Monday, December 7, 2020

Day 81: Demolished Dams and Hot Springs!

August 29: I woke up and hit the trail at around 8:00. Once again, I wasn't in a particular rush, but I didn't linger in camp because there was no sun and at this location, and likely wouldn't be for hours. If I was going to lounge around bored and cold, I'd rather do it in the middle of the day when it's warm and sunny.


I passed nobody along the trail, eventually reaching a trailhead at Whiskey Bend Road, a gravel road that had been closed to vehicular traffic. I wasn't sure if it was a temporary closure due to COVID-19 or a permanent one to allow wildlife to thrive more, but it meant there were no cars to disturb my day's hiking which is always a plus.

It was, however, disappointing to discover the toilets and trash bins had been locked closed. Oh, well. Not the end of the world, but still disappointing.

I followed the road a couple of more miles until it reached the east side of the Glines Canyon Dam. Or rather, what was left of the Glines Canyon Dam for it had been removed between 2011-14. This was no simple feat--the dam was over 200 feet (64 meters) tall and created a large lake behind it, known as Mills Lake. To date, it's the tallest dam ever demolished in the United States. The lake was now gone, but it was clear where the water level used to rise since no trees had yet to grow tall on the former lake bed and the coloring was a lighter shade of green than above the old water level.

The dam had been demolished to help the salmon population thrive along the Elwha River. They didn't remove the entire dam, however. Instead, they only removed the section that interfered with the river flow through the canyon. Now, both ends of the former dam are observation viewpoints which I stepped out on to enjoy the views. If you'd like to read a nice overview of this dam removal, the NPS has a nice page about it at along with information about the removal of the nearby Elwha Dam. (Both were removed at the same time, but the PNT doesn't go by the former Elwha Dam location.)

The part that annoyed me, however, was that the PNT passed directly on the other side of the dam. I could practically throw a rock and the trail on the other side--but I couldn't actually cross over to the other side since there was a 200-foot cliff down to the river below then back up to the other side. No, the PNT had to go around the long way, traveling about 2.5 miles along roads, cross the Elwha River over a vehicular bridge downstream before returning to the other side of the dam a stone's throw away. Just a small, little bridge to get us across would be nice. Or, even better, a zipline to glide across the narrow chasm. That would be cool. *nodding*

This spillway is all that's left of the Glines Canyon Dam. The PNT follows the road just on the other side, practically a stone's throw away. It was so annoying having to hike 2.5 miles just to reach the other side of this dam!

After taking photos and admiring the view, I continued onward, following the 2.5-mile detour around to the other side of the dam. About halfway around, I passed a ranger station and finally saw my first people of the day: two bicyclists heading up Olympic Hot Springs Road.

Although the road was closed to vehicular traffic, it was still open to bicyclists and these would be the first two of many, many bicyclists I would see for the next several hours. It seemed like at least a hundred bicyclists would pass me along this section of the road walk.

These first two stopped at the bridge over the Elwha River, and they asked if I happened to be carrying a hex wrench. I laughed, "No, I definitely don't have one of those. Definitely not a 10 essential!" I joked. "Not for someone without a bike, at least." =)

One of the girls was having some sort of trouble with her bike, but I was of no help. They must have fixed the problem, however, because they passed me further up the road.

I finally arrived at the west side of Glines Canyon Dam about an hour after leaving the east side, and once again walked out onto the observation deck to admire the views from the other side.

View from the other side of the dam,
looking out toward the former location of Mills Lake.

The sun was finally up and I had already reached more-or-less the halfway point for the day, so I pulled out my groundsheet and laid down in the shade to take a long break. I threw my solar charger in the sun to power up, then pulled out my phone to see if it worked. I was still out in the middle of nowhere, but the trail had veered far to the north and I wondered if I was close enough to civilization to get a signal. There used to be a big dam here, after all, with vehicles, electricity and it seemed possible there was a cell phone tower nearby.

So I powered on my phone to check and yes! I got a signal! It was the first time I've gotten a signal since getting back on the PNT at the Tubal Cain trailhead five or six days earlier. I made some phone calls to update friends and family with my progress, checked some email and other messages and checked the weather forecast.

Tomorrow night, I was disappointed to see, it was supposed to rain--but only during the night. And the 10-day forecast now extended to my expected finish date and, I was happy to see, except for the one night of rain, no rain ahead through the end of the trail. I punched the air. Yes!

I wound up spending a couple of hours lingering, reading my Kindle and eating snacks, and several bicyclists stopped to chat including two who were amazed to learn that I had walked here all the way from Montana and asked if I wanted some M&Ms. Well, okay.... since they twisted my arms. So I got a small bag of peanut M&Ms. =) They also asked if they could take some of my trash for me, and I was delighted to hand over the small bag I had readily available. There was a second ziplock bag of trash deep in my pack and inside my bear canister which was too much trouble to get out, although I'd have loved to lighten my load of that as well.

Eventually the shade disappeared and I grew miserably hot in the sun, so I packed up and continued hiking, but I only went a few miles before stopping again at an overlook of the former site of Mills Lake before taking another long rest. I just didn't want to make to my campsite too early in the day and be bored out of my mind. And anyhow, out here there was sun--which I couldn't be sure would be available at my campsite and I still wanted to charge my solar charger some more.

