Sep 07
Mount Olympus as seen from the trail to Grand Lake

04-07SEPT I had planned for a 3-4 day hike in the rain shadow region of the Olympic National Park. The Olympics tends to be challenging hiking, with the trails often showing no regard for real humans, heading straight up the hills without mercy. The land is rugged and not for the faint-of-heart, yet offers some of the most spectacular beauty to be seen. Every corner of the the trail, every vista, every pass, every step offers an ever unfolding realm of majesty; new snow-clad peaks, new valleys, new lakes and meadows, all discovered by the sweat of one’s brow and the toil of aching muscles and limbs… but, it was all very much worth it. Sometimes it could be a challenge to get permits into the Grand Valley basin. Fortunately, it was after Labor Day, and permits were quite easy to obtain. Even though the weather was spectacularly beautiful without a cloud in the sky, the campgrounds were quite empty. On the 8 miles or so of trail from the Grand Pass junction to Three Forks Campground, and the next day back up to Deer Park, I never saw a single other person of the trail. One needs not go to Alaska for solitude!

Day zero started by me leaving from home about noon, and reaching the Port Angeles ranger station where I was able to obtain my permit to hike, and camp at Moose Lake. I decided to start at Deer Park, which I didn’t realize was somewhat of a crazy drive up a VERY narrow gravel road 8 miles to the campground. I spent the night there.

One day one, the hike went from Deer Park to Moose Lake via Obstruction Point, roughly 11.5 miles and 3500 ft of climbing. Much of the trail to Obstruction Point was on a crest overlooking Port Angeles and the Puget Sound on one side, and a broad panoply of mountains on the other. The trail to the Grand Basin also followed a ridge overlooking Mount Olympus (see above) before steeply dropping down into the basin. A short further hike put me at Moose Lake, where I set up camp. There I met a retired chemical engineer named Ray, my same age, and we spoke of our joy for the mountains. I was just getting over a week-long bout of gastroenteritis, so a bit worried about eating. I tried some Loma Linda spaghetti bolognese, which tasted absolutely awful. The meal was remedied with pecan sandy cookies and Snicker bars.

Day two went further up the Grand Valley, beyond where most people do not go, up over Grand Pass. While the lower Grand Valley is V-shaped, the upper valley has a distinct glacial appearance as a large U-shaped cirque. The valley curves to the left, not seen from below, so the top of the valley as seen from Moose Lake was much lower than where Grand Pass actually was, a climb of about 3500 feet. The trail did not seem too difficult, until I had to descend on the other side. On the maps, the trail becomes a dotted line, suggesting not quite a trail. It was not terribly challenging to follow the route down, now with mountains on all sides of me. The hard part was that the trail condition was poor and not maintained. I was unable to hike any faster descending than when ascending the north side of the pass. I encountered three people on the trail, including middle aged lady, a younger man carrying a large tripod on his pack, and an old geezer slowly working his way up the pass… all were solo, like me. Once I reached the Cameron Creek trail, I decided to make this a three (rather than 4-5) day adventure and go down Cameron Creek. Everybody suggested that the trail was okay, and quite beautiful. It was a beautiful trail, though one was now in dense forest without views. The trail here was both poorly designed as well as poorly maintained. It was about 7 miles to Three Forks campground, which took me about 4.5 hours to achieve, much slower than my usual hiking speed on manicured trail. I am not sure why this trail is so neglected. It needs to be re-routed over many segments, and desperately needs a modicum of maintenance, after which I’m sure it would become a very popular trail. For dinner, I had my own specialty, where I combine freeze dried hamburger and vegetables into Top Ramen. It tasted great. The day was roughly about 12 miles, and 4500 ft of climbing.

The last day was a return to Deer Park on a trail that went straight from Three Forks Campground to Deer Park, about 4.4 miles with about 3500 ft of elevation gain. It was a persistent climb, but the trail was in stellar shape, making it not a terrible challenge. There was no available water on the trail, and knew that Deer Park had no water, so my CamelBak was filled with 3 liters, and I went through most of it. Toward the top, the vistas again opened up in their glorious beauty. Though this has been one of my more challenging hikes, I did not feel overwhelmingly spent or exhausted on ending it. I reached Deer Park by 10:30 in the morning, almost 3 hours of climbing. 

