Showing posts with label Backcountry Hiking Adventures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Backcountry Hiking Adventures. Show all posts

Surviving the Quinault Rain Forest

Welcome to Quinault

The Quinault Rain Forest is located inside the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. Getting on to the Olympic Peninsula one must drive on historic Highway 101. This is all part of the journey to experience wilderness.

The area is known as the “Valley of the Rain Forest Giants”, because of all the record setting trees that are located in the vicinity. Looking up at these massive trees, makes a hiker seem very small!

There are two river valleys (East and North forks) that come together and form a main river. This upper section of river flows into a natural glacier carved lake (Lake Quinault), before continuing to the Pacific Ocean. Can’t think of one particularly inch the area, that is not completely beautiful.

Anderson Glacier
Mount Anderson is one of the Quinault river's headwaters

The forest in the Quinault averages an astonishing 12 feet of rain annually. Going out in the wet season, would test our mind, body and spirits.

Join 4 hikers as they walk into wilderness. Here are some thoughts and feelings put into words, from our hike up the Quinault river.

Northern Mountain Loop (Off Trail)

Having 6 days to burn, the goal was to do a loop hike in the northern part of the Park.  Secondly, I wanted to stay off trail as much as possible, to avoid other hikers.  Solitude is the best way to experience wilderness in my option. I call this backcountry route the Northern Mountain Loop.

We would need a good weather window in order to make this trip happen. There is sections where map and compass, even GPS will not do.  A mountain traveler must read the land and follow game tracks, in order to complete this strenuous journey.  Being in thick clouds would hinder the success of our adventure.

Disclaimer: The directions to this full route is not listed in any guidebook. Extensive land navigation and traversing of very steep terrain is required. Do not go off trail, if you are not prepared to turn around and make it back to the point of entry. 

off trail
Looking ahead at our route

Fishing Pole, Umbrella, Ice Axe and a Bug Net

Finished up another 7 day backpacking trip into the heart of the Olympic National Park. The weather forecast called for sunny skies, which was necessary to do the off trail route we were attempting. What we did not take into account is the amount energy that the sun would suck out of us. Not only would we be hiking in steep un-documented terrain, but the sun and bugs would be our biggest enemy. Never again will I plan a strenuous hiking trip during a heat wave!

Enjoy a few photos from the trip.


Waking Up in a Storm

Woke up on the South Olympic Coast to the sound of the pitter patter of rain on our tent.  We walked in the night before with packs on our back and it was not morning.  The wind and rain steadily increased as the dim light trickled though the forest.  You see, the sun was mostly blocked out by storm clouds; just as the weather forecast predicted.

There is nothing better than the sound of a storm just outside your door.  Even better when the the door has zippers and its a very thin panel of fabric.  Its funny how that makes all the difference when there is wind.  A small piece of fabric can prevent or keep you out of stages of hypothermia.

South Olympic Coast

Ridgeline Hiking in Olympic

Autumn ridgeline walking in the Olympic Mountains can be a beautiful experience, if you time the weather and peak color.  Typically Olympic Elk can be viewed in the alpine during these months and black bear can be found trying to fatten up before winter, but not this year (Because of record setting drought).

For this trip we would be experiencing autumn in Seven Lakes Basin, which can be a very touristy backpacking destination; if you do not catch it right.   To avoid the crowds we decided to spend a few days off trail and do a little peakbagging in the Bailey Range.

During the campsite period of our trip.  The weather often turned to less than optimal conditions.  We spent most evenings in thick cloud cover and even some wind with rain.   I was glad to have checked the weather before heading out the door.  It literally rained the night before our trip and started up again, just after arriving back at the trailhead.   The Park's webcam can also be a powerful resource, to avoid bad weather.

These are some photos from the 4 day adventure.

olympic national park
Autumn views of Mount Olympus

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 with plenty of space for a motivated hiker to explore in solitude.  It was created by receding glaciers and erosion from once 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.  I'm sure there are a lot of hungry animals in the valleys, trying to find a food source before winter.

Warning: Land navigation, map and compass reading skills are 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 go 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 our trip into the Olympic Mountains.   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

Dodging Mountain Goats in Olympic

We had a 4 day window for a backpacking trip into the Olympic Mountains.  The weather was dry and most the snow has melted.  Why not get an early season hike in the books?

