Friday, May 21, 2021

Enchanting Secrets

I have secrets to tell, and confessions to make. I'll get to them later, because first I have to start with the hike itself. I want to say it was the best three day backpack I've ever had, but I can't. Not because it wasn't absolutely fabulous, but only because each trip is so memorable in it's own way that it's impossible to say one is better than the rest. But I think I can say the trail itself was my favorite, with near perfect daily mileage and difficulty. Every day felt like the exact right amount of exhaustion. 

But perfect hikes come at a price - $8 a night, to be exact, with a $6 reservation fee to top it off. And so we come to secret #1. There is a special "local pass" you can buy for $45 that includes ALL the permits you could ever want within the Olympic National Forest. I don't think the park wants you to know this. After a half hour of plan making with a ranger over the phone (for another trip I'm taking in August) and shelling out $46 in permit fees, an option for a local pass was never mentioned. After reading about this special pass on a trip report somewhere, I called said ranger back to ask about it. I had to be talked through how to do it (they do NOT make this easy) but once I got my magic number (it took a few days) I was able to insert it into my reservation details and VOILA, $40 back on my credit card. (No escaping the $6 reservation fee, of course.) And now, I am hiking almost exclusively within the Olympic National Park to get the biggest bang for my buck.

I want to do it all!

Though this still leaves me with another problem. Permits for the good spots sell out FAST. Weekends? Forget about it. But luckily, I was able to snag a few (usually the last one) at some hard to score places. (Stay tuned!) But now for secret #2 - there are unlisted sites you can ask for if you know what they are. Again, the park peeps don't really want you knowing this. And I thought maybe I shouldn't write about it, but after passing about four of these secret sites on my way out on Sunday and not ONE of them was being used, I thought this was something people should know. Though I decided I won't describe the specific sites on here...but I may do it for bribe money. (JK, just DM me on my IG @kellbell.500 if you're planning a trip here and I'll try to help you out.)

Another biggie!

The cutest mother/daughter spending quality time together

My spot complete with bench

And now we come to the confession. I don't carry bear spray. You may call me a fool, but I have my reasons. (Mostly stats...if stats don't support an expensive and heavy object as something that I actually need, then I'm not bringing it.) And after seeing SEVEN bears on this trip, I'll tell you I'm STILL not buying any. Not one of those bears gave a flying crap about me. Not even the momma bear, and not even when I unknowingly walked between her and her year old cubs. Yes, I know, this is NOT something you want to do; and believe me, I wouldn't have had I known any of them were there. I was only maybe 50 feet away from the chalet, with people everywhere, so my bear guard was down. Not until I was sitting on the porch enjoying my lunch was I made aware that I passed 15 feet from her on my blissfully ignorant bee line to the "safety" of the chalet. The crowd of people then pointed out the cubs in the opposite field, and then I was like, "holy shit, that could have gone badly."

Momma bear munching away. See the trail?

Of course, I'm not telling anyone else that bear spray is unnecessary, though I will point out that it would not have made a difference in this situation had the mother bear decided I was a threat. (Unless I had the spray in hand and pointed directly at her, which of course I wouldn't have because I had no idea she was there.) Please don't misunderstand and think I'm not scared of bears. I am. Car accidents scare me too, and yet I drive almost daily. (I guess you could try to compare seat belts to bear spray, but I think stats will prove they don't compare well.) Of course if I end up getting mauled by a bear, y'all have permission to give me a big fat "I told you so!"

Hitting some snow after the chalet 

My second confession is I paid $20 for a burger on my way home, which is near sacrilege for a cheapskate like me. The truth is, it was worth every penny. If you ever hike the Enchanted Valley yourself, a stop at the charming Lake Quinault Lodge is worth the stop - just don't expect any WiFi, because they are tight fisted with their passwords.

