Backpacking the Rainforest by Bus

  I was only in town for one day this last week and already in need of getting away from the city.  So as part of my training plan to get ready for the summer backpacking season, I set off for Lake Quinault (Olympic National Forest) first thing that Friday morning.  For this adventure on public transportation, I would be bringing my bike along; to get to the trailhead.

Total round trip travel expense = $4.

 The weather conditions would also throw a little twist in the trip.  Being based in the Pacific Northwest and coming out of winter conditions for the last seven months, the four days of 80 degree temperatures was quite the change from rain and snow.  Lots of water was consumed on this adventure.

bicycle quinault
Looking up the Quinault Valley

My Short Video Clip pt. 1:

  I'm not much of a cyclist.  I primarily use biking like a modern man version of a horse.  Others dump all their money in a gas tank.  I consume junk food as my fuel.

  I strongly suggest this to someone who is willing to retrace this route.  This valley is one of my favorites in Washington State, but I have never experienced it's remote beauty like this.

  I was feeling like I was on an old 1800's type expedition into this area.  I have been to this area many times before and never felt as connected to my surroundings.   Most of the road follows the beautiful Quinault River.

  Everything slows down into a speed that can be consumed by your senses.  I will try to never take a 'Bubble' (Car) to a trailhead again.

  Saw Eagles flying above me, while biking up the road; as they kept a watchful eye on the river for their next meal.  Spooked up a lone satellite bull elk, that was just growing his velvet covered rack.  Then a whole herd of elk that were crossing just before I got to the trailhead.  (see video above)

  In the first few miles I ran into two backpackers coming down the trail.  They had fully loaded packs and one even had a limp.  Both of them look beat up and exhausted.  It made me think to myself that I was fortunate to have two friends show me the light, into the ultralight world.  I wouldn't be having moments like that in my future.   These would be the only humans I would see for the next 24 hour period.

  A short time after seeing that couple I got to see my first black bear of the trip. (see Picture & Video below)  This guy was the biggest and most grumpy of the seven I saw on this trip.   After about five minutes of trying to get him to move out of the direction I needed to travel,  He/She decided that the part of trail that I was standing in was the route he wanted to go.  Realizing this, I kindly backed up.  Once the bear was on the trail He/She stopped and gave me the 'Eye'.  This was to let me know who really was in charge.  Then continued to mozey off into the forest.

black bear quinault trail
'Mr. Grumpy Pants'

My Short Video Clip pt. 2:

  It was a lovely walk after that.  All the creeks were trickling and the sun was beaming through the rain forest.  Since the snow has just recently melted from the area, the bugs were almost no where to be found.  That is rare for summer like temperatures in the Olympic National Park.

  I pitched camp just before dark since I got a late start on the day, with the long Bus ride and biking up the road which consumed a few hours. I was next to the Quinault River under some maple trees.

O'neal Camp
A Simple Camp

Wake Up:
  The next day I was up just as light started to fill the sky.  I wanted to get a fresh start on the day before the Temperature jumps up.  First I spent some time drying off the frost that fell that night.

  Started up the trail and after a short distance I encountered another Black Bear.  He was eating berries on the hill right outside my camp.  (see video)  At least He/She could of at least made me coffee in the morning.  I had to ask politely to pass since it was in my path of travel.  (see video below)

  Being a minimalist backpacker I tend to see lots of wildlife that others don't get to experience.  Its all in how I strike the ground with my feet, softer than a modern shod hiker.  Its not until I whistle or it smells me that they even know I'm in the area.  This is also another benefit of being a solo hiker.  Talking tends to let an unnatural sound to the area; go figure right.

black bear in trail
My Buddy the Black Bear.  I scared this one so bad; that he sprinted away from me down the trail about 100 yards.  Once there; He climbed a big log on the hillside.  Then watched atop as I passed.  

  After a handful of creek crossings which consisted of log bridges, rock hopping and log jam balancing, I reached lingering spring snow that was in the open meadows.  Felt good to cool the feet on a warm spring day.  At this point I also got my first subalpine view.

enchanted valley spring
Cooling the Feet with my first look into the Subalpine. 

