Showing posts with label olympic national park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label olympic national park. Show all posts

New this Week!

  I was lucky enough to go on a 3 day backpacking trip this week.  After get back and endless hours of editing; ended up putting up several blog posts this week.  Want to recap and let everyone know about this new content.   Hope you had a nice week. -jake

Trip Reports:

Gear Reviews:

Cream Basin
Cream Basin, Bailey Range ONP

Beyond the Chalet

  A man that has inspired me for years sent an email last week, asking if I would like to accompany him on a walk up the Quinault River drainage.  His Olympic Mountain photography has personally inspired many of my adventures; often dreaming into these images during the winter months to get my wilderness fix.  Of coarse I accepted the invitation, it is an honor to walk with him.

  The original purpose of this trip was to enjoy the history that the Chalet represents.  Countless people have come from all over the world to enjoy this building through the years.  To be honest with you, after a few hours observing the damage the river is about to do to this structure, I lost interest in it.

  The Quinault valley was full of spring activity and countless wildlife.  A full day was spent watching life happen before our eyes.  Avalanches, Mountain Goats, Black Bear and Olympic Elk could all be observed in the same area.  Its was nature in its pure form.  An impression like this can be life changing.   Powerful and real, this is wilderness to me.

Quinault Trail
East Fork Quinault Trial

Revisiting the Enchanted Valley Chalet

Photo-essay for the Enchanted Valley Chalet as of April 1st 2014.

Possible key support to the structure, just hanging on by a few rocks.

A Special Message to my Readers

  A friend and I just got back down from 3 wonderful days up the Quinault drainage.  There will be more from that trip to follow in the coming days.  Until then, I wanted to say hello and thank you for your support.

Continued Support by:

You!  Without the reader, this website would be abandoned and lacking fresh content.  Sharing these wilderness places with others, is what keeps me going.  So please, leave a comment and say hello!

Honoring the Enchanted Valley Chalet

  In honor of the Chalet that probably wont last much longer.  I decided to put a fresh edit on some stock footage from a previous adventure.  Utilizing public transportation, human powered bicycle and my own two feet.   Covering just under 60 miles in my 4 days visiting the Olympic National Park.  I was blessed to see so much wildlife on this solo trip.  Countless Olympic Elk and numerous Black Bear just waking up out of winter hibernation.

  My most recent trip into the Quinault Rainforest, I got hammered with rain and heavy spring snow.  Looking back at this footage, cant help but feel blessed for having such good weather.  Didnt receive a drop of precipitation; wandering in my t-shirt most of  the time.

  Towards the end of the video, you can see how much of the meadow (where the building stands) the East Fork Quinault River has eroded away in the last few seasons.  Hope you enjoy this video, much as I did making it.  

Gear featured in film:  Footwear, backpack & camera used.

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Olympic Gear List - Winter, Spring & Autumn

Readers ask me all the time, 'I want to get out in the Olympic Mountains, but what gear is needed?'  There is no right answer to that question.  Variables are hiking style, goals, style of trip, season and conditions.  Its important that you learn what works best for you and tailor that kit to fit those needs.  The weather turns very quickly during all seasons in the PNW, so its important not to go too minimal that you are going to have a miserable trip, but only bring things you actually use.  Most 'ultralight' gear lists wont fly here, unless your lucky enough to catch the weather just right.

Here is a lightweight list I put together, that combines all my suggestions on average. 

Hurricane Ridge
Spring in the Olympic Mountains

Survival at Enchanted Valley Chalet

Update:  April 1st 2014 status of the Chalet; with video.

  I just jumped on a bus out of Lake Quinault headed back to civilization.  Spent the last few days upriver in unfavorable conditions.  Had a few extra days on my hands for a backpacking trip.  Why not spend them with the Enchanted Valley Chalet?  So I loaded up a bunch of food and set out.

  With all this rain in the Pacific Northwest this March, the trail is knee deep standing water in places, actual creeks running down the trail in others.  There were moments I was wondering to see a salmon headed upstream in the small cascades at my feet.  There was one creek to ford up to my hip in fast moving current.

 It was hard to break out my non waterproof camera in this conditions, without trying to destroy it.  So much moisture in the air, it was hard to keep condensation out of the housing and off the lenses.  I'm happy the rain gods spared my electronics to last another day.

 The forecast was spot on with the incoming storm.  Had hoped to stay up there longer, but late winter conditions where more than I was willing to endure being solo.   One thing to be pinned down in bad weather, its another to be stuck in a tent for days alone.  So I called the trip early and began my 2 day retreat back towards the lake on foot.

Update:  Checking the SNOTEL in the area.  Quinault got almost 4" of rain during the time period of this trip.

Enchanted Valley Chalet
Mid-March at the Enchanted Valley Chalet, as the East Fork Quinault River creeps closer.

Olympic Mountains to Sea - PNT - (finale) Walking through the Seasons

Start at the beginning of the Trail Series?

