Showing posts with label black bear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black bear. Show all posts

Bailey Range Traverse - Walking through the Seasons

Coming off the previous 7 day Olympic adventure, we would have two days to do laundry and pack up 10 days worth of supplies. Food preparation is most dreaded part for me, but it would be nice to have the calories during the strenuous walk ahead.

The Bailey Range is one of the most sacred off trail high routes in Washington State. These mountains create a crescent shape around Mount Olympus. Close enough where you can almost reach out and touch her at times. This dramatic landscape is what you see when peering into the interior from Hurricane Ridge. Home to the Olympic elk during the late season rut and black bear which graze almost around the clock as winter approaches.

This route is not for the faint of heart or for someone who does not like heights. Packing lightweight and keeping everything fixed to your backpack is a must because there are times you need to use all limbs to travel forward. There are key points of navigation, so doing your homework is a must as well as land navigation skills and terrain reading. Basic mountaineering skills are required as one must cross several small glaciers on this walk.

My friends Steve and Liz Thomas would be joining me for this grand adventure of Olympic sized proportions. What life lessons would we learn for the next coming weeks? Before we knew it, we were walking up the Sol Duc drainage on an approach to our Bailey Range Traverse.

Bailey Range Traverse
10 days across the Bailey Range.

Humbled - Walking through the Seasons

Read beginning of story.

I was having a hard time mentally, even weeks after my rescue. What could I have done differently? Is all I could think about while replaying my actions over and over in my head. The weather on the Olympic Peninsula was also above average the month of August and I knew I should be out in the mountains. Not moping around with a wounded foot.

A lot of my dreams and reflections were asphyxiated around Lake Ben. It is what I stared at the most, while awaiting rescue. Wanting so bad at that time to touch the lake, knowing I would be safe once there and not cliffed out on the ledge.

Having 3 days to kill before I was to be meeting a group of Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors for a 7 day trip into the Olympic Mountains. I would have many miles to walk and some rugged ground to cover to get to the destination in the time allotted.

Revisiting O'Neal Peak, point of my helicopter rescue.  

Backpacking Across - Walking through the Seasons

Read beginning of story.

I will be joining someone else's trip plan for this section of adventure. I had originally planned to travel in a different direction, but when I heard this fun group of guys were walking across the Olympic National Park I did what I could to join them. It was a nice change of pace from spending so much time alone. Nice to have someone to joke and laugh with, as well as share any struggles along the way.

We would walk the length of the Park in three days - from north to south. Most of the time was spent walking or thinking about walking. The above average heat for Washington State wouldn't help our endurance. The hot temperatures left me craving anything with salt in it - on top of my sodium rich dinners. We all consumed gallons of water to compete with the rate of perspiration. Water consumption competed with walking as a daily task. Good thing the Olympic Mountains have an abundance of water.

A special thanks to Brown's Outdoor for allowing me on their trip.

pacific northwest trail
After grabbing more food, we hit the trail on the NE side of the Park with the goal of walking to the SE corner. I accompanied two hikers that were nice enough to invite me on their trip. Here we are walking on a section of the Pacific Northwest Trail during an 80+ degree day.

Summer Update: Walking with Mental Demons

  I have not slept out in the wilderness, since being rescued a five weeks ago.  This has been a real issue for me.  Personally love waking up in the woods, find it so refreshing.  Just haven't been mentally ready to put a backpack on and head out.

  The mountain that humbled me, is all I have been thinking about.  First thing in my mind when I wake up and the last thing; while dozing off in bed.  Like some sort of sick obsession.  Not to climb it; like someone with a personal goal, but to pay my respects.  Look at her from a distance, with no distractions or people for miles around.  Find healing with meditation and wilderness; thats how I would get mental closure.

  So I loaded food and supplies into my Kumo, then set off for a 54 mile Spirit Trek; into the heart of the Park.

Note:  All photos and trips reports will be released Winter 2013 in a multi-part series titled 'Walking through the Seasons'. 

O'neal rescue
Last time I was in this area, had to be rescued off a cliff band; below the main summit. (special thanks to my rescuers, for donating this picture) 

Staying in the Enchanted Valley Chalet

This is Part II of my 7 days in the Park. 