Lets hangout with wildlife!  This trip we would be camping with the Olympic Marmots, deer and mountain goats that live in this area.  We viewed numerous baby animals, since it is now late spring on the peninsula.

This was training hike, for longer period trips we have planned in the coming weeks.  Mountains have a funny way of getting you in-shape.  We would also use this adventure to test some new camera equipment in the backcountry.

The Gorilla backpack fully loaded!

Off Trail Camping in Alpine

We had 3 days to spend on a hiking adventure in the mountains.  So we decided on an off trail adventure to a more remote location of the Park.  Our main goal was to get away from places that would require an overnight camping reservation to sleep in the backcountry.  Generally, one must do special registration anywhere nearby an access road.

Spring is almost over and its already late summer snowpack conditions in the Olympic Mountains.  Record low snowfall this last winter.  Leaving it very dry and snow-free in the backcountry.  This is a good thing for early season alpine, but bad for mid-season wildfires.  Seeing this coming, we decided on getting in our adventures now.

Conditions are above average for temperatures this spring.  We got hit by sun very hard in the mountains during this trip.  Making the mountains, more like hiking in the desert.  I was happy to have a hiking umbrella and extra bottles for water.  The mosquitos were also very aggressive.

Note:  This route should not be repeated, unless you have extensive land navigation and basic mountaineering skills.  A hiker must carry a detailed topographical map.

Camp view

Quality Camera for Mountain Photography

Kim and I recently purchased new cameras for hiking.  This investment was needed to replace gear that had been beat up, rained on and well used; during our backpacking trips into the Olympic Mountains.  The climate in the pacific northwest really take its toll on photography equipment.  Without cameras, there would be no content for this website!

Camera Gear for the Olympic Mountains

Almost a year of saving was necessary, because of the cost of quality camera equipment is quite an expenditure. Lens, filters and tripods are all needed to capture an image.  All these items really put a dent in your wallet.

After doing research for a few months.   We decided on the Fujifilm X-T1 for our photography.  It will be a weight increase in our backpacks, but with superb image quality; figured it would be worth the penalty.

Disclaimer: Article contains affiliate links.

FujiFilm X-T1 Mirrorless Camera

Avalanche Lily Walk in Olympic

During spring, the avalanche lily is a real treasure in the Olympic Mountains.  I love hiking this time of year, to be able to view these beautiful wildflowers.  Sometimes one must trek through snow, in order to find these little guys.  This year with record low snowpack in the mountains, I was wondering if they were even going to come out of the ground.

The avalanche lily only comes out after the snow recedes in the subalpine.  Then shortly after the snowpack is gone, it retreats into the ground until the next spring.  This makes the Erythronium Montanum a real treat, during the early season hiking months.

We viewed them in the thousands, during this hiking trip into the high country.  Dozens even surrounded our remote campsite for this trip.  The sounds of bees buzzing by our tent and birds chirping in the distance; made for a unique wilderness experience.

Olympic Mountain Subalpine - buy this photograph

Finding Wilderness in Yourself

I find myself looking for what is pure wilderness, as the years go by in my life.  Each individual has their own translation of what being away from civilization means to them.  For me, that is finding areas that have no sign of man, no established campsites, no dedicated lines on a wilderness map.  Walking only using game trails and seeing the peninsula how others did years before it was settled.

I yearn for this, as the backcountry gets more crowded with reservations and accessibility.  It all has its place, but that is not why I go into the mountains.  I want to see animals, not other people.

Dreaming of a peninsula before logging and Highway 101 prospered.  Taking the bus around the Olympic Mountains, one cant help but notice all the distraction of any land not protected by the Olympic National Park.

Find it in yourselves. What does wilderness mean to you?

hoh rain forest
Wilderness Forest - bring this photo home

Trekking the 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 hiking 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 backpack 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.

Before the Paradise Fire (Queets Valley)

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 what wild places do to the soul. Each hiker definitely 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 up the Queets. Our quest was part scouting and part photography trip. We would walk down an abandoned valley trail 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.

Fire Update: In mid-May a fire sparked up, in the location where most of this photography was shot. A lot of the beautiful forest floor below is now gone. The Park Service has sent a Hotshot Fire Crew to fight this remote wildfire, but have been having a tough time; because of how record dry it has been this year. I hope this inspires you to not have a campfire this hiking season.