Well it is late autumn and most the leaves have fallen to the ground in the Olympics. The elk are done bugling, marmots have retreated into their burrows and most visiting backpackers are back to the 'everyday grid'. All that is left is breathtaking landscapes with the occasional song of a bird. Fresh snow has fallen a few weeks ago and melted away everywhere the sun touches during the short days. The clock ticks before the deep white stuff falls, sealing the high country in for the season.

Just hours after the powers that be reopened our National Parks, I rode my bicycle down to WIC and got a Backcountry Permit. The plan was to spend a few days exploring a small piece of the Bailey Range and then walk west using the Pacific Northwest Trail to the Coast. I originally started my summer journey back in June by taking the bus to Neah Bay, then walking south on the North Olympic Coast, before heading inland into the Hoh Rainforest on my way up Mount Olympus. I thought it would be fitting to walk from the mountains, back to to the sea and have this be the grand end to the trail series. Ending in the small coastal town of La Push and catching a bus to Forks and then Port Angeles. There would be no friends or family at my finish line. Nor a grand support team to whisk me off with a congratulation metal. Just the feeling of personal accomplishment having walked a custom route I put together in my head last winter.

Mount Olympus
Autumn in Olympic.

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.

Spring on the Undammed Elwha River

  A friend & I went out at first light to explore the Elwha River drainage this morning.  The Olympic Peninsula has been getting a lot of back to back storms in the month of February through March.   First heavy snow in the mountains and then warm rains; causing a melting event.

 This is the first major flood type event since the removal of the two dams.  It was amazing to see the sheer volume of water that was moving through the area.   The chocolate milk looking silt that has been trapped behind the man made barriers is now free to flow into the ocean.  Being in this dynamic environment is a real treat.

Locus Gear Khufu Sil Long Term Review

  I have an addiction to sleeping up above treeline; with limited cover.  In need for a shelter that gave me protections when the wind changes directing through the night; which is common in the Olympic Mountains.   Peace of mind is important while I sleep; against high wind, heavy rain and snow.  Wanted the option of being able to sit up fully inside, in case of prolonged stays during a big storm.

  Reaching out to the internet world, doing a bit of research over various shelter options and finally seeing one with my own eyes.   I decided that the Locus Gear Khufu Sil would be the right choice for me.  Placing the order to Japan during the winter months of 2013; which happens to be almost one year ago to date.   During this time, I have given this shelter heavy use during my four season overnight trips into the Olympic National Park, well as some southwest use in Utah.   This was my year around weekend trip refuge, well as primary home for my trail series 'Walking through the Seasons';  where I slept out 41 nights.

locus gear khufu
Locus Gear Khufu Sil on the North Olympic Coast.

Off Trail Gossamer Gear Blog Contribution

  I & other Trail Ambassadors, wrote a small piece for the Gossamer Gear main site blog.  The subject is walking off trail; which holds a special place in my heart, in good times and in bad.  Go on over and check it out!

What do you think about the article?  Did it speak to you?  I would love to hear from you in a comment below!

olympic off trail
Photo used in write up, snapped during a 10 day traverse of the Bailey Range in 2013.   Shows us approaching the Elkhorn Glacier.  Ragamuffin, Mount Childs and Mount Olympus can be seen (left to right).   Featuring Liz Thomas

Sharing Wilderness - Walking through the Seasons

Read beginning of story.

I would have two days to rest my right and now left feet. A combination of the climbing fall injury and the new wounds acquired from walking so many miles in very wet trail conditions. I was so focused on getting to the destination I failed to take proper preventive care during my last walk. The top 1/3 of both feet were missing skin, epsom salt to the rescue - as well as duct tape and super glue. All three would get me trailworthy once again. This would be a start of 4 consecutive
weeks in the Olympic alpine taking photos and video.

After months of planning and communication via the internet a group of Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors, as well as some friend, were standing on the front porch of the farm in Port Angeles. We had no real itinerary yet, but would sit down with a group of maps and go over a plan that worked best for everyone involved. Once going over all the route variations we had a real plan.

The group decided on one central location to park the vehicles. Trip would be a loop style hike, with a small dogleg out and back walk. We would be out for 7 days and 6 nights. Our campsite selections would give the more energetic parties an option for some peakbagging out of a base camp. We would also be using basic land navigation skills as some of the sections would be off trail in remote and fragile places in the Olympic National Park interior.

Weather forecast had us sunny the first day, then turning into wet conditions with thunderstorms and early autumn temperatures in the alpine. It was a good thing I warned everyone during planning that the Olympic Mountains can turn from fair weather to early winter type conditions overnight. I have a motto here - plan for worst conditions, but hope for the best.

three forks trail
Starting our 7 day loop walk into the Olympic Mountains.

