Monday, July 12, 2010

Elwha Valley Adventure

A few days ago I decided to 'venture to the Olympic National Forest and check out some of the trails. After reading a few warnings about mandatory bear canisters (and the fact that I don't have one) I chose the Elwha Valley trails. Quite a good decision.

85 miles later through the hills of Washington, along highway 101, I arrived 1,850ft up the mountain side... poor moped.

A quick shuffle of gear later, and I was headed up the trail to the Hot Springs, but not before talking to (at the time) kind strangers who were inquiring about the moped.

The first hike was pretty great. 2.4 miles up an old abandoned road, and a few deer sightings.

Eventually I ran into the Hot Springs.. which are just as it sounds. Hot water that smells like eggs. They were pretty cool, but occupied by a few younger kids, so a hot bath wasn't in my morning agenda. (sorry for the lack of organized pictures, Flickr only allows 100mb per month unless I give them money. Curses!)

A quick hike back, and I come across the camp sites that were established in a slight clearing. Already set up for the night were the two people I had talked to at the parking lot, August and Emily, as I learned. We started talking about random stuff, and within what seemed to be 1 hour, we had discussed everything from hiking adventures to philosophy and everything in between. The sun went down at 10pm (!) and a quiet night sleep was overdue for all of us.

The forest was shockingly quiet. I was expecting lots of bugs, maybe some wolves.. but it was nothing (except for the small mammal that thought my hammock rope was a good bridge between the trees). Ear plugs served no purpose.

Morning came, and August & Emily had suggested I go with them on the Appleton Pass trail that started right near the campsite. That was my plan from the other day, and now I realize it was a great idea to go with some experienced hikers. We started off up the mountain side, weaving back and forth around the rivers and waterfalls, crossing streams and eventually resting in a meadow for some salami and cheese sandwiches.

Before I knew it, we were about 100 yards from the summit of Mount Appleton. We started off on a maintained trail, and ended up following a nearly invisible creek up a sloping, snowed over mountain side. Our hiking adventure started to lean on mountain climbing. Someone could have told me I'd be doing this a few hours before, and I'd have called them a liar.

Here is where I'm glad I was with experienced hikers. My initial intention, after seeing how close we were to the summit was "Let's do it!". After a bit of discussion, and analyzing our equipment (mind you, at this point I was wearing t-shirt/shorts and had trail running shoes on, sockless) we decided the risk we faced while attempting to scale the slope was too great. Ice axes and crampons would have changed the decision, but they were many miles away. Though.. leaping down the hill was a heck of a lot of fun.

A quick hike back and some more salami sandwiches ended the day. I've never had a better sleep, despite the cold wind and the annoying early morning turkey-sized crows screaming at everyone. 10 miles up and down a mountain will do that to ya.

Morning comes, and we began packing up all of our gear. After a few conversations, I parted ways with August and Emily, but not before they left me a "survival kit" which was, quite frankly, awesome.

Essentially, the past few days have been amazing, and I have my new portland friends to thank for it. The fact that I didn't have my phone was also very relaxing (though the polar opposite for a few people.. sorry!) Pictures will be askew, 'cause that's how Blogger's uploader works.

Actually, pictures later. blogger failed.

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