  Met a lot of the Rangers through the years of wandering the Olympic National Park.  After inperson conversations and email correspondence,  I got invited to go on Backcountry Patrol in the East Fork Quinault drainage for 4 days.  We would be staying in an old Hotel that is now an ONP Ranger Station and not open to the public.

  Being interested in Olympic Peninsula history, I got really excited for this trip.  Wanting to photograph the Chalet, before the river destroys this man made structure; purifying the valley to its natural state once again.

   There was also lots of critters in the surrounding area to keep the camera busy.  12 individual Black Bear and 50+ Olympic Elk.  Cool to see the Bulls just getting their antlers back for the season.  Magnificent creatures of the wilderness.

Old growth in Quinault
Old Growth windfall.  Sad to see it go.  

Quinault Black Bear
1st of 12 individual Black Bear.  
East Fork Quinault Trail
So where is the 'Boot People' supposto walk? 
Enchanted Valley Chalet
'Home' for 4 rainy days. 
Quinault Rainforest
Traditional Pacific Northwest. 
black bear
Why, Hello!
inside Enchanted Valley Chalet
Abandoned Hotel upstairs hallway.  
black bear
Friend or Foe?  
Enchanted Valley Chalet
Old Wood Stove/Oven.  
Olympic Black Bear
Quinault Black Bear.
Enchanted Valley Chalet
  At one time, I'm sure someone thought this was a 'good idea'.  As the river reclaims the valley has revealed an old landfill.  Sad to see this.
Enchanted Valley Chalet
We are just guests in the valley.

Backpacking Olympic National Park with Kids

  In need of some father and son time, we packed our lightweight backpacks and set off to explore.  This would be our first overnight trip together for the season and would be great practice for a multi night trip planned in a few weeks.

Whiskey Bend Trailhead
At the trailhead with our matching shirts, minimalist footwear and Gossamer Gear packs. 

Elwha Black Bear

  I had originally planned to go up into the snowline, but the spirits spoke and asked if I would stay low.  So I would go for a walk in the Elwha and do some meditation with the river.   Sure glad I chose plan b, didn't plan on seeing so many critters; as I walked softly through the forest.  Let alone observe a Black Bear sleep and then awake; acting just like a big dog.  Scratching for fleas and rubbing his back on the tree, by which he naped.

  Then I was blessed to see a second Black Bear graze in an open meadow with a small herd of Olympic Elk.  All while walking through a forest full of wildflowers of every variety and listening to the river. 

sleeping black bear
Sleeping Black Bear.

Sol Duc Divide in Autumn - 30+ Days in the Olympic National Park Section 6

Start at the beginning of story?

  Several months ago while snow and rain were still falling in the lowlands of western Washington, I received an email in my inbox from Grant from Gossamer Gear.

  He expressed that he would be in the area for a hiker conference and was wishing to check the Olympic National Park off of his bucket list.

  In a return email I let him know that I would be finishing up my trail series '30+ Days in the ONP' around that same time.

  This would be a  perfect way to finish this trail series.  Since Gossamer Gear has supported me so much in my adventures this year,  I was honored that he asked and of course, I agreed.

Gossamer Gear backpacking
Just crossed over Spread Eagle Pass which is a section of the Bailey Range Traverse - Grant showing off his custom Black on Black 2012 Gorilla 

Backpacking Elwha Trail & Gear Test


  • Elwha Bike & Walk Upriver
  • 'My First Impressions' - Trail Designs Caldera Ti-Tri 3 Fuel Cook System 
  • Elwha Walk Upriver (cont.)
  • 'My First Impressions' - Sawyer Squeeze Filter 
  • Elwha Walk Upriver (cont.)
  • 'My First Impressions' - DIY Tyvek Rain Gear System
  • Elwha Walk Downriver (cont.)
  • 'My First Impressions' - Luna Sandals Original Sole Naked Top w/ New ATS Laces
  • Elwha Walk Downriver (end)


Solo Elwha Walk:
  I was in serious need to clear the mind and get some more Training on my Legs.  In my opinion there is no better Training Grounds than the Elwha Valley.   This would also give me a perfect opportunity to Trail Test some Tools that I would be bringing with me on my 30+ Days in the Olympic National Park trip in just over a Month from now.  Training has been going on now for the last 8 Months with the main goal of being 'In the Best Shape of my Life'.

