, past river overlooks and into a cliffy, rocky area after leaving the National Park. By now the cloud cover had burned off, and the temperature had risen well into the 80’s. As we passed a large rockslide we noticed an opening in the rocks that was emitting a chilly 42 degree draft of air, most likely from still frozen ice and snow in deeper crevices of the jumbled boulders on the slope above.
Finally at about four in the afternoon, we reached FiveMile Camp. It was cool and shady, with a gentle river breeze that drove away most of the bugs. We washed up at the river’s edge and soaked our hot and tired feet in the rushing water. You could relax and listen to the river’s voice, gazing up at the treetops towering against the blue sky, as the chilly waters frothed and swirled around your legs. We emptied our food bags and had a final evening meal of chicken noodle soup, chicken teriyaki noodles and a chicken and cheesy macaroni third course, topped off with a huge Hershey bar shared by all. There was a lot of talk about what was on the menu at The Tides Restaurant in Holiday Beach.
DAY 6–We were pretty motivated to get another early start, as Quinn had decided he wanted blueberry pancakes, and we weren’t sure whether breakfast was served after 1100! All of us kept a pretty steady pace out over Big Hump, across the flats and up over Little Hump and down to the cars. Tony and Scott did a quick shuttle back up to the Dose for WGENIE the van, and we changed into clean clothes for the trip home. And, yes, they do serve breakfast all day at The Tides! But mountain water is the finest kind anywhere….
A special thanks to Rebecca L and Carol P for their help with shuttling the Synchro to the Duckabush trailhead.
Dave, Scott, Tony—it just doesn’t happen without a crew of Old Goats like you.
Kitt, Casey, Quinn and Max—thanks for sharing the trail–hope our memories of freeze-dried farts, delicately balanced rock towers, funky elephanthead flowers and sequined river slippers last for many years to come.