Even though it did not go exactly as planned, it was still one of the best years of my life. I saw things that others will not see in a lifetime.
My feet have touched ground on the rainforest floor, flower filled meadows, alpine vistas and even four glaciers.
Feelings these surfaces in very minimal footwear or in my huaraches has been a very spiritual experience for me.
These routes have shattered the confining walls of what is considered the rules of the modern backpacker. Thus, proving that you do not need a lot of expensive gear and big heavy boots to explore this planet.
As a minimalist backpacker; I focused on the way primal man first explored these lands.
|Full 30+ Days in the ONP Route - 412 miles | 38 days | 1 big mountain | 4 glaciers | 4 trips on the Bailey Range | 4 times across the ONP | 7 hitch hikes | over 25 Black Bear | 1 Mountain Goat | over 1,000 head of Elk | over 25 Marmot | 2 Lightening Storms|
In the 38 days spent in the Park, I had 6 different hiking partners. Some joined for a few weeks; while others just for a handful of days.
They all had unique qualities to offer the group. All had unique personalities and stories.
They were all at various fitness levels. All had some experience in the outdoors. Every one of them are still and always will be my friends. Backpacking even a short amount of time with someone with make for some serious bonding!
One thing that set them all apart was how they handled stress. That is the main thing I have learned after this summer; is how important being with cool headed people is for when the times get tough. This could be the difference between life and death in the wilderness. And just because someone may come off as tough or cool headed normally, their true mental strength comes out in the backcountry.
Secondly, it is important to hike with someone who wants to cover a similar amount of daily miles. Personally, I found myself frustrated showing up at camp 4 hours before the sun goes down, while for some 4 hours at camp goes by quickly. Learning this about myself; I know what to look for in the future.
I definitely don't have to have things my way at all time and always try to remain flexible. Being an alpha personality and with my fitness coaching background I sometimes get accused for being controlling (but they thank me when they're on schedule, times get tough, and their bag is packed properly)
I like to make plans and trying to stick with the schedule as close as possible. When the timing does not work out; I can get frustrated.
I worked really hard this year on this issue and learned to be more go with the flow. The karma gods would sure test my weaknesses in the last few months.
Not one of my plans while hiking with others went according to plan. There were multiple times I wanted to leave partners at the trailhead and go on alone, but that wasn't the right thing to do in my heart.
I felt that I handled it well and tried to be more vocal when issues were being had.
Time on the Trail
Seems like the more trail miles I put on; the more I'm fine tuning my hiking style. The last few weeks I really worked on making the most use of the daylight hiking hours. Mostly while I was hiking solo.
The perfect hiking day for me consists of making or eating breakfast while breaking camp, walking by 7am at a 2mph pace, stop once for a short lunch, take a few pictures, and make camp an hour before sunset. I found that by doing this I do not get bored sitting around camp.
With this schedule I can cover greater ground, carry less food (which leads to lighter pack weight), and this all gets me deeper into the backcountry.
Next year I plan to use this way of walking on my next adventure.
|Photo Favorite: round topped peak near Cameron Pass - wearing: Gossamer Gear Gorilla, DIY Tyvek Jacket and Luna Sandals Leadville Pacer w MGT upper. The weapon of choice in the holster is a Sawyer Squeeze Filter attached to a water bottle.|
Using Minimalist Footwear
The Olympic National Park is such a diverse place. For this reason I always carry 2 pairs of footwear on me during most trips. Changing them back and forth as the terrain changes.
I find that Vibram Five Fingers work best for kicking steps in snow, steep sidehilling and scrambling on rock. The timeless design of a Huarache will always remain superior on all other surfaces because of the simplicity of the upper.
With these sandals I no longer have to wait for my feet to dry while traveling on a wet trail. With the sandal design your skin starts drying 100 times faster than any man made material. I also feel more connected with my environment with less protecting my feet using my sense of perception.
Backcountry Foot CareThis summer has been the longest I've ever consecutively backpacked in my life. It has also been the longest distance I have ever barefooted or walked in general.
Lessons have been learned as I evolve in my minimalist journey. The biggest one of all is daily foot care.
