Before the Paradise Fire (Queets Valley)

The first time stepping foot in the mountains.  I have been on a quest on what it means to experience untouched wilderness.   There is no way of putting into words what wild places do to the soul. Each hiker definitely has their own personal journey. For me, the interior of the Park is like stepping back into time, before man came to the Olympic Peninsula.

A friend and I had five days to dedicate to an adventure up the Queets. Our quest was part scouting and part photography trip. We would walk down an abandoned valley trail and truly explore beyond; using only elk trials. Our route would mean multiple river fords and slip our way through endless mud.

It is spring in Olympic National Park.  There is a record minimal snowpack, but the flakes are still falling in the mountains; as random storms move in off the Pacific. It can be sunny one moment and hail the next.

We viewed dozens of Olympic Elk, countless varieties of fowl and two black bear. This was a trip of a lifetime and we would not forget this untouched wilderness experience.

Fire Update: In mid-May a fire sparked up, in the location where most of this photography was shot. A lot of the beautiful forest floor below is now gone. The Park Service has sent a Hotshot Fire Crew to fight this remote wildfire, but have been having a tough time; because of how record dry it has been this year. I hope this inspires you to not have a campfire this hiking season.

Post Fire Update: In mid-November 2015, the Olympic National Park officials declared the wildfire to be officially extinguished.

rain forest trek
Flashing forward to day three up the Queets, in the heart of the seldomly walked part of the Olympic Mountains

First nights camp after a long walk - We had fair weather, but rain all the following days

river camping
Night on the Queets river

Queets Rain Forest arch

Walking with the Gods

Wilderness river

Pelton Shelter
Pelton Shelter - It is believe to be burned by the Paradise Fire

Fairy Treasures

Hiking up river using the elk paths - Fresh dusting of snow in the mountains

Spring in the rain forest

elk trail
Thank the gods for elk or this abandoned trail would have gone back to nature

Flashing Forward: Queets Fire Hotshot Team in June

From Space: An early satellite image of the Queets Valley, shot over the wildfire burn - Near the confluence of Alta Creek

Queets Fire in July from Lake Quinault

Smoke fills the peninsula during summer heat wave - Consider checking out my photography from a backpacking trip into Queets Basin and Glacier. We were engulfed for multiple days in wildfire smoke.

Overall the memories created on this backpacking trip into the Olympic Mountains will last a lifetime, despite the endless rain and muddy footing. Thats what make this part of wilderness special. If it was easy, one would not cherish it as much. I look forward to future explorations up the Queets Valley, beyond our point of return and reach closer to the gods; after the snows have stopped in the high country.

Updated in July 2017 by Barefoot Jake