It has been almost 2 weeks since I've been off the trail. This period has given me time to reflect back at the summer that I was blessed with.
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 4 glaciers.
Touching these surfaces in very minimal footwear or in my huraches 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 gear and big heavy boots to explore this planet.
As a minimalist ultralight backpacker; I focused on the way primal man first explored these lands.
|Full 30+ Days in the ONP Route (note: interactive map not to spec) - 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 trip sections partners. Some joined for a few weeks; while others just for a handful of days.
They all had unique qualitys to offer to the group. All had unique personalitys.
They were all at various fitness levels. All had some experiance in the outdoors. Every one of them are still and always will be my friends.
One thing that set them all appart was how they handled stress. That is the main thing I have learned after this summer; is how important being with cool headed people when the times get tough. This could be the difference between life and death in the Wilderness.
Secondly hiking with someone with the same distance or time of traveling in mind.
I found myself frustrated while in camp 4 hours before the sun goes down. Learning this about myself; I know what to look for in the future.
I definatly 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. Sometimes get accused for being controling.
In the past for making a plan and trying to stick with it as close as possible. When the plan does not; I'm known for getting frustrated.
Worked really hard this year on this issue. The karma gods would sure test this weekness in the last few months.
Not one of my plans while hiking with others went according to plan. There were mulitple 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.
Felt that I handled it well and tried to be more vocal when issues were being had.
Time in Transit
Seems like the more trail miles I put on; the more I'm fine tuning my hiking style. The last few weeks really worked on making the most use of the daylight hiking hours. Made most use of this 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 on the move and pitch camp an hour before sunset. Found by doing this I do not get bored sitting around camp.
Doing this system I can cover greater ground, carry less food which leads to lighter pack weight, this all all gets me deeper into the backcountry and away from lots of trail traffic.
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 2012 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.|
The Olympic National Park is such a diverse place. For this reason I always carry 2 pair of footwear on me during most trips. Changing them back and forth as the terrain changes.
I find that Vibram Five Fingers my 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'.
No longer having to wait for my foot 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 proprioception.
Read about a wilderness repair I did on a discontinued pair of Sandals on the second week of this adventure.
This summer has been the longest I've ever consecutively backpacked in my life. It has also been the longest distance I have ever 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; first aid tricks as well.
I will be writing fully on this subject in a future post this winter.
|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|
This was one of the biggest improvements for me this year. Shaving almost 45lbs out of my net Backpack weight. My feet and my body still haven't stopped thanking me to date.
Doing practical 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; feel like I am climbing into a bubble. Cutting myself off to the outdoors and more of a artificially controlled environment.
With my Gossamer Gear 2012 Gorilla I shaved 2 lbs just in the empty backpack. It also provided with me with perfect rain protection without a pack cover; even tho they claim it not to be waterproof.
I will touch fully on my gear list on a future date. 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.|
|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.|
What can I say about the weather than it was a perfect time to be outdoors. Only sprinkled on me 2 times. It also reached freezing 2 nights; were 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 quit hazy. Some times even so bad I didn't even bother taking pictures. You could roughly see the next ridge in front of your nose.
I got blessed on witnessing 2 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 were the winds reached over 25mph gusts. One night on the Bailey Range the winds were at least at a constant gale. Making it hard to sleep if it wasn't for my trusty earplugs.
I feel very blessed to get to be with 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 were I ran into family's of Marmots of all ages playing in high alpine meadows. All while surrounded my Lupine 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 meet any Bears?' The answer is over 25, because I stopped counting when seeing 5 per day.
'but weren't you scared?', you ask. The truth is that Bears are no different than any other animal. They should all be treated with respect and all have unique personality's. Some are nice and some grumpy. You should never let fear keep you from going outside.
For 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, mental capacity and navigation skills? The over whelming feeling of exploration takes over. All senses are heightened.
I will have to admit that it is very addictive. What better way of getting ways from other hikers as well. That feeling of being alone is therapeutic as well.
Plan on seeing lots more off trail traverses from me in the future.
|Photo Favorite: Solo Traversing across the Childs 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.|
There are many people involved in helping making this dream a reality. I sincerely thank all the company's and individuals with deepest gratitude for your support.
A big thank you 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 smelt like death; it meant allot 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 taking me back to the trailhead. You guys rock.
Words 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. Look for big things in 2013!
What was your favorite picture or part of this adventure? Did I run into you in the ONP this summer? Any thoughts or questions than you many have for me? Please post in comments below. Thanks again - Barefoot Jake