On the trail to Obstruction Point
Looking south toward the mountains
Grand Lake
My tent with the Bear Vault at Moose Lake
Moose Lake in the Grand Valley
The view from the summit of the Grand Valley
Grand Pass
Looking down the Cameron Creek Valley
A view in the upper Cameron Valley
My tent at Three Forks
The structure at Three Forks

A few more notes need to be added here. Equipment-wise, I tried out a new pack, the Exos 58, most of which I loved. It was a very comfortable pack, even though I didn’t take sufficient time to fit it to me. There are a few things I didn’t like about it. First, I liked the pockets in the brain, but didn’t like that they competed with an additional optional flap. I would have liked to be able to remove the flap. The long cord on each side that was to help compress the pack seemed more troublesome than good. There were no hip pockets to place little things. Yet, it held everything nicely, including the mandatory bear canister, which one must have when camping in the Olympics. I liked the two very large side stretch pockets and large back pocket. This will probably be my go-to pack, though I might eliminate the “brain” and find a pocket to hold all my loose-ends in in the pack. 

I also tried out two other things, including Dirty-girl gaiters and OP hiking gloves, both of which I loved. My feet were so comfortable in the Altas that I didn’t even bother taking them off at the completion of the hike… they just felt great, without blisters or soreness. The gaiters worked perfect at keeping out dust and rocks and sand from the shoe. I wore my pants over the gaiters, providing a secondary round of protection. The OP hiking gloves also were perfect, as my hands had no soreness while holding onto the hiking poles, didn’t become hot, yet allowed me access to my cell phone for gps purposes. 

I also tried out the MSR pocket rocket mini-stove. Before this, I was very happy with my JetBoil stove, but many reviews and recommendations suggested trying this out. I did, and didn’t like it. It takes at least twice as long to boil up 0.5 liter of water, and requires a lighter to get the flame started. It offers no weight advantage.  I’ll probably go back to my JetBoil Flash Lite system, and use the above stove as a back-up when I’m camping with a group.

Dirty Girl gaiters on my Altas
OR ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Gloves
Final View on leaving the trail
Tagged with:
No Comments »
Aug 09

Dewey Lake with Sam

I had planned on hiking into Snow Lake MORA (Mount Rainier) with Sam, purchased the reservations, and then at the last minute realized that I had the dates wrong. Panic and planning led to a longer hike (3.1 miles rather than 1.4 miles), but I’m glad we did it. Sam had an awesome time. He led the hike both ways, and kept a reasonable rate without any complaining. At the lake, I set up camp, did some swimming, loafed (I brought along an ultra-light camp chair), and did the cooking. Sam’s appetite was voracious. Here are some photos…

At the start, Sam is quite fresh

Sam at an overlook to Dewey Lake, half way in. It is about 800 feet down.

An eager backpacker

Sam had a voracious appetite, and ate almost all the food I brought in.

Sam, chilling out at the lake.

The amount of bugs were moderate, and Sam counted 14 bug bites. I had about the same. Our only mishap was that Sam realized at camp that he forgot to pack the sleeping bag. Ooops! We made do by opening my sleeping bag and using it as a quilt. We did not use the fly to our tent, and the stars were most beautiful. With the hike out, Sam did a wonderful pace, even though the climb made him a bit tired. He didn’t feel like he could do another mile. Because the hike was entirely on the PCT, several thru-hikers piqued Sam’s interest, though Sam adamantly remarked that he would not take off five months to do the PCT if that meant skipping school. Oh well… we’ll see!

 

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Jul 27

Northern Loop of Mount Rainier 23-25JUL 2018

I had signed up for the Northern Loop on Mount Rainier in April, as it was one of the few hikes remaining on my list to do in Mount Rainier NP in order to complete all of the major hikes in the park. Besides, I was quite curious about the northern aspect of the park, which is somewhat less accessible than most other areas of the park. The year was mostly spent bicycling, and so to get my hiking legs in shape, I focused on some peaks in the Snoqualmie/North Bend area, doing Mailbox Peak, Mt. Si, and Rattlesnake Ridge. Mailbox Peak was definitely the hardest and Rattlesnake the easiest, but all are demanding climbs.

