Barefoot Jake

Autumn in Queets Basin Trip

A friend and I went on a six day backpacking trip into Queets Basin, Olympic National Park.  This was my first trip into the Queets during the autumn months.  A few weeks previously I was just in this same area, photographing the landscape with smoke from a nearby wildfire.

Queets Basin has a three day approach with the route we chose.  Being that remote in the Olympic Mountains, really lets a person enjoy the glacier carved landscape that much more.  The steep and rocky terrain, really makes carrying professional camera gear a challenge.  I will forever cherish these adventures for a lifetime, though my own documented images.

The moonscape basin is a huge area for the solitude motivated hiker to explore.  It was created by receding glaciers and erosion from sometimes permanent snowfields in higher elevations.  The Olympic Peninsula is in a record setting drought, so this gave us a chance to walk the higher elevations snow-free and photograph things that are usually buried under feet of snow year around.

The only disappointing factor of this backpacking trip, was the low amounts of wildlife that were seen at higher elevations.  My guess, it was a direct affect of the record drought.  There was no food sources in the mountains, this late in the season.  Im sure there is a lot of hungry animals in the valleys, trying to find a food source before winter.

Warning: Land navigation, map and compass reading skills necessary for this hike. Previously, a backpacker could use the Elwha Snow Finger, which is described in the Olympic Mountain Climbers Guide. This is no longer possible because of the lack of permanent snowfields. The experienced hiker must through, up and around the Snow Hump to stay safe. Being inside the narrow Elwha hallway, leaves the hiker exposed to rock fall; which could be fatal.

snow finger
Day 2 consisted of lots of this

Abandoned Trails of Olympic: Mount Olsen Loop

The Mount Olsen Loop should not be attempted even by a intermediate hikers.  Route consist of steep and brushy terrain.  One must be very patient because of all the brush in sections, a masochistic personality is a plus. Map and compass are necessary to complete this journey.  A hiker might even consider a GPS to save themselves effort and peace of mind.

The conditions could be hazardous to your health. All the stars must be aligned to complete this hike, because of multiple river fords.  To save yourself effort, waiting until late summer or autumn, this gives the steep slopes a chance to be snow free.

All these things were in order for our party of three to begin the journey in the Quinault drainage. The fact is that we didn't even plan on doing this route, until a few hours before departure to the trailhead.  Our original itinerary called for use doing another off trail adventure all together.  You see, Ive wanted to do this loop for several years and all the stars were aligned, so I noticed us to go for it.   The other parties involved are both experienced hikers, so I felt comfortable making the switch.  Little did they know what exactly they were getting themselves into, but we were all sure to soon find out.

Hint: This path was listed on maps in the 1950's, but has long been forgotten.

graves creek
Making our way across our first ford, during a record drought year

Melting Queets Glacier Hike in Smoke

It is no secret that most of the glaciers in the world are melting. The Olympic Mountains are no exception.  In a single generation, one can observe that a good portion of them have simply disappeared from the landscape.

If you have been following the news this year, you would know there is a record setting drought on the peninsula.   A light winter and high temperatures, have left the mountains bare of snow during the spring cycle, and to compound the problem, there has been record low rainfall. Now the summer feels like a desert.

I have a small list of places left that I'd like to visit on the peninsula.  Most of them are remote, have steep terrain and a lack of maintained trails.  Additionally, my goal is to photograph truly wild and remote wilderness places, so I carry a lot of extra weight in camera gear.

We decided to go for this adventure, with only a few days of planning.   We had the fair weather window for off-trail travel, so it was 'all systems go'.  The heat and wildfire smoke would be the most challenging aspects for our trip.  Being from the pacific northwest, we are not used to functioning under the dry conditions.

The Queets has long been on top of the list of what it means to be in wilderness.  Back in spring, a wildfire started roughly mid-valley.  We would need to deal with the smoke from that fire, during this trip.

With heavy packs and energy to burn, we set off upriver in the Quinault drainage.

Warning:  Land navigation, map and compass reading skills are required.  Previously a trekker could use the Elwha Snow Finger, which is described in the Olympic Mountain Climbers Guide.  This is no longer possible because of the lack of permanent snowfields.  One must through, up and around the hazards.  The melted landscape also leaves the hiker exposed to rock fall; which could be fatal. 

Quinault river under drought

Gossamer Gear Pilgrim Roll Top Backpack

Lets take a look at the Pilgrim Roll Top Backpack. This newest addition from Gossamer Gear caters to the minimalist hiker. The new pack includes a frameless design, fixed hipbelt and roll top closure. Sizing hits the sweet spot for a weekend ultralight backpacking trip in the summer months. I really like the sleek design of a roll top closer, and the fixed hipbelt gives the whole pack a stable and secure feel while its riding on your back.

Pilgrim Roll Top Backpack
Hiking with the Gossamer Gear Pilgrim, with overnight camping, fishing and camera gear