Week 1: Olympic National Park

Hey everyone! I did this post in kind of a journal format, so it is easy to see from day to day! Let me know what you think, or if I should make it a little more cohesive. Thanks! It has been a blast so far. I might be laying low the next couple days as me left heel is a little busted up, but I’ll keep everyone updated!

Jan 21’st: Port Angeles, Washington – Olympic Hot Springs

Today was a day of farewells. First, after scarfing down as big a breakfast my stomach could handle, I waved goodbye to Gail and my seven favourite new dogs (you met two of them, Ghost and Morpheus, in the last update) as my Dad and I pulled out of her property while the sun slowly rose over the Olympics to our South. After this my Dad drove me to the end of driveable road down the Erwha Valley, which leads towards the hot springs and into the Olympic National Park. We waved hugged and he slowly pulled away, I started down the road with my monster bag weighing in at fifty-sixty pounds at an estimate. The sky was bright and a mountain shone in the gap in the trees made by the road. Most of the hike in was actually road; it was closed due to a washout not far ahead.

Along the way I was passed by several bicyclists, who evidently frequently did daytrips up to the springs. I had some gorgeous mountain views along the way; fortunate to have a mostly clear day to start. The temperature dropped as I climbed, which led to a few icy bridge crossings that were still fairly manageable.

About 16 kilometers and 5 hours later I arrived at the hot springs and set up camp. The hot springs would be more accurately described as warmish springs but it was still a nice dip and I had it all to myself as all the cyclists had gone down for the night. I had my first of many cardboardish tasting porridges for dinner (although it starts to grow on you). Two things I noticed immediately that night were the cold and dark; which I know sound obvious. The cold was fairly easy to manage with smart layering. However, the lack of daylight hours in Winter in the mountains has been a continuing struggle, as I only have so many hours in the day to accomplish things before I have to quickly set up camp. I have actually been breaking down camp in the dark and leaving at first light. All this said, doing this in Summer would have been way to easy, so here we are!

Waving goodbye as I head into the mountains
Slowly getting better at selfies above the Erwha River
Made it to the Hot Springs!
VERY Excited
My first camp

Jan 22’nd: Olympic Hot Springs – Erwha Valley Entrance

I drearily got out of my tent to a damp, cold, dark (this makes it sound worse than it is it was still lovely, these are just the things that were happening) morning by the hot springs. I treated myself to more mush (this is what I’ve renamed anything that is porridge or oatmeal related) for breakfast. I was looking at doing Appleton Pass this day, I had been given contradicting advice by people on the way up as to the conditions and feasibility of it. So, I figured I would go up for a bit and turn back if it looked bad or I was making slow progress. A little over an hour later I was turned back. I was alone, under a severe daylight crunch, and the snow was already building up despite being far below the elevation of the pass. The river I came across that was at least knee deep with no way around was just the final nail in the coffin, and ended up being my turn around point.

I started the long walk down around 9:45. The weather was not nearly as nice and I only saw one other person coming up as I went down. Just before I arrived at the Gilles Canyon overlook I stumbled across a doe and two almost fully-grown fawns. It had started raining quite hard at this point, so I attempted to seek shelter under the entrance to the locked bathroom by the outlook. Unfortunately, after half an hour it was still pouring down; besides it was much lighter on the path under the cover of the trees, so I continued on. I got to the ranger’s cabin a couple of kilometers from the entrance where I left from yesterday, and was contemplating setting up camp but couldn’t find any great places so I carried on, and thank God I did! Right by the road closure my Dad had dropped me off at I found a large shed which I could set my tent up under and hang my wet stuff up in. I decided on cold beans for dinner; in order to save fuel. I listened to Guaranteed by Eddie Vedder (cliché I know, but I’m okay with it) as the rain drummed down peacefully on the roof and the trees swayed with the wind in the distance. Not a bad way to end the day.