Russ A. with me on the summit of Mailbox Peak. Guess why it is called “Mailbox” Peak?

I have never done the summit scramble on Mt. Si, but always stop at the overlook several 100 feet below the true summit.

The summit of Rattlesnake Ridge does not afford any views

I had planned to do the hike with Russ A., but various circumstances prevented that from happening, so, not being able to find another hiking partner on short notice, I set out solo. Because the Carbon River Road inside the park is washed out with no intention of the NP service to repair it, an extra 5 miles is added to the hike, which is not challenging, since it is basically flat, with easy gravel road conditions. I camped at the Ipsut Creek campground that night.

Ipsut Creek Camp

Views of the mountains from the Carbon River Road

Waking up the next morning, I headed out, knowing that this would be the hardest day, entailing over 4000 ft of climbing in the space of about 4 miles. The weather could not be more perfect, and I headed across the Carbon River, then working up Chenuis Mountain to the Yellowstone Cliffs. It actually went easier than I thought, though it was a steady climb all of the way through, without relief. Fortunately, it was in dense forest, which kept the hike cool. The Yellowstone Cliffs were most spectacular, and the beauty even intensifying as one reached the Windy Gap, where several alpine lakes, still with some surrounding snow and snow-clad mountains, contributed to the scenic ambience.

Yellowstone Cliffs

Yellowstone Cliffs

Windy Gap View

Windy Gap flowered meadows

Top of Windy Gap looking eastward

Natural Bridge. Below, Lake James is to the right and Lake Ethyl to the left.

Yes, I also did the side trip to see Natural Bridge, which was cool, but a bit of a grunt to get to. Descending about 1300 ft, I arrived at Lake James camp. After setting the tent up and having my celebratory brandy and cigar, I realized that the flies and mosquitos were to intense to enjoy a cooked meal, so settled for a Snicker bar and granola bars. It worked.

Lake James camp

Lake James

The next morning was more descent, about 1400 ft more, to the west fork of the White River. The trail passed by a small burn area before reaching the river.

Burn area, down from Lake James

Upon reaching the White River, I saw rock cairns where the park service suggested doing a crossing of the river. It appeared very unsafe to pass and so I spent about an hour going up and down stream, looking for more safe areas to cross. The particularly warm weather tended to fill the stream and the water was both deep and very rapid moving. I know that others had been able to cross, but being alone and unsure about the crossing decided not to take my chances. On returning from the hike, I checked out other WTA trip reports, and noted that the crossing in the past week was described as perilously risky, or the “most frightening experience”, which to me means it should not have been crossed by those people. I won’t be surprised if I hear of an accident or death of somebody attempting to cross the river there. The park service really needs to offer a substantive warning to those attempting the Northern Loop. I decided to head back. It was a 2.2 mile descent from Lake James to the West Fork of the White River, so I calculated about 18 miles to hike out. I had completed about half of the loop, and except for a couple miles, had hiked the rest of the loop at various times before, so considered my trip a success. I was a bit tired and sore on reaching the car, and my 27 lb pack felt like it had just doubled its weight, causing me to re-weigh it when I got home to confirm that the boogie man did not sneak some stones in my pack on the hike out.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Sep 06

Timberline Trail, 17-18AUG2017

I had backpacked the Timberline Trail twice already, once about 40 years ago with Jack Frane, and the other about 20 years ago with Kent Dawson. The trail had been closed for a number of years because a wash-out on the northeast side of the mountain, but this year, the trail was reopened completely. I decided to do the trail in two nights with Russ Anderson. The trail is roughly 40 miles length, so we anticipated camping on the NW and SE sides of the mountain, leaving a long but not challenging second day.

We arrived at Timberline Lodge at about 11 am, and after signing in and making necessary preparations, we took off. I remembered most of the trail, though it had a changing face to it. What was most peculiar was that there was more difficulty crossing some of the streams than I remember in times past. The Sandy River was particularly challenging to get across, and only a small log over a very active rushing stream was noted. We started going clockwise, and the west side of the mountain is noted for a series of deep canyons, the first being Zigzag canyon and the second the Sandy River canyon. The trail did an excellent job of following elevation contours so that there was no extreme ups and downs.