Ate the burger before I thought to take a picture

That's all I have (except for hiking log below if you're interested) so until next time friends, I wish you all happy (with zero bear attacks) trails!
Day 1: 8.5 ish miles to stealth spot. Beautiful drive to trailhead with FULL lot - had to park down road a ways. Started about 1:30 pm. When I got to the second official camp sites at O'Neill around 6pm, I was ready to call it a day...but my permit was for Pyrites - another 3 miles. Ugh. When I saw the single spot a mile before Pyrites, I was more than happy to claim it. I was all set up at 7:30 when the mother/daughter pair passed me and I tried to convince them to camp with me. I'm sure they would have, but they didn't have a bear bin and needed to use the bear wire at Pyrites. I took the picture of them the next day when I passed them.
Day 2: 13 miles up and back to my spot. Hiking without a big pack is SO nice! I kept going past the chalet for maybe a half mile or so. I'd love to get to Marmot Lake someday going this way (instead of by starting at the Staircase campground) and see it again - maybe even camp at Lake Lacrosse. Too many trails and too little time. (Sigh.) Anyway, very pleasant trail this whole day. 
Day 3:  8.5 miles back to my car. Stopping a little early on day one saved me a mile this day and thank God because lunch is only served at the lodge until 2:30 and I would have just barely missed it. The drive home through Olympia/Tacoma/Seattle was horrid as expected, but it's the price you have to pay. Totally worth it in my book. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Why Not Say Yes?

Crystal's message popped up while I was at work. Sneaking a peak, I read "okay...SUPER SHORT NOTICE...who's up for playing hooky and a road trip?" My old self immediately scoffed and had to remind me it's midweek, so I can't go. I have responsibilities. My negative Nancy kicked in, "And even if you could, this place she wants to go is like a six hour drive...with other girls you don't know well. It will be awkward...they probably won't like your back has been hurting..."

But hiking has taught me listen to the other voice. The quieter one. The one that softly whispers, "Why not say yes?" I'm so fortune to be able to take a day off here and there, but I always feel guilty. Why? Because other people have to work. But the gentle voice reassures me I don't need to feel bad. It's okay to say yes. The voice encourages me to take a chance on people not liking me. It's okay if they don't. 

I have never regretting listening to the better voice, and this was no exception. What a treat to not do any of the planning - to just hop in a car and head somewhere I've never heard of. But I had to wonder, how could I have never heard of this magical place?

Crystal had scored a vary hard to get reservation at Oregon's Silver Falls State Park in order to be able to hike "The Trail of Ten Falls" the next day. The eight mile loop was pure perfection (just look at these pics!) but the best part of the trip was getting to know these amazing ladies a little better - and to let them get to know me. So I'll continue to ask myself - why say no, when yes is so much better?
Happy trails...with lots of happy yeses :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Well, that didn't work. My website attempt, that is. Yep, crashed and burned. All the hikes that I've written about since getting back from my 50 days--lost. Yep, I wrote them directly on the site with no back up whatsoever. Oops. But what can you do? Shrug, brush yourself off, and keep on keeping on. I even hope to rewrite all 23 of them - as best I can with my increasingly bad memory, anyway. Even though my dream of having a successful website that actually makes a little money is dead, I do like to keep a diary of my hikes. Reliving them is half the fun. 

Plus I do like the idea of giving out some helpful hiking info if I can. Last weekend's backpack to the Bogachiel Rain Forest was actually my inspiration to not give up on writing. I kept thinking, "People need to know about this!" So, here I am to sell it to you!

And why do I need to sell it? Because nobody hikes the Bogachiel...and I don't blame them. If you are going to drive all the way to the edge of the Olympic Peninsula, you want to go to the beach! I mean, that's what I wanted. After getting Ozette to Rialto under my belt in February (one of the hikes I'll need to rewrite) I've been itching to get the Third Beach to Oil City section crossed off my list as well. Besides the obvious appeal of the ocean, I'm also obsessed with the PNT of late - which includes all these miles. (The Pacific Northwest Trail to clarify...not to be confused with the better known Pacific Crest Trail.) But here comes your first bit of helpful information - permits on the South Coast Trail are not unlimited like they used to be. And on the beautiful, unseasonably hot weekend we just had, of course they were all gone. My guess is anywhere you could put up a tent in Washington was pretty much full up. 

Everything except Bogachiel, that is. It's also PNT miles (which is the only reason I wanted to do it) so my new hiking buddy, Julie, reluctantly agreed to come with. Something was better than nothing...though we were both ready to be underwhelmed with a slog through a dark, mucky forest. 

Mucky might not be a selling point (and yes, you'll be going around mud...I wouldn't try it any earlier than we did!) but let me list the many selling points of Bogachiel:

1) Solitude. Even though the road is not bad (though redirected...follow the signs and not Google Maps) the parking lot large and the toilet top notch - you will not find crowds here. We saw a handful of people total.

2) Great campground at turn off to forest road, if you wanted to stay there and just day hike. There are parts of the trail that are a bit sketchy (though I call a rope climb fun!) and you might find it more enjoyable without a backpack.

