We took one last backpacking trip in the Bay Area to the Marin Headlands. Then, with some much appreciated help from our friend Lauren, all of our belongings are now in a 5ft X 5ft storage unit.
We then caught a flight to Seattle, and decided to spend a few days in the Olympic National Park in order to delay our Pacific Crest Trail start date to let some more snow melt in the Cascade Mountains.
We rented a car from the Seattle airport and drove to the Olympic National Park, making it to a car-camping spot before dusk. We set up our tent, and started looking at the map of the park, and I was surprised by how exhausted I was. Since it was dusk, I figured it couldn’t be much later than 9pm, but when I looked at my watch it was after 10pm. Going north a few hundred miles really made a difference to daylight hours.
The next morning, we asked for advice from the information center, and decided to go visit the rain forest and take the trail from the Hoh Visitor Center up to Glacier Meadows for a couple days, and then visit the beach section of the trail near Third Beach.
The rain forest was beautiful with large quantities of moss hanging from maple trees. Appropriately, it rained for the two days that we were in the rain forest.
The trail was mostly flat until the end when we climbed a couple thousand feet up to Elk Lake where we spent the night. I was actually cold that night in my 10 degree bag, and I donned a second, heavier down jacket to keep warm. The next day we kept going uphill along the trail towards Glacier Meadows. The terrain was very rugged and absolutely gorgeous. When the clouds parted we could see snow covered rugged mountains not too far from us. We passed over a bridge which was hovering over a creek about 100 ft below us. I clung to the railing with vertigo. As I peeked over the edge, it was as if all the blood in my body moved forward in my body, and then all my guts pulled back against it sending my sense of balance askew.
A bit further down the trail we hit an area that had been affected by a mud slide. They put ropes followed by a rope ladder to get down that area, which really sent the blood pumping.
We were walking back down the flat section of the trail when I heard a thump right next to me. I turned my head and not 10 feet away from me a black bear had just lowered himself out of a tree. I could have taken two steps and touched him. My heart skipped a beat. I kept walking forward while both Dirt Stew and I exclaimed “Oh my god, what the…..!? Just keep walking…!” What surprised me the most was that I didn’t feel any fear. My instinct was instead to reach for my camera. This was maybe because he was a smallish bear, probably not more than 150 pounds. The bear didn’t seem bothered much by us either. It looked at us curiously and then wandered away while we did the same. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to my camera in time, but I hope that is the closest encounter I ever have with a bear.
We then drove over to one of the beach areas of the park, and spent the night right on the beach at Third Beach. We did a hike down the beach from there, where there were beautiful rock the formations jutting out from the ocean. Bald eagles roamed back and forth from these rocks to the shore by the dozen. We also saw an adorable sea otter scurrying away from us up some rocks.
Before we returned our rental car, we drove to the top of Hurricane Ridge, where there were herds of deer hanging out near the parking lot looking for hand-outs and grazing in the nearby meadows, completely tame. From there we could see miles and miles of breath taking snow covered peaks.
We left the airport to go stay with a very helpful trail angel, Jon Belcher, who we had planned on getting a ride to the beginning of the trail from. Unfortunately, however, there was terrible news from hikers who had already attempted to start their south bound hike. A Mountain Education Snow Course had tried to do some training up north of Harts Pass, and a hiker post-holed and lost his balance sending him down a very steep slope. His fall was only stopped by a couple of trees which wound up breaking 4 ribs. Folks are now saying to stay off the trail for probably another two weeks.
We’re now hanging out with Jon Belcher and studying some maps and toying with different ideas on what to do at this point, and how to start our hike. We will certainly not be starting from Harts Pass in a couple days as we originally planned.