8/19 10.5 miles
On the way back to the trailhead, Sarah and I stopped at the Olympic NP Visitor Center. I talked to a ranger and got the tide charts. I finally feel like I’m organized and doing my own thing. I intend to camp at all the permitted campsites that Poppy got, except for the 2 Quota controlled, just a day later than her. The park service says that should be fine, just be careful of the tides when I hit the coast!
The walk back up the bypass trail was quick, then it was road walk (closed to traffic though), easy, a long ways to trail. I camped near the hot springs in an established camp area with tons of tent sites but only maybe 6 other hikers scattered out of earshot. Perfect.
8/20 17.6 miles
I slept in till 6:30! Then hiked about 11 hours. Lots of uphill today. Lots of people too! Weird. As I was going up early afternoon I couldn’t tell if I was walking into a cloud? Fog? I put on my rain pants and got out my rain jacket but it’s not wet. Beautiful trail but no views because of the cloud. Once I accepted the waterless mist, and that it wasn’t cooling off, I enjoyed the close-in details—cedars and birds and ridge walking. I chatted with assorted campers and hikers and felt quite cheerful. I was going to camp a mile before Deer Lake but as the side trail came into view I saw 2 separate groups heading to the small campsite. I got a little concerned as it was dinner time almost but kept on and found the last site in the Deer Lake complex and nobody came into the campground after me so I was good. Most people who are doing shorter hikes (I call them “short haulers” which is meant as a description not an insult) tend to make camp earlier in the afternoon that long haulers.
8/21 17.7 miles
A lot of boring green tunnel (stretch of trail within vegetation and trees with no open views) until I headed downhill and started to spot fresh horse manure, a good omen!
Suddenly, Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA) trail crew! It is so awesome to be able to directly and personally thank the individuals who actually work out here on the trail—the work they accomplish includes clearing blowdowns and overgrowth, constructing mini rock walls (“water bars” or “check dams”) across the trail to redirect water runoff, building rock steps and filling in eroded stretches with gravel.
They even laughed at my paraphrase of a famous line in the Apocalypse Now movie: “I love the smell of horseshit in the morning, it smells like….trail crew.”
After trail crew I met a retired couple who said this section was impassable until it became part of the PNT route a few years ago. They said it was so wet and swampy and overgrown they had turned back and didn’t try it again for years. I gave them the good news that crew was just ahead making even more improvements!
Then Sterling came hiking towards me! Remember Sterling was the man Poppy and I met at the PNTA office in Sedro-Woolley, the guy who gave us a ride to our motel, the Western Washington Coordinator who brokered agreements with the USFS snd the NPS to deploy trail crews out here and in the Mt Baker area. He recognized me and told me he’d seen Poppy earlier that morning and Beans a few hours later. This is how hikers get trail news—I now know that Poppy and Beans are not hiking or camping together, not that it matters. Anyhow I walked on after a wonderful uplifting conversation with this amazing man and camped alone, contentedly, at Flapjack campsite.
8/22 19 miles
I hate to say it but it was kind of boring today, the rainforest is soft and lush and green but hour after hour of it gets old. Lots of day hikers as most of my day was spent getting to a drive-in trailhead. I talked to everybody, I think the more people out here, the better stewardship we’re going to have for our public lands and wilderness, plus, don’t tell my dearly departed Dad, but unlike him, I actually like people.
The highlight of my morning happened as I was walking along, on soft, peaty tread overhung with ferns. Suddenly an animal I’d never seen before came scurrying up the trail at me. It was about the size snd shape of a shoebox, short gray fur, so low to the ground I could see neither feet, nor face, nor tail. I exclaimed, “Whoa, dude!” but it continued over my left foot and vanished out of site up the trail.
When I got to town I searched the internet and I think it was an Olympic Marmot, something I didn’t know existed, and definitely in an environment unlike any other marmot I’ve seen. A rainforest marmot, how cool! I love rodents and marmots are the bomb.
It was trail to road to bigger road. I wasn’t sure how I’d get into Forks and my motel, there’s a bus from the campground where the trail route takes a hairpin turn south to the coast. I think the issue in this area is private land, including swathes owned by timber companies, and getting permission for foot traveling on private roads, hence the extensive road walking indirectly down to the ocean. But with just a few miles left, the first car going my way stopped and offered me a lift. I gratefully accepted, it was a couple from Colorado, who I’d seen day hiking earlier. Thank you! And when I got into my motel room, sure enough the uphill road walking had irritated my left shin again, it’s swollen and sore, so no guilt about skipping.
Forks is an old lumber town, there’s some very cool interpretive displays and a museum. But seemingly the big attraction is that parts of the five movies in the Twilight Saga vampire romance series were filmed here. I never saw any of the movies but of course I recognize the actors on the movie posters all over town.
Since I’d arrived on Sunday, I couldn’t pick up my box from the post office. That’s the main reason hikers look to send their resupply boxes to a business or motel or trail angel that is open 7 days a week. Not a big deal for me to have it sent back if I didn’t want to wait for Monday post office hours, then take the bus back to trail, then do a 23 mile road walk to the first legal place to camp. I could buy what I needed for the last stretch to the end of the trail. But. You can see where I’m going with this.
At the motel last night after a shower and laundry and a great meal of pizza and beer nearby, I started investigating the logistics of getting out of Forks. Looked up bus times, called them and left a message, googled shuttle services and found Olympic Hiking Shuttle, emailed them. All on a Sunday night so I didn’t expect to hear anything until this morning, Monday, when I did!
Since deciding I needed to be on my own recognizance the far side of Port Angeles, I’ve had to go back to making my own decisions, not a problem. The bus would run me a ways back to trail and maybe a bit further if the bus driver had a place to pull over, today. Olympic Hiking Shuttle could get me to the coast, skipping the 23 mile road walk, for cheap, since they were picking up and dropping off some other hikers back at their car. Tomorrow. I booked another night in Forks and paid online for the shuttle.
And even better, got a text from Ravensong who I knew was going to be back hiking somewhere in this area. She and Judith are doing a week “up the Hoh” to a glacier, and she wondered where Poppy and I were. Well Poppy couldn’t answer I think because she’s up the trail and out of cell service. But I answered and we three ate dinner together in Forks, so happy to meet Judith and see Ravensong again, they’re great!