  Because of the warm day;  I did lots of post-holing for the next few miles.  This was rather annoying as always and would put my balance to the test.

  A few miles later I started to break out of the forest into the high Quinault river meadows they call Enchanted Valley.  Where one of the Quinault Valleys (there are 2) narrows and the Burke Range meets the mountains; with more waterfalls than you can count and views of the Lindsey Glacier of Mount Anderson.  A very popular destination for Backpackers in the Summer months.

backpacking enchanted valley
Looking up into the Burke Range.  Enchanted Valley Chalet (to my right) and Mt. Anderson above that structure.

  I spent some time in these meadows, scouting out a camp with the best views.  Then decided to continue upriver to find a more remote place with better views of Mount Anderson.  After a few more miles of post-holing up to my hips and listening to lots of spring avalanches roar off the valley wall, I decided to turn around a few miles shy of the pass and head back down to the meadows.

quinault spring
Taking a break to soak it all in; near Anderson Pass.  Watched Spring Avalanches roll off the Burke Ranges and spent time staring at the White Glacier.  

  Spent the next 24 hours in and around camp, watching and listening to avalanches.  Once the sun dropped below the ridgeline all the animals came out on the valley walls;  4 Mountain Goats, 1 Bull Elk and 2 Black Bears grazed on the valley wall.  It was impressive to me how the Mountain Goat can travel across cliffs without missing a step.  Made for awesome dinner and breakfast entertainment.

 The highlights were definitely seeing a Mountain Goat jump over a waterfall at dinner, then a waterfall rainbow as I enjoyed breakfast.

ultralight backpacking quinault
Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter in Enchanted Valley

My Short Video Clip pt. 3:

Wake Up:
  Reached lows of 30 overnight.  Woke up to even the condensation on my sleeping bag froze into ice.  Glad I brought some winter gear.

  Hung out in camp until around noon; since I wasn't in a hurry to leave nor could I.  The next bus leaving the area was another 24 hours from this point.  So I spent time eating and drying my stuff out in the sun.

  I headed down river to find my next camp, where I would hold up to get a fresh start in the morning and then head for the bus.

  I encountered two of the same Black Bear as the day before in different locations.  Didn't take as long this time for them to let me by.

  Seen over 75 Head of Roosevelt Elk, in four different small herds.  One of the groups let me watch them graze for 15 minutes while I stood under some huge old growth cedar trees, that were as big as cars.  It was a very peaceful moment.

  Once I got a few miles from the trailhead I started running into other backpackers.  All of them were fully loaded up with every piece of gear imaginable.

  One of the men had to be carrying 75+ lbs in his expedition sized pack.  They were very nice to me as I greeted them.  Him and his hiking partner both look exhausted.  The talk consisted of them asking me where the nearest campsite was upriver.   Vibram Five Fingers was also a topic, since one of them had a pair in their pack; as camp footwear.

  I found a little remote off trail campsite, by following a gravel bar upriver.  Once camp was pitched I bathed in the cold Quinault River and did some wash.  It was much needed and felt great.

quinault tarp
Simple 'Off Grid Camp' next to the Quinault River

Wake Up:
  Slept a bit jumpy all night, even though there was a light breeze on a warm evening.  I pitched near where I saw that Big Black Bear.  He/She had been hanging out in the berries a lot.  There were fresh prints and signs all over my campsite, from a few hours before.  So every sound that night woke me up.

  I was venturing down the trail well before 0500 that morning.  Felt good to walk in the much cooler forest.  I also wanted to do my 20 mile bike before the summer heat later that afternoon.

Modern Tools Used:  My Bike and the Gossamer Gear 2012 Gorilla

Critter Count:  Seen well over 75 Head of Olympic Elk, 7 Black Bear, 4 Mountain Goats and 1 Chipmunk. 

Disclaimer/Comments:  Biking, Hiking or Backing in Minimalist Footwear takes strong feet.  Give you body time to adjust to this type of Footwear before attempting anything you see on this Site. 

Updated May 2015