First patches of snow as I head up toward Appleton Pass
The river that turned me back down the hill
Waiting for the rain to stop….it didn’t
Cans were much more difficult to open from this point on (get it ;))

Jan 23’rd: Erwha Valley Entrance – Hoh Rainforest Visitor Centre

I woke up in my tent this morning fearful of what seemed to be the rain still going strong outside my shelter. But as I emerged from my tent I realized it was simply the Erwha river flowing across the road behind me. It was overcast and would rain on and off throughout the day, but nothing to the extent of the day before. I got a short two or three minute lift to the main highway, and then started my first hitchhiking leg of the journey. I think after this post I will start to ask if I may take pictures of my drivers, as I think it will give a more human aspect to sections like this. First Chris gave me a ride from the Hot Springs road to Barnes Point, where he works getting kids involved in the National Parks; many school groups come out to visit his center. Then from Barnes Point to the Sol Duc entrance road I got a ride from Logan, who is working on setting up his own campground there, close to Crescent Lake. After this Dan gave me a ride from Sol Duc all the way to Forks, where he was picking up some old fishing equipment. He is also hoping to get a new liver soon even though he is not very high up on the list, and he used to work in the mineral exploration industry in Alaska, just like I do in the Yukon. We bonded over bear stories in that part of the world.

In Forks, I made my first purchase of the trip, a $1.25 can opener. I had broken the tip off my knife trying to get into my beans the night before, I figured this would be a worthy investment based on the amount of canned food in my future. Unfortunately, that night my one dollar can opener immediately broke on can of beans number two. I’ve since gone back to hacking at the cans with my broken knife and hoping I don’t cut off a finger.

I got a ride out of Forks to the beginning of the Hoh road from Teresa, who wasn’t even planning on going that way! She also gave me $13 to put towards the cause, all the money she had in her pocket! (Remember if you’d like to donate the link is at the top of the page). She’s currently getting an online business degree out of her trailer, while at the same time working four days a week at a store down Hoh road. One thing that I really have come to love about hitchhiking is you get a little insight into random stranger’s lives. For some reason people are fairly likely to tell someone they’ve just picked up something personal, and it definitely makes you realize every person’s world is just as radiant (weird word choice but I’m sticking with it) as your world is to you.

I hiked the first six miles down the road until I got a ride from Ashley and her 10ish? year old son Omeran. They live down Hoh road and it is fairly remote; Omeran had just got a whetstone for his new knife and they were driving back from that pickup. Omeran loves science! He had just learned about Avogadro’s number, which I didn’t hear of until grade 12; he also loves the outdoors and was really interested about my work in the Yukon. They gave me a ride to the road closure further down; I then hiked the last six miles to the Hoh visitor center, where the trails start from; along the way I watched a bat chase around insects above me in the dying light. It was totally dark by the time I arrived, so like 5:30 or so. I was still in bed by 8:30 though, occasional boredom from lack of daylight hours and lack of things for me to do after dark has occurred. However, there was a canopy with a light on outside the visitor centre, as well a working power outlet! This was amazing, as I haven’t had to dip into my portable charger at all so far. Everything was sore upon my arrival after three days of decent miles with my heavy pack. I had some blisters on my feet, but I assume these will improve as I break into my new hiking boots.

Saying goodbye to the Elwha Valley
Chris! My first ride!
The abandoned entrance station to the Hoh Rainforest 
Beans for dinner! Nice to have shelter with the rain coming down outside.

Jan 24’th Hoh Rainforest Visitor Centre – Olympus Guard Station (Campground)

As I set out from my well-lit and electrified camp spot in the morning, it was overcast but not raining, making it a perfect temperature for hiking. The ten mile or so trail between the visitor centre and Olympus guard station is in very rough condition. This admittedly made it seem a lot longer than ten miles. There were multiple washouts that required me to take my boots and socks off, hike up my pants and go right through the river or puddle that was in my way, as there was no way around. As well, due to the same massive windstorm that hit coastal British Columbia before Christmas there are downed trees everywhere! Most are easily surmountable, but the odd one is massive! These big ones also brought down other smaller trees with them, leading to one ginormous mess of plant matter. There obstructions all required their own unique work arounds to find my way back to the trail. During one such incident, I leaped and landed directly on a sizable blister on my left foot, which led to me limping the last three miles into camp. I actually got to the station in six hours, but it felt like much longer.