Russ ready to go hiking

Mt. Jefferson off in the horizon

 

Mt Hood from Zigzag Canyon

 

More views of Mt. Hood from Zigzag Canyon

 

The intrepid Russ Anderson in excellent style

 

View from the Sandy River area

 

Ramona Falls

We arrived at Ramona Falls, making quite good time, as it was about 16:30 and we had already hiked 10.5 miles. I had some left knee pain from prior hikes, so was wearing a support brace for the hike. The knee started to hurt more, not when walking, but when stopped. Since the campsites for Ramona Falls were quite full, we went a little over a mile further to other campsites on the trail. At that time, my left knee started to become truly painful. After dinner, Russ and I both hit the sack, and slept soundly. The left knee was now quite swollen, and exceedingly painful. After much painful deliberation, we decided to bail out. Rather than retrace our tracks, we decided to take an access trail to Lolo Pass, and then hitch back to the car. It was about 5-7 miles out, which went smoothly. After arriving at the parking lot to the access trail, we were able to hitchhike back to Zigzag, where Russ further rode back to Timberline Lodge to get his truck.

I saw a sports orthopedist a week later, who identified a small stress avulsion fracture of the lateral knee, which requires me to take it easy for about 6 weeks. I find that bicycling gives me a small amount of pain, but can at least let me get some exercise in. Sadly, a combination of the knee injury and forest fires is keeping me off of the trail. It will probably have to wait for next year to formally complete the Timberline Trail.

 

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Jul 23

Washington Trails Association Pratt River Trail Work Party 20-22(23)JULY

I do a modest amount of backpacking, and have occasionally encountered trails that were not in the best of shape. I had no idea who cared for the trails, thinking that the forest service did everything. Slowly, I realized how much trail care is actually performed by volunteers. In 2009 in Oregon, I took a 3 day trail design, construction and maintenance course (see http://feuchtblog.net/2009/06/08/4-7jun-trail-skills-college-dee/).  I don’t remember who put it on, but it was a blast. Now that I’m into semi-retirement, I decided to actually do some trail work, and the Washington Trails Association (WTA) provided the perfect opportunity. The Pratt River Trail is within the newly expanded Alpine Lakes Wilderness, one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. There was considerable blow-down of trees from the past few winters and so the forest service requested the WTA to help clean out the timber fallen across the trail. Even though I took the trails skills “college”, I was totally clueless as to what this would actually represent. I e-mailed the WTA about issues, such as if we were going to get really dirty, and they suggested not. Actually, trail work means getting down in the dirt, which means that you will quickly become quite filthy. I wasn’t quite as prepared as I should have been for personal hygiene. True, I had my tooth brush, but then, I wasn’t getting my teeth (literally) into the action. My anxiety led me to arrival at the trailhead meeting point early, and was the first person there besides LeeAnn. The entire party ended up being eight people, with two no-shows. I was the only novice in the group, and truly clueless about what we were about to do.

The party was small enough that it was easy to get to know everybody, but several people stood out. The first was Jim. He was the old geezer of the group, but a true gentleman, and the most knowledgeable of the bunch. Whenever there was a question about a complex or dangerous log clearance issue, Jim was the go-to person, and had actually trained a few of the folk in the party. The work was split up into two sawing groups of 3 people, and two others that assisted and cleared brush. I worked with Rich and Jim, and what a treat it was. Jim was an incredible teacher and a real trooper, while Rich was most patient with me being clueless about running the saws or moving logs.

Jim

Rich and LeeAnne. During a break from work, we walked up to a side trail, leading to a giant Douglas Fir tree just off the trail (sort of)

As you can see, we all had to wear hard hats and gloves. The hard hats didn’t make sense to me, because there was no means of securing the hat to your head, and it was constantly falling off, sometimes when you most wished that it would stay on. LeeAnne was the group leader, and she was a real trooper, really fun to have with. Don was another fairly experienced trail worker in the group, who I enjoyed interacting with. Actually, I really enjoyed everybody, including Monty, Dave, and Emily, though I didn’t get the best photos of them.