  The last handful of Trips that I've done really haven't pushed my body to its limits.  Being a Trail Runner at Heart; I deeply love self punishment.  Something about that feeling of when you think, 'Can't take another step'.  As you fight with Mental Negativity and flip it around to push through the Fatigue.  Its a very addictive feeling to some.

  The style of Trekking I usually prefer is Wake Up, Walk Slow all Day, Set Up, Eat, Sleep and Repeat.  Typical Camping has its place, but tends not to push me in the same way as a good stretch on the 'Ol' Legs'. This Trip would give me that and even plenty of little surprises.  Those little things are really what makes the memories last a lifetime.

  This has been the 5th trip up the Elwha Valley this year already.  I do not enjoy the first 9 miles of this trail one bit; however the Upper Elwha will always draw me back.  With the plan of taking my kids there and their kids-kids.

  The Upper Elwha is a very Spiritual place for me.  It is hard to put into words the feels that go through your brain while you are in this part of the forest.  I read that it once was a meeting place for the Native American Tribes of the area so that they could do Trade; no matter what their quarrel was.  That they always met here in Peace.  Right there says enough.

  It is also my belief that every young person should Trek the last 15 miles of the Valley alone.  The Forest talks to you and the Primal feel it gives you; very much grounds your mind.  No ego is big enough to engulf  this feeling.  Perhaps the Native Americans once sent their young into this area to become Men?

elwha trail
Upper Elwha Wilderness

Backpacking the Quinault Rainforest by Bus

  I was only in town for 1 day this last week and already in need of getting away from the Modern Man.  So as part of my training plan to get ready for the Summer Backpacking Season, I set off for Lake Quinault first thing Friday morning.  This would be a Bus/Bike/Backpacking Adventure.

Total round trip travel expense = $4.

  It would also be a part of 8 continuous days of either Biking or Hiking for Distance or Elevation.  The weather would also throw a little twist in the Trip.  Being based in the Pacific Northwest and coming out of Winter like conditions for the last 7 months, the 4 days of 80 degree temperatures was quite the change from Rain/Snow.  Lots of water was consumed.

bicycle quinault
Looking up the Quinault Valley

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. 

Autumn in the Elwha Valley

  Wanted to squeeze in a quick overnight in up the Elwha with a friend.  The Park is going to be shutting down the access road to the Trail Head in a few days.  Forecasted for a Sunny and Brisk few days.  The trip would ask for a 9 mile bike ride up the service road and a 8 mile round trip hike up the Elwha Valley.

Elwha River

  The bike ride up was very enjoyable.  Casual conversation, Fall Colors and sounds of heavy Dam Removal equipment echo up the Valley.  Ran across a few 'Locals' on the journey up and enjoyed quick conversation as they passed on our journey.

elwha bike

  The hiking section through the Elwha Trail was also equally enjoyable.  It was actually the best I've ever seen this part of the trial.  Since the trail has been harder to access for almost a Year.  Lower foot traffic has benefited the area.     Lots of fallen Leafs, Pine needles and growing grass in the Trail gave it the more Primitive feel.

humes ranch

krause bottom trail

krause bottom trail

krause bottom trail

  The temperature dropped as the sun receded behind the hilltops.  So after the chore of Water and Camp was set up.  Time to gather wood and build a warm fire for the night.  We picked a nice spot on the Bluff overlooking the Elwha River itself.  It was a nice spot.

humes ranch camp

    The rest of the night was spent enjoying Conversation and Adult Beverages around the Toasty Fire.  The moon was lighting up the valley as the temp brushed the Freezing Level next to the river.  Overnight a heavy dew fell over the Valley.

humes ranch campfire

  The next morning we awoke hours before the Roosters would even think about waking up.  The first 30 minutes of Trail Time was all done via Headlamp.  The ride back was mostly downhill and we make quick work of the Road section.

FootwearCamera and Hiking Guide used.

Overview:  Fall is my favorite time of Year and I enjoyed spending  time in the Wild with the one i care about.  It also makes me wish that if all the access roads were limited into the Park.  Popular areas would be more enjoyable and experienced completely different. 

A beautiful coffee table book on The Undammed Elwha River.