One window on the ranger station at the campground was left unlocked. I squeezed my bag into it, and then fell through headfirst. I would set up my sleeping bag inside tonight and make this my home for the next couple days. Here I shamelessly raided the shelf marked ‘community food’; all that was really there that was still edible was a little bit of oatmeal and one freeze dried meal of scrambled eggs. Most of the food was marked from 2015 or earlier. However, I did sweep their floor and refill their water, so in my mind we’re pretty much even. In relation to my raiding, this was the first night that I went to bed hungry, I did eat dinner but the portion sizes I can afford on five dollars a day are not enough to keep me full. But hey, if it was easy you wouldn’t be reading this!

So this is the trail…..
Boot came off for this part of the trail
But I’m chugging along!
Some big trees came down in the windstorm!
Found home for the next couple nights!

Jan 25’th: Elk Lake

As I shimmied my way out the window of the cabin (the door was locked from the outside making this my only way in or out) I was treated to two beautiful sights. First it was an amazing weather day, only a couple of clouds were in the sky, it was a brisk and clear morning. Secondly, I was only about 30 meters away from a herd of elk grazing around the campgrounds. By a quick head count I would guess there were about ten of them, and they were big majestic beasts. I think we startled each other, which happens when people are falling out of windows, we both stood there staring the other down. After the initial shock of me appearing out of nowhere they went back to their grazing, which allowed me to sit back and take it all in for a couple minutes. I then approached closer to try to get a picture for you guys and as I got too close they all took off at once. (I apologize for the terrible quality picture, I did my best promise). They settled down further away from me than they started, and I set out on a hike in the opposite direction, never to see them again.

That day I headed along the trail further away from the visitor centre, towards Mount Olympus, the highest peak in the Olympic range. The trail on this side of the guard station seemed to be less effected by the windstorm, as there were far less downed trees. I made my way up six miles to Elk Lake (there were two trails I was thinking of exploring, I guess I was drawn this way due to my morning encounter), it was well worth the hike; WOW! I wish my phone camera did these landscapes any justice. I walked out on a log half submerged in the frozen lake, which was set against the trees illuminated by the sun (finally!), which were set against the snowy peaks of the Olympic mountains. For whatever reason “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” by Fall Out Boy came on just as I got there, (I could use my phone liberally because I knew I had power at the visitor center) so I sang and danced there on the frozen lake under the mountains, it was beautiful.

This was the furthest I would explore into the national park, it seemed like a fitting point to turn around. Would I have liked to go a few miles further and get a view of Mount Olympus? Of course! But once again, like back at Appleton Pass, the daylight crunch and the first patches of snow appearing caused me to make the decision to turn around. It wasn’t such a bad way to end. I got hungry on the way down and dipped deeper into my food supply than my rations provided for, but I didn’t care I was riding high. I got back by three o’clock and still had half an hour of direct sunlight on the front of “my” cabin before it dipped below the ridgeline to my South. I took this opportunity to hang up my more wet clothes and just stood there soaking in the rays. My body is still a little sore, I feels like I banged my left foot on the hike down as it is fairly sore, and I still have blisters. For dinner, I treated myself to the scrambled eggs and bacon I had found, I was literally almost drooling while it was cooking in the bag. Then I went to bed, NOT hungry.

Very high quality photo I know
Making my way along the riverbed
Elk Lake: Not a bad view at all!
Attempting to dry my pants with the little bit of sunlight I had left

Jan 26’th: Olympus Guard Station – Hoh Rainforest Visitor Centre

As I threw my bag out the window of the cabin for the last time and squeezed out after it I looked around for my elk friends where they had been the morning before. Alas, they were no longer around, which was a mild disappointment. However, I consoled myself with the fact that it was another beautiful day and headed back the way I had come from originally. Not a lot new to report seeing as I hiked the same trail already; still in pretty poor condition. It was just nice to finally have a little sunshine in my life. Because the Hoh river runs along the South side of the trail and there being no trees in the river, there were sections where I had direct sunlight hitting my side as I hiked, it was wonderful. Unfortunately, it feels like I must have pulled something in my back-left heel, I noticed it the day before and it was mildly painful as I hiked and occasionally limped along the trail.