Don, loaded to take off

The time transpired as follows. We all met at 8:30, and had an introductory safety session at 9:00. About 9:30, we took off on the trail, walking about 3 miles to a campsite at the point where the Pratt River drains into the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River. We set up our tents, prepared a lunch and water for our day sacks, and then took off to start clearing trail. I didn’t count, but with Jim and Rich, our first day involved clearing about 5-8 trees. Some demanded a moderate strategy and multiple cuts in order to safely remove the tree from the trail. Unlike standing trees, the fallen timber may be under considerable tension with bending, shearing and forces of torsion, which could lead to highly dangerous situations if one were not adequately prepared. Jim taught me much about the safest way to attack a log. After cutting a large log, one still had to move it from the trail. Somehow, we were able to move even enormous logs off the trail by sitting on our butts and pushing the logs with our legs out of the way. Some logs were quite complex to remove, and one situation was a cluster of three logs piled on top of each other, all 2-3 feet in diameter, and all under considerable tension. When fallen logs are under tension, one cannot just saw through the log, because as soon as the saw achieves some depth into the wood, the timber starts to close in on the saw, causing it to jamb. In such a situation, three to five cuts need to be made through the timber, with the space between hacked out with an axe. This means that a large log could take ½ a day just to make a single cut entirely through the log. Here is an example of that occurring on the complex log cluster, with one log already cleared.

Jim supervising, with Don and Rich working the 6 foot crosscut saw. Monty stands off in the distance.

The first day was a bit drizzly, and we were very wet walking through intense underbrush covering the trail. It dried out by afternoon, and the next few days were sunny. We were under a dense forest canopy, and so I didn’t need sunglasses or suntan lotion. The work was intense enough that by afternoon, we would be through several liters of water, and the first order of business on returning to camp was to purify more water from the river.

On the third day, Jim was not feeling well at the end of the day, and after some deliberation, decided that he needed to return home a day early. LeeAnne needed to accompany him out for his safety, but was worried enough about Jim, that she asked me to go with, being that I was a doctor and would have a clue if Jim took a turn for the worse. Carrying some of Jim’s belongings, we got him out safely, and I followed him to North Bend, stopping at a McDonalds to get him some root beer, which seemed to pink up his color considerably.  I felt bad leaving the work crew a ½ day early, and hope that the remainder of the crew all got out safely.

Thoughts on the adventure

  1. My opinion of the WTA skyrocketed. They are not just a lame tree-hugging society, but they really care about people, about trails, and about nature.  I had no clue as to how hard it was to clear a trail, as to how much was performed by volunteers, and as to how dedicated many of these volunteers were, some doing 10 or more work projects per year. It makes my adventure look rather trite.
  2. I know that I need to do more of these, and will try to encourage others to get involved at least one a year on a work party. Anybody that enjoys trails should at least once in a while get out and help with the WTA mission, or with Oregon Trailkeepers and other groups that do this sort of work.
  3. I will be MUCH more prepared next time. I don’t need to bring my ultra-light equipment, but instead have my more durable backpack equipment. Three to seven miles is not too far to walk with a 40-50 lb pack, and a few creature comforts would have helped. My ultralight air mattress had a seam tear out, which meant that there ended being a large bulge in my air mattress making it very uncomfortable to sleep the second night. I will bring a more durable air mattress next time. I will also try to develop a little better first aid kit for the types of problems that might happen on a trail. That might add a pound of weight, but should be tolerable. I’ll possibly also take a refresher course in advanced wilderness life support, offered by the Wilderness Medical Society.
  4. I continue to develop thoughts on the concept of “wilderness”. Perhaps certain rules are a touch crazy, like forbidding trail workers to use mechanized machinery (chain saws, etc.) to maintain existing trails. I wonder how many tree huggers are secretly appreciate the dynamite used to create the Kendall Katwalk, or the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River gorge. I will probably write more on this later, devoting a single blog to my random thoughts on this issue.
  5. I will NEVER again hike a trail without realizing the blood, sweat, and tears that it took to build and maintain that trail. To that I end with my blog with a word of appreciation to all the trail societies (like the WTA, PTCA, Rainier volunteers) that keep up our parks and mountain playgrounds. To the WTA, I might add, sicherlich auf wiedersehen, certainement à bientôt, surely I’ll be seeing you again on a work party.

 

 

Tagged with:
No Comments »
preload preload preload