3) Absolutely stunning. Pictures never do justice, but they give you an idea.

4) You're still just a half hour from the beach, so you can throw that in on the way home!

And as far as helpful info goes, hopefully these are useful:

1) After the initial decline, turning left on the Ira Spring Wetland Trail and then turning right to return on the main trail makes a nice little loop (four miles maybe?) and you can also include a secondary "Homestead Loop" to add another half mile. (We skipped it, so I can't say if it's worth it.) The main trail is the really muddy part, but you could avoid it altogether if you wanted to just go in and out via the Ira Spring Trail. 

2) We read there was a good campsite "right after" the rope section (you'll get to the rope at 4 miles in...don't worry, it's not bad) so we got a bit frustrated when we couldn't find it. Just keep going, it's hard to miss, but it is another mile. 

3) We got a permit to camp at the "Bogachiel" site, which is supposedly at 6 miles in. Thank God we set camp at that first unofficial spot, because after continuing on without our packs (just to explore) we couldn't find anything camp worthy to save our lives. Maybe we didn't go far enough, but we did go almost 3 more miles.(That would be around 8 miles total if tracking device was correct.)  

4) There is a pretty bad blow down mess at about 6 miles in. Instead of trying to crawl under then over, look to your right where you'll see a big log you can walk on. That path around it is much easier. (Julie discovered it on the way back when she was desperate not to get any more needles down her back.)

5) If you want to see the "Tree of Life" (almost the tree of death at this point) on your way home like we did, the Kalaloch Lodge has amazing burgers and a cute gift store. It's worth a stop even without the tree.

And there you have it!! It feels good to be back. Here's to another 500 more miles - here and there and everywhere! (But especially on the PNT...which is actually my next goal. I'll talk more about it next time :)) Happy trails, everyone, and cheers to starting over.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Lake Twenty Two Redo

I hiked Lake 22 years ago. I meant to do a write up – like I do for every hike – but for whatever reason, Lake 22 got swept under the rug. Because it is such a classic hike that is relatively close to me, I must have figured I’d have another go at it. It took me almost 6 years, but I finally did. 

Thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure I was waiting to see it again in a different season. Maybe even show some comparison pics of winter and summer…I bet I was hoping to pose Lexi in a flower patch or something. Sadly that never happened, nor will it ever happen. 

My beautiful girl back in the day

Even so, Lake 22 didn’t disappoint. It’s popular for a reason – not a bad pay off for a fairly easy 2.7 miles to the lake. So popular, in fact, that now there are “no parking” signs all along the highway where the overflow cars will often spill. We were surprised to find the lot still had several spaces available when we arrived around 10 am, and delighted to have the trail almost to ourselves for the majority of the upward trail. 

Hard core Santa ;)

We suspected it wouldn’t last, and of course, we were right. So many people coming up as we were going down that it felt we spent more time stepping to the side than actually hiking. The majority of the adventurers seemed, in our humble opinions, not very well prepared for a slushy/slippery/icy trail. Though even those in tennis shoes (and in one case shorts) seemed to make do. 

We were glad to have Yaktrax (a great option when you want traction but don’t want to mess with micro spikes) though I made the mistake of taking mine off once we were out of the heavy snow. If it wasn’t for my poles, I would have surely gone down on that slick as snot final bridge.

Getting snowier...

and snowier!

Even if I can’t take my Lexi with me (except in spirit) I might still try for those summertime shots someday. It may have to wait until I retire though, because I don’t think I have the patience to visit again on a holiday (this was Christmas Eve) or on the just as busy weekends.  In the meantime, there are far too many other hikes I intend to write about first. Happy Trails and Happy New Year!

Watch your step!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Working on 500 Miles of the PNT

Everybody need goals. Though most of these goals, if we are honest, are not all that important. In the grand scheme of things, does cleaning out my closet really matter? No. But if we can’t find some meaning in every day existence, we can get swallowed up. Goals keep us moving forward.  I do have my “organize the cupboard” checklist, but bigger goals are a little more exciting. I’ve already accomplished one major goal – 500 miles on the Appalachian Trail. (And then write a book…which you can find and buy on Amazon – link on homepage. Making a couple bucks is always a goal, right? ;)) But now what? 

Except, this “goal” ideal creates a bit of a problem. I don’t want living (or hiking) to be about “accomplishing.” Ego fulfillment is not living in the fullest, in my humble opinion. What a dilemma. 

