Backpack through Olympic National Park - Elwha & Skyline Trails

  This is an older trip, but it was such a landmark in my adventures that I thought I would document the Trip.  At the time it was the longest Backpacking Trip that I have ever completed.  It was also the longest and most harsh terrain that I have ever walked across with Vibram Five Fingers.   I will also note that the night before we left on this Adventure I broke a 104 degree Fever.  The first night of the trip I woke up with the inside my Sleeping Bag soaked with sweat.   I'm sure my body was still fighting the Fever.  The first 3 days I was really dragging.  I'm sure it had something to do with not being properly hydrated.



port angeles outdoor gear
Photo by Jeremy Johnson
  Day 1:  We got dropped off at the Whiskey Bend Trail Head by my partners Wife.  I remember the day being warm and the bugs were light.  Took a few breaks with snacks adventuring down the Elwha Valley.  Lots of Photography and passed different groups heading out of the Elwha from various adventures.


elwha trial


  Stopping at Elkhorn to talk to the Rangers.  Both of them asking  about my Footwear and the GoPro that I was wearing.  One of them also commented about my Partners camera.  They kindly took the time to snap this photo below.

elwha trial
Photo by Jeremy Johnson

     Day 2:  Breaking camp that we set up in the Horse Camp above Elkhorn that sits right next to the Elwha River.  I remember having low energy levels venturing down the valley.  There was no lack of water crossing numerous little streams.  At the time day 2 was the most miles I ever walked in Five Fingers.  We stopped into Camp Wilder and walked to the river to get water.  After lunch and water refill we continued toward Chicago Camp.   We also Forded the Elwha River between Camp Wilder and Chicago Camp.

elwha trial ford


  While approaching the Campsites next to the River at Chicago Camp we scared a Black Bear out of the area.  I remember eating dinner with one eye always into the tree line.  That was the first Bear I've seen in some time and had me a little on edge.

Chicago camp



  Day 3:  We awoke I would say around 3am to the sounds of heavy Rain Drops hitting the Tent.  I really regretted the fact that I had to climb out of my warm sleeping bag to break down camp.  Knowing that I would completely get drenched for how hard it was Raining.  At the time I never carried a Poncho, but I have since them never leave home without one.
  Once camp was broke we made a small ford of the Elwha once again at Chicago Camp.  Since the rain the river had rose around 12" since the day before.  It still only was just over the knee so it wasnt too bad.
  Not much Photography was done this day since it was raining so hard that all the pictures turned out to be a blur on my GoPro.

low divide


 It didnt take us to long to get up to the Low Divide Camp area, but by the time we did.  We were completely soaked from head to Toe.  75% of the day was spend listening to the rain just pour on the top of the tent.  Making sleeping a thing to get usto, but quickly took a handful of naps.  Dozing in and out of consciousness most of the afternoon.

  Day 4:  The rains stopped through the night and after the fog burnt off.  The sun started to peak though the cloud cover with the first views of Mt. Seattle.  We took this time to lay out our gear to get it dry as possible with the time allotted.

low divide camp
Photo by Jeremy Johnson
     After a short walk out of the Low Divide camp area and passing though the Horse Gates.  We got our first Mountain and flower covered meadow views.  This was a huge moral booster after staring at trees and water for so long.

skyline primitive trail


  We made our way through various Basins and creek crossings.  Seattle Basin was most memorable for me.  Taking a few breaks for snacks and I remember washing my Five Fingers in Seattle Creek that flows out of the the Basin.

skyline trail

skyline trail olympic


  Something I will never forget is crossing a almost Paper Thin like Snow Bridge.  Because of the steepness of the surrounding area we decided to go up and over it.  Thinking about it I probably should of dropped below it and bushwhacked back to the Trail.  We were lucky not to get injured.

skyline trail snow
Photo by Jeremy Johnson 
skyline trail snow


    Coming up out of a Draw headed uphill with a light breeze in our faces.  I was at the time leading and came around a hair pin section of trail.  Scanning my eyes up to see a big black object standing about 10 yards ahead.  I quickly yelled and spooked a medium size Black Bear of the Trail.  This was the second of the Trip.
  It was late in the afternoon while we made the last push before our destination for the night of Lake Beauty.   A few miles before the lake i recall navigating some tight and washed out sections of trail.  This took us some extra time and energy climbing down roots n rocks.


skyline trail


  Arriving at Lake Beauty to make camp and take a much needed freezing cold Bath.  I yelled as I plunged into the water for how cold it was.  Getting semi clean was worth the trouble tho.  The bugs were also bad at the Lake.  Looking down at pant leg to find 15+ mosquito's that were trying to feed through my clothing.  Views of Mt Olympus and the Valhalla's made it all worth it tho.  I plan on being back in 2012 to enjoy the views again.

lake beauty

lake beauty

mount olympus skyline
Photo by Jeremy Johnson
   Day 5:  After a much needed Sleep.  We arose just before Sun up to get a warm Breakfast into our Belly and begin Hydrating.  Climbing out of Lake Beauty I remember thinking that my Legs weren't as good as shape as I thought they were.  What a way to start the Morning than a steep grade.

     The trail side hilled for a bit and then began the 'Moonscape' portion of the Skyline Trail.  It was slow going navigating up and down the hillside.  Cairn's made it easier than just relying on Map only for Navigating this section.  I remember the feeling of Sharp Rock under my Feet and Hot Sun over our heads.

skyline trail


  It was some time before we reached the 'Trail' again.  I was relieved since my feet were feeling the fatigue of the lack of conditioning. The image below is permanently burn into my memory.

skyline trail
 

  While taking a break in the Pass above.  I flipped open the hood of my pack to watching my Thermarest in slow motion fall out.  It quickly picked up speed to hopping over a series of little sections of exposed Rock. It lucky stopped about 5 feet from dropping off a pretty good cliff.  I climbed down and had to retrieve that.
  The day pushed on as we head toward our destination of Three Prune Camp.  We arrived just as the sun was dropping behind the Mountains.

  Day 6:  I slept like a Rock that night.  We awoke again before the sun came up to shove down a quick Breakfast.  I was excited for a big meal of Real Food and a hot Shower.  We passed a grazing Bear in the Meadow a few minutes out of our Camp.  That would make 3 total in this trip.
  I remember being generally sore all over and this section of Trail was covered with loose River Rock for Miles.  This really tested my balance and my Feet.

skyline trail

skyline trail


  Arriving at the Skyline Trail head later in the afternoon.  Pretty smelly and tired.  I remember the feeling of real accomplishment completing this Journey.   When I was a young boy I pinned a Park Map onto my wall in my room.  I usto day dream about crossing the Olympic National Park someday.   Here I was reaching my dream.


skyline trailhead






Footwear, Camera and Hiking Guide used.





Overview/Disclaimer/Photo Rights:  This Trip will forever be in my Memory.  This being my first real accomplishment in the Backpacking World.  You should train your feet for months/years before attempting this type of travel with Heavy Pack.  I have since cut my Pack Weight in Half.  Some of the photos above are not owned by me.  All rights for these photos go to Jeremy Johnson. 

No comments:

Post a Comment