Daily tasks of washing your feet, soaking, toenail care and moisturizing overnight, morning pre hike cleaning and first aid works are all tricks that work great to keep your feet in good condition. If your feet are in bad shape, hiking is not fun!
|Photo Favorite: crossing the North Fork Quinault River - Soaking and cleaning my feet each chance I got through this trip. Cold water also keeps swelling of the hands and feet down.|
|Photo Favorite: ascending Mt. Ferry in Luna Sandals Leadville Pacer with MGT upper and ATS lacing - snow travel really helped cool off the feet after hours of off trail scree travel|
Lightweight Hiking EquipmentThis was one of the biggest improvements for me this year. Shaving almost 45lbs out of my original net backpack weight. My feet and my body still haven't stopped thanking me to-date.
I did a full revamp from the traditional backpacker style to the world of ultralight... Leaving my canister stove, heavy sleeping pad, tent and things I rarely even used at home.
Sleeping under a tarp for the first time has not only increased my wilderness experience, but I sleep better in general. When I climb into a tent, I feel like I am climbing into a bubble. Cutting myself off to the outdoors and entering a more artificially controlled environment.
Below is the average list of things that I carried. Terrain, elevation, park rules and weather patterns were all variables on what exactly I brought from week to week. Not all items were carried in my pack at all times.
|30+ Days in the ONP gear list - not all items were carried at all times - Weather, Altitude, Terrain, Area (some areas were Bear Can Required) and Pace were all variables on what was packed. - Camping in Olympic? Check out this other hiking gear list!|
|Photo Favorite: Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri Cook system with Evernew Pot - when conditions allowed, I burnt wood as fuel|
|Photo Favorite: Mosquitos keeping me cozy at Martins Lakes - DIY Tyek Rain Gear and Sea to Summit Headnet were also used as bug protection while sleeping under my Tarp.|
Weather on the Olympic PeninsulaWhat can I say about the weather, other than it was a perfect time to be outdoors. It only sprinkled on me 2 times. It also reached freezing 2 nights and I woke up to frost all over camp.
With all the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest this summer, there were times that the Olympics were quite hazy. Sometimes even so bad I didn't even bother taking pictures. You could barely see the next ridge on the horizon.
I was blessed witnessing two lighting storms as well. Nothing like zipping up your sleeping bag to the sound of bolts cutting through the air.
There were a small handful of nights where the winds reached over 25 mph gusts. One night on the Bailey Range the winds were at a constant gale, making it hard to sleep if it wasn't for my trusty earplugs.
Animals in WildernessI feel very grateful to be in the presence of so many critters. Nights of sharing the same area as Olympic Elk and Black Bear. One night even a young mountain goat tripped over my tarp guyline.
There was an afternoon where I ran into families of marmots of all ages playing in high alpine meadows. All while surrounded by Lupine as far as one could see.
Then, weeks later being in a basin full of multiple herds of Roosevelt Elk in full rut. Having them come into camp all night under a bright moon. That is something I will never forget.
The question that I'm most asked: "Did you see any Bears?" The answer is over 25, because I stopped counting when seeing over 5 per day.
"But weren't you scared?", they would ask. The truth is that black bears are no different than any other animal. They should all be treated with respect and all have unique personalities. Some are nice and some grumpy. You should never let fear keep you from going outside.
Hiking Off TrailFor the first time in many years I started venturing off the trail systems. Most of my off trail traveling was done during my 4 trips onto the Bailey Range.
What better way on testing your physical fitness, mental capacity and navigation skills? The overwhelming feeling of exploration takes over. All senses are heightened.
I will have to admit that it is very addictive. What better way of getting away from other hikers as well. That feeling of being alone is therapeutic also.
I plan on doing a lot more off trail traverses in the future.
|Photo Favorite: Solo Traversing across the Elkhorn Glacier on the Bailey Range in Vibram Five Fingers - very important to keep your balance, focus and eyes constantly scanning the snow.|
|Photo Favorite: Snow melting off Mount Pulitzer on my Returning to the Baileys trip.|
People that HelpedThere are many people involved in helping making this dream a reality. I sincerely thank all the companies and individuals with deepest gratitude for your support.
A big thank you to everyone that let me do laundry and sleep on your couch while I was drifting through various towns to get supplies this summer. Knowing that I smelled like death; it meant a lot to me for you to invite me to your homes with open arms.
Also thank everyone that picked me up while I was walking the road to get supplies or headed back to the trailhead. You guys rock!
OverallWords can't express how happy I am to check this adventure off my list. Thank you for letting me share this adventure with you, my reader. Make sure you check out my next big adventures right here!
Thanks for reading - Barefoot Jake - updated June 2016