Sleeping with Olympic Elk

  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.

  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.

Editor's Note: Article part of a multi-week backpacking trip in the Olympic National Park.

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 

sol duc backpacking
Entering Sol Duc Trail - small section on the PNT - Traversing on the Bailey Range from Mt. Appleton to Cat Basin - out on the PNT - back to the Sol Duc Trailhead

  The plan was to meet up in Port Angeles after I would come off the trail for a resupply from the previous trip.

  This would be slightly challenging since a cellphone is something I personally don't believe in.  A plan would was made and there wouldn't be much room for error if we were going to connect.

  I was thankful that everything went smooth; in fact the whole trip went really smooth.

gossamer gear ultralight
Headed out the Sol Duc Trail - slight mist in the air with a 30% chance of rain in the forecast.

gossamer gear ultralight
Sol Duc Falls - taking in all the sights on the way through.

gossamer gear sawyer
Topping off water before we start climbing the pass - trail testing the Sawyer Squeeze Filter on a water bottle - a system I've been using all summer.

pacific northwest trail
A hint of Autumn color as we ascend Appleton Pass.

Appleton pass
Watching clouds roll through the ridgeline.

mount Appleton
 Sunset burning through the mist.

  We pitched camp in good time considering an afternoon start at the trailhead.  We explored the surrounding area and lounged around, eating dinner to such gorgeous views of Mt. Appleton.

  It only sprinkled for a few hours and that was all the rain that would fall for the remainder of the trip.  A light breeze kept whatever was left of the bugs completely at bay.

  A frost fell over camp in the night; as we awoke to a deer outside of our shelters playing in the meadow.

mount appleton
Sunrise from camp

mount appleton
Breakfast views of Mt. Appleton - the first major mountain of the Bailey Range.

spread eagle pass
Heading out toward Spread Eagle Pass - 3 deer played in the meadow - lots of fresh black bear sign.

spread eagle pass
Autumn views from Spread Eagle Pass - Mt. Carrie, Cat Peak and Mt. Olympus (right to left)

gossamer gear ultralight
Taking a break - Grant wondering to himself why he would follow some guy wearing sandals into the wilderness. (teasing)

ultralight off trail
Heading into one of my favorite sections of this route

bailey range traverse
Traversing through a rock field 

gossamer gear ultralight
Grant climbing through some autumn color

cat basin
Looking across Cat Basin - Swimming Bear Lake sits in the flat - we spooked a fat black bear up near here. 
swimming bear lake
Spent 4 hours at Swimming Bear Lake hydrating, soaking the feet and enjoying the views.

olympic black bear
A resident Black Bear grazing for hours on the hillside.  This must be why they call it Swimming Bear Lake -
 1 of 3 for the day.

Watch this - Video from Trip - shot by Grant S: 

mount olympus
Simple Camp - Sleeping under my Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter - views of the southern Bailey Range, the moon, sunset and Mt. Olympus
olympic wilderness
As the sun sets in the 'Wild Kingdom' - this was to be the most interesting night of the year.

  In the Olympic National Park the Roosevelt Elk had just starting to go into rut.  Since we entered Cat Basin, a handful of Bulls had been bugling non stop all afternoon.

  Spent my early teenage years archery hunting in the South Cascades of Washington.  In 32 years I have never heard Elk go crazy like this in the heat of the day.

  Bugle after bugle, some on top of each other as the Bulls competed echoed through the area.

 As soon as the sun started to set, the whole 'Wild Kingdom' came into our camp.  First a herd of around 20 head of elk of all ages tried to walk right through our camp and ended up re-routing around. (see video)

  Then 'Cosmo' the Black Bear decided he would go bed down in the trees behind where our tarps were pitched.

  I climbed into my sleeping bag knowing it would be all long night.  The animals would indeed not let me down.

  The bright moon drove the bull elf crazy all night.  I woke a few hours into the night to the sound of hoofs hitting the ground.  I rose my head to the sight of a small heard grazing right outside my shelter under the stars.

  This was a touchy situation, since I did not want to send them into a stampede.  My partner or could of been at risk of being trampled in our sleeping bags. 

  I decided to climb out and try to gracefully get the herd out of camp.  They all walked out of camp soon as I stood up.

  A few hours after I fell back to sleep, I  woke again to the feeling of being watched.

  Sure enough, there was satellite Bull Elk staring at me from 10 feet away from my head.  He wasn't so quick to leave and had the 'gleam' in his eye.  It wasn't until I yelled at him before he ran off.

  Finally, I fell back to sleep a few hours before the sun started to come up after an interesting night.

sunrise ultralight tarp
Opening my eyes - Sunset views from under my Spinnshelter 

wildlife ultralight tarp
A small family of deer whispering to me, 'It's time to get up.'

sol duc trail
Headed out from an interestingly unforgettable night on the Bailey Range. 

toga's port angeles
Enjoying lunch - homemade Lemon/Blueberry Cheesecake 

This is the end of the trail, for my 34 Days in the Olympic National Park. But you can read conclusion of the story.

Updated in June 2015