Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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 trail head 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, setup camp, had dinner and fell into the hammock for a good nights sleep.



Still some snow in the Low Divide meadows.



Lot's of Avalanche Lilly's all over the high country.



The Low Divide meadows had lots of Glacier Lily's 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 new 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.



Setup 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, setup 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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