Overlook of the former location of Mills Lake. (That notch at the far end is where the dam was demolished.)

But eventually, I continued onward again.

I finally reached the end of the Olympic Hot Springs Road, which ends at a trailhead to a trail that leads surprise here...Olympic Hot Springs.

When I created my permit schedule, it included the Boulder Creek Camp which happened to be located right next to Olympic Hot Springs. I had no idea that this was the case when I made my schedule. I knew about the Olympic Hot Springs, but I didn't realize that the PNT went by it or even that there were campsites right next to it either. It was purely coincidental that I happened to pick that campsite, but I wouldn't have wanted to plan it any other way either!

It wasn't until two days earlier while I was reading ahead in my guidebook I realized I'd be camping by some hot springs again! And have all night long to soak in them. =)

It wasn't actually so much as luck that I wound up with the campsite, though. It was the last campsite available before the popular Sol Duc section of the park and there was absolutely nothing available for nearly 20 miles after that point. It was almost a certainty that I'd take this site due to the lack any availability ahead. 

The trail was closed to bicyclists, however, so there weren't any bikes once I hit the trail. Well, there weren't supposed to be bikes, but I could clearly see tire tracks on the trail so at least some people were flouting the rules. Most, however, seemed to respect them. I saw a pile of bicycles locked up at the trailhead for the bicyclists that wanted to continue further.

The end of the road walk!

I reached the campsite at about 4:30 that afternoon after 15.5 miles. I had taken a total of about 4 hours worth of breaks along the way. If I hiked through without stopping, I could have arrived as early as 12:30 in the afternoon! The days felt way too long for how short of distance I needed to cover.

The campground was under thick tree cover so very little sun reached the forest floor--not enough to throw out my solar charger anymore. It also felt way too early to have reached camp, but I was stuck to the permit system. This was where I was supposed to camp, so this was where I was going to camp.

Several bags were already hanging from the bear cables. Clearly, I wasn't going to be camping alone anymore. Not tonight, at least! I was amused to find one person had hung their bear canister from the bear cable. What? Why?! The whole point of carrying a bear canister is so you didn't have to hang food to keep it away from bears! Then I reconsidered and finally thought of a legitimate reason to hang a bear canister: to give people a good laugh. I laughed. And took a photo of it since I thought it was so hilariously funny. =)

Just in case you didn't know it, you do NOT have to hang
bear canisters from bear cables! =)

I selected a campsite and set up camp. I cooked an early dinner. Then put most of my food into my own bear canister (which I'd been carrying since getting back on the trail at the Tubal Cain trailhead knowing there were parts of the Olympics it would be required).

Then I packed a few leftover snacks, valuables, and a change of clothes into my pack which I carried out to the hot springs that were located perhaps a quarter-mile away.

The Olympic Hot Springs had a multitude of pools of varying sizes and temperatures. There were people in some of them, but most of the ones I checked out were empty so after checking the water temperature, I took a nice pool for myself, stripped, and slipped into the water.

The water was a bit hotter than I preferred. Apparently, my hand had a higher tolerance for temperatures than the rest of my body did. But I didn't want to run around naked looking for a slightly cooler pool and instead sat in an especially shallow area so most of my torso stayed above the water level.

And it was wonderful! It felt great scraping off nearly a week of dirt and grime from my body. And I had the pool all to myself without anyone around to bother me.

Well, that's not strictly true. Several people did pass by my pool, and I even offered to share my pool with them, but they probably saw the naked guy and decided to pass. ;o) Actually, I doubt most of them even realized that I was naked since the naughty bits were underwater and the pool was up a small slope that wouldn't have let them see into the water.

I was perfectly happy to spend the evening by myself, though. Having a person to two to chat with would have been nice--it's been lonely on the trail. But it was a Saturday night and I was just thrilled that were wasn't a large, noisy crowd of partiers around. A nice, quiet evening is what I wanted, and that's what I got.

I soaked for an hour or two until the sun set and it started getting dark. I toweled off, put on my warm camp clothes, then walked the quarter-mile uphill back to the campsites for the night.

Then I watched a little bit of Netflix before calling it a night and heading to sleep. All-in-all, a pretty nice day!

Trailhead where the road walk started on Whiskey Bend Road.

Solo hiking not advised?! NOW they tell me?! *rolling eyes* =)

Even the bear-resistant trash cans had been locked up tight. No throwing away trash here!

Whiskey Bend Road

Observation deck of the Glines Canyon Dam

The PNT crosses the Elwha River downstream of the dam at this bridge.

And this is the observation deck of the west side of Glines Canyon Dam, just above the spillway.

Tons of bicyclists on the road today!

The trail to the hot springs had a number of blow downs and other issues, although nothing that was too horrible.


Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

When I read the title of today's post I was fearing that the hot springs had been demolished also as so many have over the years after landowners got sick of cleaning up after careless and clueless users. Glad to see that the fears were mis-placed. I've visited Washington state breifly once but I do need to get back there and really dig into the good hiking and camping and boxing possibilities there. Thnx!

Karolina said...

Hot springs close to the campsite, what a delightful coincidence! I am so jealous!