Lillian Camp, Elwha

In last minute planning, we decided to go backpacking up the Elwha Valley inside the Olympic National Park. This trip was done in winter conditions. We checked the weather forecast before leaving, but decided to go on this trip anyways.
  On this adventure, we got hit pretty hard with around 48 hours of heavy rain, slush and around 6 inches of wet snow.  In that time we got hit with a few inches of rain.   The trail turned into a walk up to 3 inches of standing water in places.  Needless to say, most of the time was spent trying to keep warm and dry.

poncho hiking snow

 We decided to see how the Elwha Dam Removal project was coming along, while we waited for another party to arrive..

elwha dam removal
Elwha Dam Removal 

Again, we waited for the other parties to arrive the next day.  We decided to head out early so we could spend more time outdoors, before the other parties of our group.  It turned out to be good self reliance winter storm practice.  I had a Gossamer Gear on loan for this hike to test.

  A few hours before I left Port Angeles the weather turned to heavy Rain.  We arrived at our first nights camp spot a short time after sundown.  Pitching our tarp tents near the Elwha river bank.

  The next morning we broke camp to meet the other party's and move up river to the next camp.  My partner that night took an audio clip of the rain hitting his tarp tent that night.  I wish I had it.  It sends chills down my spine just listening to how hard it was raining all night and into the next day.  I wore my earplugs and it still kept me awake part of the night.  Crazy.

minimalist snow
Merrill Barefoot vs VFF Trek

poncho backpack winter
Creek Crossing

  After a day of walking in standing  water, slush and up to 6 inches of snow.  We ended up sleeping next to a peaceful river on the valley floor.  A very wet valley floor, but that is great for gear testing.

Gossamer Gear Shelter
Second Nights Tarp

After getting hit with 48 hours of pretty much every type of condition.  We decided to go onto the Elwha gravel bar and see if we could find any sun to dry out our clothes.  From there we spend the rest of the day exploring.

Elwha river olympic

elwha cable bridge
Suspension Bridge over the Elwha  

minimalist hiking shoes
Headed across

  The evening was spent by a hot campfire, adult beverages were consumed and lots of good conversation.  It was a nice change of pace since I mostly am in the Olympic National Park alone.
  The next morning woke up a short time before sunrise to a nice dry the backpacking gear.  That is always a nice feeling.  Watched the sun bounce off freshly snow caped trees over the valley.  Of coarse I had some hot coffee to get the day to the right start.

Gossamer Gear Squall
Tarp after Sunrise on Gravel Bar

 I put together a short video of great river rock training as an example how you can use nature to stretch and strengthen your feet.  Without actually realizing that you are training your feet.  That's the best part.

I often enjoy backpacking up the Elwha Valley in winter. Its a great place to find solitude during the off season months. Be sure to plan for wet and cold weather.

Updated May 2015