Abandoned Trails of Olympic: Long Creek in the Elwha

  I have pondered a forgotten trail that the Olympic National Park has abandoned years ago.  Personally discovered through hiking forums, talking to various locals, hiker blog and old 1935 USGS map online.  The name of this forgotten route is; the Long Creek Trail.  (see disclaimer below)

  The incoming weather forecast looked very wet; with an incoming small cold front.  Wanting to see this 'trial' with my own eyes.  Decided to go ahead with the trip anyways.  I have a little saying, 'If you can backpack in an Olympic winter, the rest of the year will be a cake walk.'

  So I set off on another Olympic adventure, this time with a borrowed duel sport motorcycle.  This would be my form of 'cheating' to get to the trailhead.

  My first thought  is 'laying tread' on this abandoned trail; that only Elk use now.  This allows remote peaks being accessed in spring before the Long Ridge Trail even melts out.  The main concern if its in too poor of shape or slide has taken out a chunk of it.  Would it be worth climbing up and over all the blow-downs that has occurred in almost a 100 years of storm damage.   These are all unknown variables that must be discovered firsthand.

USGS Map elwha
Screenshot of a 1935 USGS Long Creek Trail map (section 1 - see disclaimer below)

USGS Map elwha
Screenshot of a 1935 USGS Long Creek Trail map (section 2 - see disclaimer below)

USGS Map elwha
Screenshot of a 1935 USGS Long Creek Trail map (section 3 - see disclaimer below)

USGS Map elwha
Screenshot of a 1935 USGS Long Creek Trail map (section 4 - see disclaimer below)

Elwha river
Lots of rain the last few weeks; meant the Elwha River was running higher and faster than average.

Sea to Summit Poncho
Lots of rain all day; the Sea to Summit Poncho was helpful.   This was right before I would leave the trail. 

Elwha cable bridge
Elwha Cable Bridge

elwha alder
Follow game trails through these river bottom Alders. 

long creek
Forded the creek to my knees; where Long Creek Forks.  The second section of creek was moving too fast to ford.  The rotten and slippery log in the back of this picture was used to cross. 

long creek
Had to 'baby crawl' across; since the rain had made it too slimy to walk on. 

long creek trail
After bushwhacking up the hillside in the pouring rain.  I found and followed for  30 minutes  the abandoned Long Creek Trail.  

  The section of trail that I followed had been hit by a lot of storm damage.  Lots of trees to climb over or under.  Even used all 4's several times to navigate the hillside.

  Weather started to take a turn for the worse.  The rain fall had increased and looking up could see that the snowline had dropped to were I was.  Being all wet and factoring the changing conditions; decided to continue this journey at another time.  Plan to head back in a few weeks.

  Turning around and continue back across the river to find camp for the night.  Glad I did, because it rained hard for about 14 more hours.   This would put my Locus Gear Khufu Sil to the test in that much precipitation.

locus gear khufu
Locus Gear Khufu Sil camp for the night. 

inside locus gear khufu
Listening to the rain pound the Khufu after sundown.  (see video) 

inside locus gear khufu
Woke up 12 hours later to the sound of rain hitting the Khufu.   

locus gear khufu
Khufu fully saturated the next morning.  (snowline in the trees)

Gear Notes

  Sea to Summit Poncho was key in these conditions, even tho not optimal for bushwhacking; since always snags on things.  I was dry to the bone wearing it and also acted as a 'pack cover'; since I don't use one.  The poncho was removed through the hillside scrambling.  Still hate the buttons that hold the poncho together in 'wearable mode'.  They never stay snapped.  Might have to DIY fix.  Just haven't thought of anything yet.

  Locus Gear Khufu Sil was great in all that rain.  I was dry all night from the cold and wet outside conditions.  Even was able to sit up and change my clothes; which is a luxury from the other shelters I used in the past.  Left 2 inch gaps on the windward and leeward on the Khufu walls to allow for airflow.  Still got minimal condensation overnight on the inner walls.  This is expected with all that rain falling and the ground being pre saturated with moisture.  If I had to do it over; would keep 1 door mostly open to allow for better airflow.    The position of the latch made to hold the doors open, kinda got on my nerves.  Barely bump the rolled up door and they fall out of position.  I experienced this several times. (see video)  Maybe someone could teach me a trick to rolling them up?

Sawyer Water Filter worked perfectly.  I slept with it; since the conditions were near freezing in camp.

Vibram Seeya gripped the wet terrain well.  The breathability kept my feet drained from all the water on the trail and multiple creek fords.

Watch my short video:

Route Disclaimer

  Lots of downed trees, creek walking, crawling, scrambling, route finding, basic land navigation, fording fast moving water and animal tracking skills were all used in this adventure.  Please do not attempt unless you are confident about these things.  Always tell someone where your going, time frame you will be gone, before you leave on each trip and even so when you leave the trail.  The area above is seldom traveled, if at all ever year.  Be safe.

Related: Check out my winter backpacking trip up the Elwha Valley, where I continue to follow the river upstream.

Updated by Barefoot Jake in March 2016