This time when I got to the visitor centre I set up my sleeping gear inside the first doors of the entrance, instead of under the canopy outside. This way I could go for a small walk around the area without my heavy bag (although less so now as the food diminishes). It turned out to be a very good idea. As I walked past the large pond by the centre, a big blue heron flew out of it into a tree above, where it stood watching me. Not five minutes later a bald eagle soared over my head. I had the last of my scavenged oatmeal for dinner, and settled down to start writing this out. I promise to stop complaining about it after this but I am hungry! From this point on unless mentioned otherwise just assume that I am hungry. Not horrible stabbing pains, but more of a constant nagging. As it turns out, rather unsurprisingly, five dollars a day is not enough to keep me full, especially with the amount of hiking I’ve been doing. I may have to dial back my physical activity, which just leads to having less stuff to do. But oh well! Part of the challenge! At least I only have to deal with this for three months, some people do their whole lives. Remember, if you’d like to donate the link is above!

Lunch in the sunshine along the Hoh River
Working on the blog in my cozy entranceway 

Jan. 27’th: Hoh Rainforest Visitor Centre – Lake Quinault

As I was chowing down on my porridge for breakfast, I was quite surprised to see a white van rolling around the parking lots by the visitor centre. As far as I knew the road was still closed because of the government shutdown. I didn’t think much of it and they didn’t seem to notice me. My second surprise of the day came only a couple minutes after I had started hiking back up the road towards highway 101 and the way South. I was greeted by another herd of elk grazing in the morning mist along the road, perhaps as many as twenty of them this time. They are BIG creatures. These ones, perhaps because they are closer to roads and more people than the other herd, were much less skittish and I ended up quite a bit closer to them. I actually was doing my best to avoid coming into super close contact with them, but some of the more stubborn ones refused to move off the road, so I hugged the shoulder and tiptoed nervously by them.

I hiked the six miles out to the road closure, and was met there by a park ranger. He was heading back to work for the first time in a while. Evidently the van I saw earlier was some of his employees, we talked about the conditions of the trails and I carried on. After another mile of hiking I was picked up by a nice fellow named Gene. He was planning on fishing up river but the road had not been reopened to civilians yet, despite the shutdown being over. He drove me the rest of the way out of the Upper Hoh Road and down the highway South for a couple miles. I was then picked up by Shannon and Greg, who were technically on the job as they work along the Hoh River shuttling people’s cars to pick up points while they drift down the river fishing. They only brought me eight miles South, but I absolutely took them up on their offer. Every little bit counts! Finally, Dick Martin picked me up and brought me all the way to the entrance road to Quinault. He was on his way to babysit his two granddaughters in Vancouver, Washington for a week. He was quite the character! He had his golf clubs and one of his many guitars in the back. He plays in a blues band and has more string instruments than I knew existed. Including but not limited to; guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and many more.

I hiked into Quinault and at the little village shop bought my first groceries of the trip! Five cans of beans for $1.50 each; very exciting I know! I chatted with a few of the locals and then set up camp under a shelter along the lakeshore. Next, I wandered into town to pick up Wi-Fi and charge some stuff as I poked around in the local, and very nice, lodge. There I met Ron and his cute black schnauzer, Lily. We chatted in the lodge for a while about all kinds of things, his time working as an army medic in Korea, me biking across Vietnam and how they compared. (Obviously very different as we discovered.) As well as what I am doing currently; travelling around and my challenge in support of people in Nepal. He ended up slipping me a 20, which a would love to put towards the donation counter, but he insisted I use it on myself. Which, at the end of the day, I am not particularly upset about. There could be a hot meal indoors in my near future, hopefully something involving fruit, which is no longer a part of my diet. I will save it for a special occasion. Thank you very much Ron!

Saying bye to another park
Some slightly more photogenic elk
Almost to Quinault!
Very excited about beans!
IMG_20190127_151424 (1).jpg
Even did a photoshoot against Lake Quinault!

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