How do I reconcile these conflicting ideas? I surrender them to the universe. (Or what I call “God”…or because I believe that this mystery is entirely loving, I will boldly even name it “Father” at times.) It’s true that my goals are not that important, but they help me live…therefore, they have importance. I embrace them with gratitude; but I don’t hold them too tightly. They don’t give me value. Maybe I give THEM value–just by experiencing them? I don’t know. But I know one thing – I enjoy goals. So I’m making more. 

Becoming a “thru hiker” would be the pinnacle of my hiking dreams, though it’s a commitment that doesn’t fit into my life. Even finishing the entirety of a long distance trail (bit by bit) feels more than my realistic self can envision. (Completing the PCT would be so amazing…but reading thru hiker accounts of what this actually entails has brought a harsh reality check to what this requires in real life.)

So instead of finishing any one trail, I’ve decided experiencing several is better. Why not finish 500 miles of more than just the Appalachian Trail? 

I’m just 30-ish miles shy of finishing all of Washington’s PCT, which is just over 500 miles.  So once that is done, that makes 500 miles completed on two major thru hikes. The Continental Divide is the other major thru hike in America (the other “crown” in the illusive triple) and it shares it’s beginning (or ending) with the lesser known Pacific Northwest Trail. (Which goes East/West from Glacier Montana to Washington’s coast.)

I’ve discovered I’ve already done almost 100 miles of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) without realizing it. Do 300 more (much of it within a few hours of my house) then do my last 100 to the terminus in Glacier National Park–then hop on the Continental Divide (also in Glacier) and start in on those 500 miles. If I can get in 500 miles on all four of those major hikes, then I can make a nice clean “500 Miles on 5 of America’s Thru Hikes” by visiting my brother in Arizona and working on their “Arizona Trail.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? If nothing else, it will keep me moving…and keep Guthook’s in business. (A must have trail app I was too cheap to pay for on the AT…until I finally caved, and now I can’t give them enough of my money ;))

But I have to add here that after I wrote all of the above, I willy nilly threw a “hail Mary” into the universe and applied for a sponsorship to thru hike the Arizona Trail. If by some miracle I get it, then my only goal will be to finish the Arizona Trail and not disappoint my sponsors. I’ll have until October to figure things out, since that is when I would need to start as a south-bounder. My “let the Spirit lead” attitude is helping me not to feel either anxious or excited – the ball will get caught or it won’t. It will be fine either way. But a touchdown sure would be fun.

So, back to the PNT.  The pictures on this post are from a Thanksgiving trip I took to the Olympic Hot Springs. Some quick things to mention about this hike are:

  1. It’s on the PNT, of course. 
  2. The road is washed out, so what used to be a quick couple miles is now a ten mile hike mostly on pavement. It is 3 miles from the parking area at Madison Fall TH to the abandoned Ranger Station (very cool!) where you connect to the PNT, then it’s another 5 or so miles of road walking to the abandoned Olympic Hot Springs parking, then the 2 relatively easy actual trail miles to the hot springs. 
  3. Embracing this hike for what it is makes it fun. I loved listening to my audio book as I walked on the lonely, desolate feeling road.
  4. You are not supposed to camp by the hot springs. I did anyway. BUT I didn’t make a fire, poop anywhere in the area, and I even picked up trash around my site. I would have never camped there in the summer, but there was nobody there so I was naughty. Sorry.
  5. The hot springs are kinda gross IMO. Not anything like the idealized fantasy I had in my head. The sliminess and smell are hard to get past – and though the above pic looks like your own private hot tub, it was a dirty lukewarm bathtub at best.
  6. You’ll need the Olympic National Park pass so why not drive up to Hurricane Ridge on your way home? You can even hike there from that abandoned Ranger Station I mentioned (in the summer) if you wanted to extend your trip. I drove, of course, and got an extra mile on the PNT by just ambling through the parking lot with a little snow trail walking. (Which explains the snow pic on here.)

Below you’ll find all my completed PNT miles (with links to the story) along with my future hopeful miles. Every time I finish one, I’ll move it to the “completed” list. Happy Trails and happy goal making everyone!