Olympic Mountains - Google Earth

  The internet can be a fun place to daydream about backpacking in the Olympic Mountains; especially during the winter months.  Thought I would share some Google Earth 'hacks/plug-ins' to make your mind endlessly wander the alpine regions of the Park.   These tools are for educational and planning purposes; not to be trusted for off trail land navigation.  Stumbled upon these through surfing the web and/or sent to me by reader.

.kml Google Earth Plug-Ins:

Google Earth Topo
Location of Google Earth topographical overlay, after plug-in download is complete. 

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.  

Wilderness Gear Testing in Winter

  A quick video, during my last 3 days on the North Olympic Coast.  This shows the Locus Gear Khufu Sil in very wet winter conditions.   Shot in the woods, just off the Pacific Northwest Trail.  Give it a watch & let me know what you think in the comments below.

Update:  Long term review of the Locus Gear Khufu featured below.  

North Olympic Coast tasted in Winter

Spent 3 days on the coast during the month of February 2014. It was very wet conditions and even a day of moderate winds; as the tail end of none stop winter storms pushed though that have been hammering the Olympic Peninsula. Captured this image, before the next 48 hour storm moved through the area. Did'nt take out my good camera much after that.

The snow line dropped near sea level elsewhere in most of the northern regions of the state of Washington, but we received nothing but heavy rains and cold temperatures in camp.   Most of the day was spent gathering wood; to keep the beach fire hot enough to stay alive, in these hyperthermic type conditions.

Olympic sunset
Seeing things in a different light. 

Hiking Healing - Walking through the Seasons

Read beginning of story.

Spent a few weeks sitting on my butt to rest my right ankle and arch that was injured during the fall. Foot yoga and epsom salt baths were performed several times daily, in attempt to heal the body. Replaying the event in my mind led to countless sleepless nights. It seemed I was having issues digesting the whole rescue event. Within that time period I also isolated myself for weeks at the farm. Decided that this was not healthy behavior, so I jumped on a bus and spent time with family.

Once back in Port Angeles a few weeks later, I was itching to get back into the Olympic Mountains; which I love so much. Not being able to walk in the Park was more difficult that going through a separation from any relationship. This was a time that the internet kept me from going completely crazy. The ability to travel virtually into the mountains allowed me to hold on to sanity.

My friend Torry helped get me out of my slump once I was able to walk again. Duct Tape and Super Glue allowed me to patch the external issues giving the ability to keep dirt out of my wounds. We went on a series of day hikes during the month of August.

high divide trail
Hiking on the High Divide.  

Rescued pt. 4 - Walking through the Seasons

Read beginning of story.

The ground rescue that took place for the next few hours was out of my sight, behind me just off the main ridgeline. It was not until I talked to one of my rescuers a few weeks later that I learned their side of the story. Come to find out the rock was too rotten for the rescue team to get their climbing rope safely anchored. The rescuers would have to rappel down from the main summit to reach me. The issue was getting there safely, because of the bad gullies and crumbly rock. Looking back, I am glad that no one got hurt attempting my rescue.

Some time had passed, then I got my first visual of a member of the climbing team. He had repelled off the main ridgeline and was looking at the gully system that separated me from my rescue. These were very steep and impassible even with ropes. More time had passed and I answered another yelling voice. Wanted to know how I was holding up and how I was doing for water. Later in the conversation I found out there was a new plan. I would sit tight, because Navy Rescue would be flying in to assist getting off the cliff band. They were roughly two hours out. This gave me more time to reflect over the situation.

navy rescue
Out of respect for the rescue effort, this is the only photo I took of the whole operation. This is Navy Rescue flying over me to assess the situation. Just like the Parks little helicopter, it flew over me for some time to get a birds eye view and plan of rescue. They flew over the area for quite some time before making their final approach. At the time I thought they were having issues with the afternoon wind that had came up. I began to mentally prepare myself to stay the night on the ledge. Come to find out, the Black Hawk had too much fuel to attempt the rescue. They were just maneuvering around to lighten their load.

Rescued pt. 3 - Walking through the Seasons

Read beginning of story.

After speaking to the 911 dispatcher I was very relieved that someone knew where I was. I would no longer be stranded on the cliff for the next week, before my emergency contact reported me as an overdue hiker. I felt very lucky the situation worked out as it did. I could think of one other scenario of attempting to climb out and await rescue back on the summit block - but it had a very high percentage rate of me falling again. It still would have lead me to await rescue, but would have been more 'comfortable' waiting there than the ledge. I feel knowing when to seek help is what saved my life and prevented further injury.

I definitely had the feeling of a mouse caught in a trap. My ego was the biggest thing I had to let go. I knew if I hit the panic button, I would never hear the end of it for the rest of my life. I have lots of friends in the local hiking community, as well as Park employees and volunteer rescuers. They are always looking at me like I'm a nut job - often warning me that the things I do are very risky and might some day get me into serious trouble. It appears they were right.

snow melt water
I was lucky to have this water source while awaiting rescue. The act of collecting water and trying to keep hydrated in the sun is what kept my mind most busy.