Solitude in the Olympics
Ahh, Labor Day: everyone's last chance to go camping. So where's a guy to go who wants some peace? I think the only answer is "off-trail!"
Saturday was a pleasant meandering through old growth forest. I stumbled across the remains of a bull elk who had probably served as dinner to a large cougar. One of the antlers had been ripped from the skull, my guess is to get to the brains... Of course I slept well with that visual in my mind all night!
I woke to raindrops on the tent and I slowly got my stuff together to go on a day hike. The rain overnight had made everything wet or damp and the river had turned a milky brown. I packed light and made the unfortunate decision to leave my sandals at camp and only take my boots.
Of course just a mile upriver I came to an impasse where the river ran into a cliff – I backtracked and tried to find a way up and around for an hour, but decided I would have to go much higher than I wanted, so I cancelled that idea and found my way back to the river. I used a trekking pole to gauge how deep the murky water was, and surprisingly it didn't seem that deep against the base of the cliff. So I took my boots off and slowly waded in. The water was slightly higher than my knees but I quickly reached the bank on the other side and found a trail leading uphill into the forest.
I spotted the light colored rump of an elk sticking out from behind a tree, so I quickly got my camera out and managed to take some pics.
I continued upriver another mile until the trail led me back to the river. I had to ford the river again, and on the other side I found another old elk trail that went straight up the hillside and led me higher and higher, still heading up the valley but avoiding the river gorge. Soon the valley opened up and I could see waterfalls pouring off the cliffs high above, and I crossed an aqua blue creek whose source was a glacier high above me. My turn around time came and went, and I pushed on a little further before stopping for a bite to eat on the edge of a large meadow. After a quick snack I decided to just see what was around the next corner, and here was a big bull elk laying down less than a hundred yards from where I'd stopped to eat.
It was getting late so I backtracked back to camp and made it just in time before the darkness came.
It was a long slog back to the truck, but the sun came out and warmed things up a bit, and I ran into a couple elk as well.