Post Fire Update: In mid-November 2015, the Olympic National Park officials declared the wildfire to be officially extinguished.

rain forest trek
Flashing forward to day three up the Queets, in the heart of the seldomly walked part of the Olympic Mountains - purchase this photograph

Hike to Mount Anderson, Olympic Mountains

Mount Anderson is a three day backpacking trip for most.  This mountain is the tenth highest peak in the Olympic Mountains.  It has four glaciers - the Eel, Anderson, Hanging and Linsley.  Most of which are receded to the point of almost extinction.

The Linsley and Anderson glaciers feed the Quinault river, which drains into the Pacific Ocean.  The Eel and Hanging glacier melt into the Dosewallips drainage - finally ending its journey in the Hood Canal.

The mountain is commonly accessible to hikers, from one of two trailheads; which are the Dosewallips and Graves Creek.  Both are over a 15 mile hike into the Park interior.  For this hike I will be walk from the Quinault side (Graves Creek Trailhead).

A 14 mile walk through gorgeous old-growth rain forest with camping gear to our basecamp; seen on the Olympic Camp Map.  From that campsite, we day hiked up the mountain and back as a day adventure. We returned to the original trailhead, on day three of this walk.

Winter campsite at the Chalet - after a 20 degree night

anderson pass trail
Anderson Pass Trail

anderson pass trail
Melted Anderson Glacier (very low snow year)

I used the Olympic Mountain Trail Guide to plan this trek into the wilderness.

Last updated in January 2016 by Barefoot Jake

Syncline Trail Canyonlands Loop Hike

  Winter hiking the Syncline Trail in Canyonlands National Park.  This is a loop hike that leads to  near the bottom of the canyon near the Upheavel Dome.  Walking this 'trail' is not easy.  The National Park Service has classified it as 'strenuous'.

  The route lets you descend over 1,000'+ of elevation.  A hiker finds themselves even doing some light bouldering on sections of trail.  There is seasonal water at the bottom of the canyon; near the Crater Spur Trail intersection.  

  This ones one of my favorite loop day hikes of all time to date and that is saying a lot.  

Warning:  Not suggested for hikers with the fear of heights or scrambling skills.  Path may be very icy in winter.  Call ranger station for weather updates.  

Syncline Trail
Syncline Loop Trail

Section Hiking Pacific Crest Trail

We backpacked to Tunnel Falls and then section hike the Pacific Crest Trail back to Cascade Locks, Oregon.  This trip was done in spring, so logistics were a bit tricky; with the incoming weather and the fluctuation of the snow line.

The popular Eagle Creek Trail is lovely.  There had to be a heck of a lot of explosives used to create this walking path.  It leads you to a series of waterfalls along the way.

Tunnel Falls is equally splined.  I was happy to have my rain gear, because of all the spray off the falls and drips from the rock wall above.

We made camp near the highest point in the route, right at the snow line.  It was a wet and cold night at that elevation.  Dinner was a bit chilly.  Then because of the weather, we called it an early night to our tents.

The next morning we walked north on the Pacific Crest Trail.  After a few hours we made the long descent from the high country, to the Columbia River Gorge below.   Backpacking across the 'Bridge of the Gods' in the afternoon to enter Washington State on foot, that was a cool experiance.

eagle creek trail
Eagle Creek Trail

Quinault Rainforest Photography Teaser

The Quinault river valley can be an enchanting place for photography.  Its temperate rain forest is always changing hour by hour.  A person could spend a lifetime here taking pictures.  My favorite time to wander has became during the off season.

Each season a different scene is created.  Real treasures can be found, if one does not mind getting wet.  The glacier fed river valley can receive several inches a day in precipitation (being a rainforest). So be sure to bring a hiking umbrella.

Wildlife can also be found with a keen eye.  Olympic Elk, Bald Eagles and Black Bear are often seen.  Salmon of all various species can be viewed as they make there way to their spawning grounds.  Viewing all of this can be a real treat to an outdoorsman and photographer.

Lake Quinault on the Olympic Peninsula

Lake Quinault

Enchanted Valley Chalet on Blocks

  The Enchanted Valley Chalet was at risk of falling into the East Fork Quinault River.  A move was necessary to save the historic building from a migrating river channel.  The unpredictable flow of water compromising the foundation of this structure.

  So in the summer of 2014, the powers that be moved the building to a temporary home and prolonged the life of the chalet.

Conditions of the trip:  Rain, freezing fog and lots of wet.

Move chalet