Hiking the Olympics

This Spring and Summer, we are focused mostly on hiking, and have planned a 4-day trip across the Olympics near the end of June. Thus far we have done a day hike near Lake Quinault, and my first overnight backpacking trip to Dosewallips (on the eastern side of the Olympics). Quinault was amazing as always and we got to hike with my family as well as bring our new little addition, Rocky. We walked a nice 4 miles or so, some uphill, but nothing too intense. Well it was quite intense for Rocky and when we got back to the room, he completely zonked out :).

Our trip to Dosewallips, was a relatively easy 6 or so miles to the campsite. No technical hiking, just some uphill, a great walk to test out the hiking shoes with the weight of the pack. Our campsite was beautiful, right along the Dosewallips river. Weather was fantastic. The biggest issue for us was being cold at night, took a while to fall asleep and we finally utilized some button things on the top of our dual sleeping bag that snap to make a little hood-like covering. This way, just our noses stuck out. We finally figured that one out at like maybe 4am? Neither one of us could really sleep that night until about 6am, then we both zonked out. But we woke up, had some coffee and icky liquid-ie scrambled eggs from the dehydrated meal. The 6 mile hike back left us feeling accomplished and like we could definitely handle more. So I planned a 10-mile hike.

A few miles South of the Dosewallips trailhead, lies the Duckabush River trailhead. As we were going to be backpacking in the wilderness portion, we needed to get a wilderness permit as well as make reservation to our desired campground. The first campsite, creatively named “5-mile campsite” seemed a bit too easy a distance considering we were already super pro with 6 miles. So I booked us at “10-mile campground”, such fancy names. I figured this distance would be a great training hike for our real deal later on.

But a hike doesn’t start at the trailhead, it starts in the prep. For the most part we packed our backpacks the night before and only had to pack up the cat for his sleepover at Mom & Dad’s. All was smooth until the cat realized that this was not a drill. As we were packing the car, he slipped out the front door and hid under our Rhody bush. Fortunately Marty was able to cajole him out within a few minutes and in the truck we went. I can tell he was relieved that his trip ended at Resort de Mom & Dad’s where he could nap on soft carpet or on the luxury of the heater vent. While Rocky adjusted, I printed out our wilderness permit and then did a quick research on 10-mile to see if there were any last minute trail issues. I saw a quick mention that the trail was being cleared of trees (hmnn… hadn’t thought of that…), and another mention that there was a tough climb (okay, I saw the elevation change on the map and we’re up for a fun challenge), and another mention that the trail was Intermediate/Difficult (uhhh… what does that mean…). I stopped reading so I wouldn’t get too freaked out.

After the successful drop of the Rockster, we went to Safeway for some last minute provisions, moleskin, snacks and most importantly…earplugs for sleeping next to the purring bear next to me :). We arrived at the trailhead without getting lost and started on the trail around 11am. The first two miles wasn’t too bad, expected. Nice trail, beautiful trees, everything starting to wake up. We arrived at the base of our first real steep climb. 18-19 switchback up a “cliff”. At switchback 16, I was wheezing a bit and needed some water, but then no problem continuing on. Definitely a workout!! But I figured the worst was now over. At the top there were spectacular views of the river below and the mountains. We couldn’t quite make out everything as it was overcast with a slight drizzle.

We continued on so we wouldn’t get too cooled down and made some pretty good time to 5-mile campground. After we passed the campground, it became a different hike. Technical is probably the term or perhaps “intermediate/difficult”. We had several creek crossings consisting of rushing water, some were decently passable, others kinda scary. The terrain was often a mixture of loose rock, uncomfortable jagged rock, large downed trees to go over, or overgrown ferns and saplings. BUT, still very beautiful and relatively flat. We saw some other unmarked campsites that looked really inviting and considered ending our trip there. However, we decided to take on the challenge in order to know what 10 miles with a full back 2 days in a row was going to feel like. Ugh. It feels kind of terrible is how it feels like. We reached another unmarked campsite further down, and we both felt disappointed it wasn’t 10-mile campground. We kept on going, but the trail soon left the river side and started going up again, I could tell even Marty was frustrated. We were both over it at this point. We climbed over more fallen trees and were getting higher and higher above the river, very disheartening. When we reached an opening in the trees, we were along the side of the mountain where the trail narrowed from washout. A huge tree had falled and blocked the path. But as it was near vertical, you couldn’t step over it, you had to lay on it to get over. Marty made it no problem. As I started, I could feel myself slipping down the tree. I immediately stopped and went back and just sat on the trail. There were tears, I was scared (don’t do well with heights). I took off my pack. We figured this was the worst of it, but how could we know? How much further was it? We were both fatigued. I took out the Garmin and our map and tried to figure out how much further, but I just couldn’t find enough distinguishing characteristics, everything was a spur and a draw!!! ahhhhh!!!

Marty went on ahead just a bit to check it out, I squeezed under the tree, still terrified. Marty was the hero and made the call to go back to the last campsite we saw. A hug and kiss later, I was bummed. I knew I would never do another hiking trip again. The fear, fatigue and danger wasn’t worth it, and really the trees look the same after awhile, so who cares. I needed a stand-in girlfriend for Marty’s 4-day trek across the Olympics.

We quickly made it back to the unmarked campsite and just relaxed a bit by the river. I slowly set up camp, Marty started up dinner. After a while we decided we made the right decision to turn back (I still felt badly I let the fear guide my choice). In a calm state, I looked at the map and Garmin again and I do believe we were only about .4 miles away, definitely less than a mile. So that kind of sucks, but then… I mean we’re still by the river in a beautiful spot to ourselves. Though, I kind of like having others around, feels a little less spooky.

We did some stretches, Marty set up an awesome tarp rig with lights. I fell asleep. The next morning, the sun was shining and we had ourselves some coffee. We actually felt good. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the hike ahead of us, but I was grateful my legs and feet were in good condition. We decided to slow it down a bit, take longer breaks. We stopped for lunch at the campground we “should” have stayed at. Super beautiful. I dried out some wet socks from one of our many creek crossings. We continued on and made it to 5-mile campground, this time stopping to check it out. Wow! So cool, I can see why people would just stop here and be done with it. It’s a stunning spot along the river with views of cascading water and almost a fairytale like setting. After a bit, we kept on going. I had conveniently forgotten parts of the hike and how looooong they were. the loose and jagged rocks were starting to irritate my knees, especially going downhill. Will a few stops to rest my knees and change out socks, we finally made it back to the truck. The last mile was the “easiest” and the absolute most painful. I was hobbling a bit. Marty was feeling it. I made it to the truck and promised never to hike again.

We drove to the closest gas station for some healing chocolate milk, cheddar chips, and popcorn. We pulled up to Mom & Dad’s to get Rocky, and the walk to the house was pretty stiff. Even after getting home and taking a hot shower.. pretty stiff. I think we might have “over done it”?

So it’s the day after our little adventure and I’m happy to report that I am re-energized and excited to hike again; I will not be finding a stand-in girlfriend for Marty (he might be bummed, idk). Surprisingly we are feeling pretty good today, not much pain at all. We definitely did some stretching though!

Our lessons learned… eat before you’re hungry, take more and longer breaks on the trail, and as Marty says, “if you’re somewhere beautiful and you’re not having fun, it’s time to stop.” Is this trail repeatable… not yet, but I think in the future, we’ll do it again :). In the meantime, we have some more motivation for getting in shape and shedding some pounds. Next weekend… short day hike without a pack :)!!