Barefoot Jake: Hike Olympic Mountains

Backpacking Buckhorn Wilderness

The Buckhorn Wilderness is located on the northeast corner of the Olympic Mountains.  This area is protected inside the Olympic National Forest, so be sure to check with local regulations before heading out on your hike.

My backpacking partner and I wanted to take advantage of a record low snowpack this season.  So we decided on exploring the northeast side of the Peninsula and do some mountain camping; since there was a high pressure weather window for a few days.

The weather worked out on our trip.  There was a bit of cold winds in the afternoon, but other than that, it was textbook high country conditions.  We have still been getting snow in these elevations this spring, so all the bugs were still dead.  What more can a hiker ask for?

There was a bit of elevation on this hike, to remind you just how important maintaining winter fitness level really is.   My pack was pretty heavy for spring hiking, carrying winter gear, two cameras and a tripod up the mountain.  I was real pleased with the photography that came from this trip, so the heavy pack was well worth the effort.

buckhorn wilderness

Ascending with my fully loaded Gorilla pack into the mountains, with four extra liters of water for the dry campsite.

Walk to the Feet of the Gods

The first time stepping foot in the mountains.  I have been on a quest on what it means to experience untouched wilderness.   There is no way of putting into words of what wild places do to the soul.  Each hiker defiantly has their own personal journey.  For me, the interior of the Park is like stepping back into time, before man came to the Olympic Peninsula.

A friend and I had five days to dedicate to an adventure.  Our quest was part scouting and photography trip.  We would walk down an abandoned trial and truly explore beyond; using only elk trials.   Our route would mean multiple river fords and slip our way through endless mud.

It is spring in Olympic National Park.  There is a record minimal snowpack, but the flakes are still falling in the mountains; as random storms move in off the Pacific. It can be sunny one moment and hail the next.

We viewed dozens of Olympic Elk, countless varieties of fowl and two black bear. This was a trip of a lifetime and we would not forget this untouched wilderness experience.

rain forest trek
Flashing forward to day three in the heart of the seldomly walked part of the Olympic Mountains

Ultralight: How to Pack a Backpack

Packing your backpack for an overnight backpacking trip.  Having all the items in a specific place can make the weight feel more comfortable on your back.  I like to put each gear item in it own home, that way I do not leave something behind.  Call it like my own version of a checklist.

 Learn how to pack your backpack properly, can make for a more positive experience on the trail.  A properly packed backpack will make the loads feel balanced on your body.  This could also be called a form of injury prevention in several categories.

Filling the negative spaces will prevent shifting and save space.  It is important that you fill all the gaps inside your pack.  Shifting may also cause you to lose your balance during a critical time of your adventure.

There are many variations to pack a backpack, but for me, I like to put the volume of the load at the bottom of my pack, weight on top of that close to my core and smaller items to fill the extra space.

It is well known that it is always raining here on the Olympic Peninsula.  For this reason, I put all clothing and sensitive equipment in watertight sacks.  This is even more important in the cold weather month.  Having dry layers to put on after a long day in the rain, can mean all the difference for hiker safety physically and mentally.

Lets walk through the steps I use to pack my backpack.

how to pack
How to pack your backpack for an overnight backpacking trip

Set up an Ultralight Backpacking Tarp

Setting up my C-Twinn ultralight tarp in the rain forest. Camping under a tarp can be the perfect way to experience wilderness. Some of the best sleep I have ever gotten was under a minimal shelter. I feel it has something to do with the amount non-restricted fresh air, that circulates around you; allowing for a more natural sleep.

In contrast to a traditional tent-- with a tarp you have a lot of flexibility to configure and pitch in many styles. With some creativity a camper can leave one side completely open. The height can also be adjusted by elongating the poles, finding longer sticks, or tying off the main ridgelines.

When using a minimal shelter- campsite selection is key to a peaceful night's sleep. When deciding on a place to sleep, I look at variables that may hinder my experience throughout the night. These include wind, game trails, low points where water can gather and tree hazards that may fall from above.

Imagine when it pours that the earth could turn into an inundated sea and you want to be on something that resembles a turtle's back to keep you safe and dry through the night. Find a small hill with a slight grade. The theory is that you want water rolling off your shelter and then away from where you sleep, this will also keep you more warm at night as well; since heat rises and cold sinks.

After a site is selected the next step is to take the tarp out of your backpack. For this pitch I'm going to use 6 V-Stakes. If the ground is soft or there is going to be wind- I will use large rocks and put them on all of the stake points for added security.

rain forest
Step 1:  Go hiking!  Its hard to use camping gear at home. - credit Kim R.