Backpacking Alone to Elkhorn

After walking or biking the Whiskey Bend Road several times, while the Park completely had access closed.  I was excited to hear that the Park had opened the road for vehicle traffic once again.  Once I got the news I hurried to the boat and collected my gear in 20 minutes; that I wouldn't miss my lift to the trailhead with my bike.  I was on a mission to be the only one staying the night in the whole valley and I got my wish.  Complete isolation.

whiskey bend trailhead parking
Whiskey Bend Trailhead 

   I opted to go light as I could for winter conditions and only bring minimal gear.  The forecast was to be in the 20's that night.   Food and water was also kept super minimal for the sake of adding weight to my pack.  To same time, I would pump water straight from mouth from the filter to shave weight and time while hiking.

 I had 12 miles to reach my destination for the night and 2 hours of daylight left in the woods to do it in.  I wanted to make the best out of what light, so I started at a pretty good pace.  After a few miles I felt warm enough to begin my light trail running pace.

lillian river
Lillian River

  Hiked as far as I could that evening without headlamp, I wanted to feel the trail under my feet, rather than with my eyes.  After wearing minimal footwear for four years now, my senses have tripled; allowing to feel the ground every step.  Kinda like someone that is blind, has the ability to function with everyday activity's.
 This is just another reason why I believe in the barefoot backpacking theory.

  My weapon of choice would be the Vibram Fivefingers.  I enjoy this model in more of a dry, rocky or summer time traveling.  This time of year is none of the above.  I wore these a few times in winter conditions before in the last two years of owning them.  I never seem to learn my lesson.   The upper that they use cause almost more damage than good to your skin once they are wet; taking four times as long to dry.  I feel that keeping your feet aired out and dry is super important for distance travel.  In result I ended up giving myself four hot spots on each foot from my foot sliding around inside.

  I didn't manage to get much photos on the way; even tho the light was so low.  After 5 mile mark the ground was frozen solid.  All rocks, roots and log bridges were un usable because of being covered in black ice. Concentration on footing became important, especially when headlamp hiking.  I remember seeing lots of icicles hanging off of various surfaces.  This was just a reminder that it is winter in the Elwha Valley after all.

headlamp ice
Headlamp Icicle

    I made good time to the camp, taking a little under four hours to arrive at Elkhorn Ranger Station.  I decided to pick one of the sites next to the river so that I could sleep under the stars.  It would be a lot colder, since it was closer to the water and didnt have the cover of trees protect against frost, but I went for it anyways.

  Decided to save weight I would leave my bivy at home and just sleep under my Sea to Summit Poncho Tarp.  I usually use just tree branches to make my shelter, but this time I decided to use my camera tripod to build the structure, to help keep frost off my sleeping area.
   The next morning I got up before sunrise and began making breakfast.  I would enjoy hot tea and oatmeal. Cooking them all with my little esbit stove.

myog stove
Steaming before sunrise

  After breakfast and sunrise I took some time exploring the meadow.  I have traveled through this area many times, but never in winter. The frost and river contrast was amazing.

elkhorn camp

elkhorn ranger station
Elkhorn Ranger Station

elwha tree
Elk horn's  

  Wanted to make good time so that I could catch the bus on Highway 101 back to Port Angeles.  So I quickly broke camp and began the trek out.  I really enjoy that 4 mile river section on this route.  I literally feel like I'm walking back into time.  I didnt even realize that it was 25 degrees out.  Keeping my eyes out for animals at spots where I have seen elk and black bear so many times before. But with no luck,  I didn't see anything but a few squirrels, one grouse, and a few deer.  Oh well,  I guess the snowline isn't low enough to push them all into this part of the valley.

elwha creek
  The last 5 miles out to me is almost mind numbing since I have been there so many times.  I personally have to go complete imagination land just to make it through.  Mental toughness is personally tested, that's for sure.  Seeing a few glimpses into the Bailey Range was a super motivational pick me up.  I thought to myself, 'This is why Im doing this trail training.'

elwha trail view

  After reaching the trailhead, where my bike was stashed, made quick work of the Whiskey Bend Road.  It is way more enjoyable than walking that road,  I will tell you that.  You can see the spot that was damaged that took them so long to repair.  Oh well.....

whiskey bend road bycle
Repaired Whiskey Bend Road

  Once reaching the Olympic Hot Springs Road in short time.  I checked the bus schedule and realized that I had two more hours to wait for the next one.  I wasn't to thrilled about that.  I always tell myself in such situations, 'that's the life I choose to lead.'  That usually picks my spirits up with that little saying.

clallam county transit

After a short bike ride to the highway, I jumped on the bus.  I cant tell you how good it felt to feel the heat inside the heated bus.  Oh the little things in life.  Arriving back in Port Angeles.  I wasted no time finding an adult beverage and the most high calorie food I could find.  This time it was a philly cheese steak (coated with Cheese Wiz) with a side of Fries at a local pub.

Updated in December 2015 by Barefoot Jake