“Remember now. What’s the first thing you do if you see a bear on the trail?”
“Take its picture!”
It’s a silly little ha-ha routine we do each time one of us goes hiking without the other, and it never gets old, because we are total derps.
But when it finally happened, we were on a backpacking trip together, and the photo came second. Maybe even third.
I’d just crawled into the tent and zipped myself snugly into my sleeping bag, while Tim was still outside buttoning down our campsite for the night.
The noise came from the brush about 40 feet from our tent, and Tim walked toward it to investigate.
The perpetrator had gone at a large tree stump, probably in search of grubs. Tim locked eyes with him for a hot second, then turned toward me and said, “It’s a bear!” And that was enough commotion to make the bear rethink his position, so he started moving away at a pretty good clip, which is when Tim finally followed directions, and took a picture.
For real, y’all.
No, we do not know for sure that the bear was male. We based our assumption on information we were given at the ranger’s station when we registered for our camping permit that morning. There’d been reports of a mama bear and two cubs in the area, as well as a lone juvenile male. Guessing ours was the latter.
So that’s the introduction to our most recent backpacking trip, August 27-29, in Olympic National Park. Of the three we’ve completed this month, this one offered the most jaw-dropping scenery, and the most wildlife sightings too!
Day 1: Orange path from Graves Creek Trailhead (A) to Enchanted Valley (B)
Day 2: Pink path from B to C and back
Day 3: Green path from B to A
Total mileage: about 40 (As usual, Tim’s app differed from my app, and the trail map gave us yet a third total, so we’ve guesstimated. Next time, maybe we’ll go old school and use our pedometers.)
Read this for a thorough description of the trail between A & B.
There are camping areas along the way to Enchanted Valley, but we chose to hike it all in one go, and even went beyond the 13.5-mile mark to find our home for the next two nights.
Along the way, we saw a herd of elk…
… and several Sooty Grouse.
Wow, it’s a wonder these birds have survived. They are slow and they seem kind of dumb, and I think a person with a quick arm could probably just reach out and grab one.
Anyone who brags about hunting them really has nothing to brag about!
If a tree falls in the forest, and your husband stands in front of it, does it still… OMG look at the size of that tree!
We’d hiked more than 13 miles, I was exhausted and hungry and had lost faith that we were ever going get there.
And then we stepped out of the thickest part of the forest and realized immediately why it’s called Enchanted Valley.
This chalet was built in the 1930’s, and has served as a travelers’ hostel, a WWII aircraft warning station, a ranger’s station, and a hikers’ shelter. In 2014 the chalet was moved 100 feet from the rapidly encroaching Quinault River as an effort to save it from destruction, and it has been closed to the public. Its future is in doubt.
The most recent official document I could find on the subject is here.
We set up camp here. See our green tent there on the left? And Tim sitting against a rock, wearing his black jacket?
Our water source, the Quinault River
My peaceful view, just before bedtime. Which was bear time!
On Day 2, we hiked out of the valley and up toward O’Neill Pass.
That’s the face I make when there’s a lot of up.
But lots of up usually pays off in views like this…
And look at me rocking the crossings this time!
(I had to crawl across one last time.)
We put in almost as many miles in two days as we’d put in over three days on our prior trips, and we still had about 15 miles to go the next day, so I spent some time with my feet up.
Tried to work a little Ansel Adams magic with the trees.
Guessing my way’s easier than his was.
Click. Tap. Done.
Sunrise on our final morning, as we were breaking camp
As we were heading out, this team of pack mules was heading in.
The ranger was on her way to help a field crew of 5 Washington Conservation Corps workers pack out of the Valley.
We’d spoken to one of those kids the day before; they’d been doing trail maintenance for 6 months as part of their AmeriCorps service.
One last look back, hoping that someday we’ll go back.
Descriptions of our other two Washington backpacking adventures: