Monday, November 30, 2020

Day 78: A dull and uneventful day....

August 26: I woke up and hit the trail a little after 8:00 in the morning. The trail began with a long, steep descent to the Dosewallips River. Or rather near the river--the trail itself stayed above the steep canyon that the river snaked down and I wouldn't actually see the river itself through the trees until near the end of the day despite spending most of the day practically a stone's throw away from it.

The steep downhill to the Dosewallips River was a bit overgrown (as seen here) and had a few blowdowns (not seen here) that I had to navigate.

The steep trail down to the river valley had several blowdowns that required scrambling to get around and sections were overgrown, but nothing super bad. More of an annoyance than a problem. But once I hit the Dosewallips River trail, the trail was in great condition.

And once I reached the valley bottom, the trail was mostly flat. Technically, it followed the river upstream, but so gradually that it was barely noticeable. For the rest of the day, the trail was essentially flat for all intents and in very good condition.

But I saw absolutely nobody on the trail. One hour passed. Then another. Then another. Finally, a little before noon, a jogger came up from behind me--the first person I had seen in nearly 24 hours. And it wasn't even a backpacker, but just someone out for a run! 

He asked if there were any good viewpoints or some sort of good point to turn around before he returned to the trailhead where he started, but nothing on my map suggested anything of interest anytime soon. Just a lot of trees in the bottom of a steep valley. He jogged on passed me.

I saw him again about a half hour later jogging back in the opposite direction.

"Any nice viewpoints up ahead?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said, a little disappointed. At least it wasn't a busy, crowded trail, even if there was nothing particularly remarkable about it. A nice walk (or for him, jog) in the woods. =)


I took a break at the Deception Creek campsite and was eating a Clif Bar when several people with a caravan of horses arrived. And given the trail tools the horses carried and the helmets that looked suspiciously like the ones given out by the Washington Trails Association (WTA), I asked if they were with the WTA.

Indeed, they were, part of a backcountry response crew to log out a bunch of blowdowns ahead. Blowdowns?! Say it isn't so!

But fortunately for me, the blowdowns weren't along the route I was following, but a side trail up one of the intersecting trails. As far as they knew, the trail ahead where I would be traveling today was in good shape.

They also took a short break at the campsite, and I chatted with a couple of the WTA people for 5 or 10 minutes, sharing our war stories. I was curious how things might have changed for the work party due to the pandemic. None of them were wearing face masks, but while walking down the trail, they tended to space out. But that would happen before the pandemic as well. I told them I was hiking the PNT, which they had heard of, but they weren't exactly sure of its route through the area.

They ended up stopping to camp wild in the woods away from the established campsites, and I continued onward alone. I was a little envious that they had permission to camp away from the established campsites. I wanted to hike and camp wherever it best suited me rather than follow the strict permit system I had.

It wasn't until fairly late in the day that I started seeing regular old backpackers like myself on the trail, and then they were everywhere!

I arrived at my campsite at Dose Meadows a little after 5:00 in the afternoon, and the camp was filled with at least a dozen people spread all over the place. I took an empty site behind some trees with a nice view of the meadow and surrounding mountains and laid out to cowboy camp. I was a little surprised that the site wasn't taken already because it was quite nice and most of the others were camped in dark corners under thick trees, but another nearby camper told me that someone had been camped where I was and hadn't left until a half hour earlier. It was available only because they left after everyone else had already arrived.

That explains it, then, and I was glad for the lucky break. =)

And that was it for the day. I had covered about 12 miles, which was a fairly easy 12 miles. A largely dull and uneventful day!

The steep downhill slope had seemingly hundreds of switchbacks!

My suspicions that a PNT hiker left the "scary leaves" on the trail grew even more when I continued to find them on the trail today. Only a PNT hiker would likely hike from the Tubal Cain trailhead to the Dosewallips River trail! There was a PNT hiker somewhere ahead of me....

I couldn't figure out what that purple thing on the leaf was. Was it even alive?! Was it a weird animal poop? (It didn't move. At all.)

Home, sweet home!

View from my campsite

Friday, November 27, 2020

Day 77: Entrance to Olympic National Park

August 25: I slept in late. Starting today, I was on a strict schedule and needed to follow my permits which meant I could only hike 12 miles today. Easy peasy! So I slept in late because... why not? =)

Once I got going, though, the trail started climbing steadily, soon poking above tree line and opening up to wonderful views. There were plenty of switchbacks to make the climb gentle and the fog from yesterday had lifted leaving beautiful blue skies all around.

An hour or two into the day's hike, I stopped for a snack break. There was a nice log to sit on at a switchback, and I munched on some Wheat Thins. Two kids came up the trail behind me. The younger boy seemed nervous around me, stopping suddenly then cutting up the switchback rather than go completely around it past where I was. I felt a little bad that the kid seemed so scared of me, but I suppose it's good that he has a healthy suspicion of strangers.

His older sister paused briefly upon seeing me but decided it was okay to round the switchback despite my presence and she caught up with her brother.

A few minutes later, their dad and another child caught up and passed. The dad didn't hesitate at all, of course, and with dad around, neither did the child. We chatted for a minute or two, but not particularly long since they wanted to catch up with the other two kids. None of them carried heavy packs since it was clear they had camped nearby and were just out for a short day hike from their base camp.

And a few minutes later, I continued hiking. I caught up with the family at a wonderful viewpoint over the Dungeness River valley where I took another break mostly to admire the views, and the dad quizzed me a lot about the PNT. He seemed really fascinated with it and said he had dreamed about hiking across the Olympic Peninsula for years.

"It's definitely doable," I told him. "I'm doing it now!"

And I happened to mention that because of needing a permit through the national park, I even knew what day I would finish the trail--13 days from now. In 13 days, I'd be done! If all went well, of course....

The one little girl's eyes seemed to pop out at this pronouncement. "We're only out here for three days!" she told me. She seemed incredulous that anyone could be out in the woods for more than three days--as if that was some sort of hard limit to being outdoors. She was adorable. =)


Eventually, I continued onward, passing each other a couple of more times along the route as we stopped for breaks along the way.

Then I took another break at Marmot Pass and went to pull out my Wheat Thins, but they were missing! How did this happen? Oh, the humanity! I realized that I must have left them behind at my first snack break when I pulled them out. They were probably sitting on that log miles back. I certainly wasn't going to backtrack to get them, but I felt bad leaving food behind that some squirrel would likely eat and the plastic bag that was now trash. I hoped when the family turned back, they'd see it and pack it out for me. They would know it was probably left by me since they had passed me while I was snacking on them, and they knew I wouldn't be coming back for it.

I had enough food in my pack that I certainly wasn't going to starve, but I was really saddened at my unexpected loss.

At Marmot Pass, I started seeing some day hikers arrive from another direction so a parking lot couldn't have been very far away, and a woman who just arrived asked if I had any duct tape she could use. One of her shoes was falling apart and she had already wrapped duct tape around it to keep it together but didn't have anymore. I dug through my pack and pulled out a small roll I carried which I handed off to her. She seemed almost surprised that I had duct tape--like she thought it was a long-shot but had nothing to lose by asking. I'm sure not every backpacker carries it, but it's hardly uncommon either!

I had expected that she'd probably start walking back to the trailhead from which she arrived--her shoe was in no condition to keep hiking!--but to my surprise, she kept climbing, following her two teenage children higher up the ridge. I hoped she wouldn't have to resort to hiking back barefooted, but it wasn't my problem anymore.

I continued onward, down a steep slope toward Boulder Shelter where I took another rest. I was taking a lot more breaks than I really needed since I only needed to cover 12 miles for the day, and it was nice taking my time.

Boulder Shelter

But I may have lulled myself into a false sense of security because what I didn't realize at the time was that the trail was about to become a heck of a lot more difficult. I hadn't really taken a close look at my topo maps to realize what was ahead.

Once I passed the Boulder Shelter, the trail soon crossed the boundary into Olympic National Park--and ascended thousands of feet toward Constance Pass. And the condition of the trail deteriorated badly. Parts were overgrown and rocky, and the nice, wide switchbacks before turned into brutal climbs with minimal switchbacks. My progress slowed considerably, and a heavy pack with a week of food didn't help.

I also saw no other hikers once I passed Boulder Shelter. The entire second half of the day I didn't see a single living soul. Now it felt like I was in a true wilderness, off the grid and completely alone.

Which was a little surprising to me. Olympic National Park is a hugely popular destination for backpackers, and immediately upon entering it, I don't see a single person the rest of the day. Where are all the crowds I always hear about?! Clearly not in this part of the park.

Late in the day, my shoulders were hurting from all the weight in my pack and the steep climb to Constance Pass wore me out, and cold, menacing clouds began blowing in. It was a relief to finally reach Constance Pass--and the views were awesome despite the menacing clouds blowing in--but I was a little disappointed when I realized that the trail would continue climbing upwards. Usually when the trail reaches a pass, you start going downhill on the other side. But not this time. No, instead of going down the other side, it started climbing the ridge to the right.

View from Constance Pass

I finally did reach the high point of the trail another mile or two later at which point the trail started descending steeply and rapidly--which was a much bigger threat to my health and well-being than climbing uphill. Downhills are where I'm much more likely to sprain an ankle and otherwise hurt myself regardless of how careful I am, and now I was tired and exhausted.

From the high point, the trail actually descended more than 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) to the valley bottom at the Dosewallips River in just a few miles. I, thankfully, didn't have to descend the entire distance today, however, since my assigned campsite was near the tree line closer to the top than the bottom--but I still had to descend over a thousand feet to Sunnybrook Camp.

Perhaps a half hour later, I reached a small meadow with a sign reading "Sunnybrook Meadows" and there were clearly some illegal campsites built nearby. Or so I thought they were illegal.... According to both my topo map and GPS, Sunnybrook Camp was still ahead of me near Sunnybrook Creek. The campsites near Sunnybrook Meadows were absolutely lovely, but I wanted to respect the rules and pushed onward to the campsite.

I reached Sunnybrook Creek. But... there weren't any campsites near it. At least none that I could find. I walked a little bit further down the trail--surely it was around here somewhere--but after about five minutes, I knew I must have missed the camp. Now I was deep in the trees on a steep downhill slope that would have been all but impossible to host a campground. The 'illegal' camps must have actually been the campsite! Why didn't they put up a sign labeling it Sunnybrook Camp?! Argh!

According to both my map and GPS, my campsite was supposed to be near Sunnybrook Creek. But I didn't find any evidence of a campsite near here. Very annoying!

I had absolutely no intention of backtracking uphill back to the campsite--even if it was far better than anything around these parts. Nope, I'd set up camp directly on the trail if I had to before I backtracked to the lovely campsites I had walked past earlier.

But it didn't come down to that. I found a small place under a tree that was flat and just big enough for me to cowboy camp. It wasn't a great campsite, though, with branches hovering just a few feet above my head. It was very tiny and claustrophobic, and dark under the thick branches just overhead. Not a pleasant campsite--and an illegal one, at that! *shaking head*

But I was done for the day and completely and totally exhausted. The last half of the way really wore me out. According to my GPS, I wound up hiking 13.3 miles for the day (a little more than a mile than I had expected having overshot my target campsite), but the total elevation gains and losses added up to a whopping 8,000 feet (2,400 meters)--maybe double what I had been expecting for the day. I made a mental note to pay more attention to elevation gains and losses in the future.

However, I was done for the day. Tired, perhaps, but without injuries. I should sleep well tonight. =)

But before I could sleep, I needed to do some sewing repairs on my pack. A tear was forming near the top of my pack and I kept putting off repairs for awhile--I hate sewing. Especially by hand. But this particular tear got significantly worse during the day and I couldn't put it off any further, so I spent the better part of an hour getting it fixed up. Hopefully the fix would hold for 2 1/2 weeks. By then, I'll be off the trail and it wouldn't matter anymore. =)

Lots of nice, wide switchbacks in the first half of the day make hiking fast and pleasurable! =)

The trail became a lot more overgrown and challenging (with fewer switchbacks) upon entering Olympic National Park. After this point, I struggled a lot more.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Day 76: Feeding bears and hunting plane wrecks!

August 24: In the morning, I walked over to Safeway to resupply for the next 8 days and packed up my pack. Then Amanda and I checked out of the motel.

I only needed to complete about 5 miles of trail today. Strictly speaking, I could probably get by without any hiking at all, but knocking off 5 or so miles today would make tomorrow that much easier. My permit for the Olympics specified where I needed to camp starting tomorrow night. Tonight, I could camp anywhere between the Tubal Cain trailhead and the border of Olympic National Park--as long as I covered about 16 miles within the next two days, I was on schedule.


But Amanda had to leave to go back to work, which meant I had to get back to the trail today--even if I didn't really need to do any hiking today. So my plan was a short, 7 or 8 miles, which definitely didn't require an early start.

So, rather than head immediately back to the trail, we went to the nearby Olympic Game Farm which is basically like a drive-thru zoo. You're also allowed to buy loaves of bread to feed the animals.

We got two loaves of bread. I imagine the animals have to get bored of the bread--all of the vehicles were throwing bread out the windows. Some of the animals seemed to love it. Some of them seemed not to care. 

The bears, we were amused, almost universally picked up a slice of bread, took it to a nearby pool of water, and dunked the bread before eating it. Their version of milk and cookies, I guess. =) I was a little disappointed when I checked my videos later and realized that I never actually got a video of this particular behavior. It wasn't just one bear, either--it was all the bears! Except for one that didn't seem to have any water nearby to dunk it. Every other bear made a specific point of dunking the bread before eating it, though.

The enclosures with the buffalo and elk had signs warning not to stop because those animals could and would damage vehicles, so we were a little surprised that pretty much everyone seemed to ignore those signs and were perfectly happy to stop as bunches of buffalo crowded around their vehicle trying to get food. One of them in particular looked like a brand-new vehicle. That was brave, I thought. I turned to Amanda, "This is why we never like new cars. If your vehicle gets a dent, nobody would even notice!" =)

After checking out all of the animals and running out of bread to feed them, we headed back into Sequim to grab lunch before Amanda returned me to the trailhead. We decided to try the Jack in the Box again with the outdoor tables, but checked out the tables before going through the drive-thru to make sure it was clear of smokers, and they were.

We headed through the drive-thru, got our lunch, then parked and carried it out to the tables. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, an employee stepped out and started to smoke. Argh! She kept her distance, but it wasn't far enough away to avoid the smoke. 

We finished up, then started the drive back to the Tubal Cain trailhead where Amanda dropped me off. She was anxious to get home and it was going to be at least a few hours of driving for her.

So I put on my pack and started hiking.

Almost immediately, I noticed some strange leaves on the ground that looked like they were turned into faces. The first one I saw, I thought... maybe a coincidence? But then it was followed by another one. And another.

The leaves are watching us....

And I knew it was evidence of a PNT hiker. I had seen a photo of this type of "trail art" on a PNT Facebook group last year and figured whoever did it then was back at it this time. Probably one (or more) of the four PNT hikers that I knew hadn't been far behind me. They probably passed me when I had gotten off at the Tubal Cain trailhead. There were fellow PNT hikers around, though! I was excited at the prospect of meeting them and hoped that their permits required them to do a short day soon that would allow me to catch up.

Tubal Cain is an old, abandoned mine on the trail, but the most interesting feature of this trail, or rather, a little off from the trail, is the remains of a B-17 that crashed on January 19, 1952, in blizzard conditions while returning from a search for another plane that had wrecked. Of the 8 men on board, 3 were killed. The 5 survivors were rescued the next day.

But, more important for modern-day hikers, the wreck was left in place to be explored.

And since I had such a short distance to walk, I figured I could easily do the 1/2-mile off-trail hike to visit the plane wreck. Why not?! Then I would find somewhere to camp.

I had actually been out there 6 years earlier with Amanda when she had heard about the wreck and wanted to visit it, but I didn't remember much about the trail that led to the hike except that was surprisingly steep and sketchy. We had camped nearby, but went up to the wreck one at a time so as not to leave our campsite unattended and let squirrels and other critters (or bears!) get into our food. 

So I reached a point on the trail where I saw a small trail leading steeply up the hillside to the left and I thought that must be it. I followed it for about 15 minutes, and it was absolutely horrible. More of a bushwhack than anything. Did the trail grow over more? I was starting to lose track of the trail--it would disappear and fade then I'd see a hint of one further up, but at this point I wasn't even sure if I was still going in the correct direction and finally decided to call it quits. I was a little disappointed not to find the airplane wreck.

I returned to the main trail and continued along, eventually reaching the intersection with the Tull Canyon junction where I met a woman hiking in from the other direction. She was looking for the mine shaft, and I told her I thought it was just up the trail a stone's throw away, and we walked up to check it out and sure enough, there it was.

She also wanted to see the airplane wreck, though, and said she thought it was further up the trail. Really? This trail? I remembered the trail I used 16 years ago looking more like a game trail than a real trail, but this was a real trail! She wasn't 100% certain that the airplane wreck was up this trail, but was going to check it out anyhow just in case.

I decided to do the same. The trail was steep but not nearly as difficult as I remembered from my first visit so I still had doubts if this was the correct direction until we met two people coming down the trail from the other direction who confirmed that yes, we were heading the correct direction for the airplane wreck. Awesome!

And maybe 15 minutes after leaving the PNT, I saw the large piece of wreckage off the side of the trail. I had found the wrecked B-17. I took the necessary photos and looked around a bit. I was surprised the first time I saw the wreck how recent some of the parts looked, and I still found it surprising today. The tires haven't decomposed at all in the past 68 years, and some of the metal looked as shiny and new as if it came out of the factory yesterday. 

B-17 wreck

Then I headed back down to the PNT. The morning had been warm and sunny, but as I hiked, a layer of fog settled in and it was becoming cold and damp. Initially I thought about hiking a few more miles before setting up camp but decided to stop at the next good spot I found. With the fog, there wouldn't be any views to admire and maybe the views would be better tomorrow, and I still only had to complete maybe 12 miles tomorrow. Easy peasy! So I figured it was okay to quit early after completing a mere 4.6 miles according to my GPS.

But I didn't have enough steps by the time I set up camp! I've been in the habit of getting at least 10K steps for years. It has, quite literally, been years since I've taken fewer than 10,000 steps in a day, but I found myself 3,000 steps short by the time I decided to set up camp. So I walked circles around my campsite for about an hour, which was kind of an annoyance. But at least I wasn't carrying my heavy pack to do it! =)

And that was the end of another adventurous day!

Amanda waves goodbye. If all goes well, I wouldn't see her again until the end of the trail!

Some more "leaf people"--I won't share all of the leaf people I saw, though. I got tired of taking photos of them all!

I thought this one looked more like the starship Enterprise rather than an actual face!

An abandoned mine shaft with the anonymous woman I met who volunteered to be in my photo to give more scale to the mine shaft. =)

'Twas a lovely place to camp! =)

Monday, November 23, 2020

Day 75: A boring day on the trail

August 23: The night was uneventful and I hit the trail at around 8:30. There wasn't a big rush. The plan for today was that I'd hike about 12 miles to the Tubal Cane trailhead where Amanda would pick me up and take me back into town. Strictly speaking, I didn't really need to go back into town for anything, but tomorrow Amanda would be leaving and I would be offline and on my own until my next resupply point in another 10 days. It seemed like I should take the opportunity to get in one last shower and catch up with whatever emails and work that I needed to deal with while I could. And anyhow, because of my permits, I needed to cover about 5 miles tomorrow. I could get off the trail today and get back on tomorrow--while still taking more than 24 hours off the trail!

So that was the plan.

And today's hike was completely uneventful. The trail was mostly flat, easy and in good condition. I traveled along it quickly and efficiently, burning up the miles like a campfire.

And a few hours later, I arrived at the Tubal Cain trailhead, not having seen a single person on the trail the entire day.

The trailhead, however, was packed with people and cars. It seemed like there were a hundred vehicles parked all over the place. The Tubal Cain trailhead is a popular one, but not for the trail that I arrived in from

We then drove back to Sequim for the night, checking into the same motel where we stayed two nights earlier and even getting the same room we had two nights earlier. 

I was a little disappointed to know that the four PNT hikers behind me on the trail would likely pass the Tubal Cain trailhead before I returned. They were probably only 5 or 10 miles behind me at most and would almost certainly pass before I returned. But they had permits to deal with as well and maybe they'd have to slow down to meet their permit schedule.

For lunch, we stopped at the Black Bear Diner and dined on the outdoor patio which was a nice place to hang out for a bit, then we retired back to the hotel room where I spent most of the evening working on Atlas Quest. Like I said, a boring day!