Ozette Triangle: 3 miles

Oyster Dome/Blanchard Hill/South Chuckanut: 8 miles

East Baker Lake: 14.5 miles

Hannagan Pass: 8.7 miles (Including part of road walk during snowshoe)

East Bank Ross Lake: 17 miles

Big Beaver Camp: 6 miles

Padilla Bay: 2.2 miles

Park Butte 3 miles

Ebey’s Landing: 2 miles

Tommy Thompson Trail to Mount Erie Store: 8.7 miles (I never wrote about this one, but I did a little post about Heart Lake which is part of it)

Deception Pass Bridge and Goose Rock: 1 mile

Baker River Trail: 2.3 miles

Olympic Hot Springs 9.7 miles (Including road walk up Whiskey Bend Rd & Hurricane Ridge parking lot) Seen here! 😉

Larry Scott Trail from Ferry Dock to Four Corners intersection: 9 miles



Pass Lake: 3 miles

British Army Trail to Trillium Gate: 7.8 miles

Bogachiel: 6 miles (back up/not counted)

Third Beach to Oil City: 17 miles

Rialto to Ozette: 20 miles

Fort Ebey State Park to Whidbey State Park: 8 miles

Alger Creek Rd to St Rt 9: 13 miles

Wickersham Road to Forest Road 150 Scott Paper 110 Rd FR 150 (Lyman Hill): 12 miles (back up/not counted)

John Tursi Trail: 2.2 miles (back up/not counted)

Baker Hot Springs Forest Rd Turn off (811.7) to Lake Ann TH (801.9): 9.8 miles

Devil’s Creek Campground (724.6) to Devil’s Dome and turn at Devil’s Pass (714.5): 10 miles

Elwha to Hurricane Hill TR to Obstruction Point TR: 9 miles

Happy Panther Trail: 6 miles

(Bell Pass Elbow Lake Area FOREST ROAD 12 CLOSED? Maybe in future)



(Kettle Crest 44 miles…back up/not counted)

Boundary Trail Pasayten Wilderness 80 miles

Whistler Canyon 24 miles

High Divide/Seven Lakes Basin 19 miles

Tubal Cain (1048.5) Dose Meadows Camp (1076.5) 28 miles– turn to blue line (Grand Pass Alt) up to intersection with Obstruction Point (12.6) then to Deer Park (7.5) 48 miles



Friday, September 25, 2020

Let the Spirit Guide (Finishing Section I of the PCT)

There is a total of 56 “hard earned hiking lessons learned” noted throughout all my posts on my former blog. (Now this blog again since my website attempt failed.) Why did I stop? I haven’t brought any lessons to this new website – practical or philosophical – or at least I stopped numbering them. Maybe because now there is just one ongoing lesson I’m trying to learn and live…let the Spirit guide. Of course, that idea is far too complex (or maybe too simple?) to explain, so I’ll just tell my story.

In life, we plan. Of course we do. There is nothing I enjoy more than planning a hike – it’s half the fun. I write it all down, rethink it when something changes, rework the details, rewrite the agenda…prepare. It’s all good. But life (and the trail) often asks you to let it go. Don’t get stuck in your plan. Let things flow. 

So I did. Bad forecast, roads closed, two car key swap idea out the window…oh well. Throw my painstakingly thought out agenda to the wind and go anyway. Who needs a plan. 

Well, there was ONE important part of the plan to keep – stay in the Crystal Lodge’s walk in only bunk room so we could get an early start on finishing those 38 miles I skipped last time. (The connector trail that would take us to the PCT starts steps from their parking lot.) From there our anticipated daily miles and camps would be a mystery. Let the Spirit decide. (With the help of the Guthooks App, of course!) Though first things first – we needed to drop a car at White Pass where we would be finishing. 
Except when we FINALLY arrived in Packwood to eat dinner (road closures, remember?) we were DONE driving. Then the Spirit whispered in my ear, “Why not just stay here in Packwood and do the rest of the driving tomorrow?” Why not indeed! 
We do not recommend the food at the Packwood Brewing Co...
The Spirit clearly led us here just for the beer ;)

And because we listened and went with the flow, we got to listen to the rain pounding down outside our window at the Crest Trail Lodge…instead of being camped in a dark and abandoned parking lot. Turns out the Crystal Resort totally shuts down in September (or maybe it was because of the road closures due to wild fires?) which was a huge oversight in my original “plan.” Good thing that thing was in the dumpster.
The rest of the trip was more of the same. It evolved and changed as we went along, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. For details you can see the (non) itinerary below. Happy (Spirit led) trails!

DAY 1: 11.5 Miles to Dewey Lake

Had to go up the connector trail again from the Crystal Mountain Resort parking lot. (Because I wanted to get all the miles done I missed last time…see “Mount Adams Wonderland” post for a better explanation.)  I was told this is called “Bear Gap” but you will find no signs calling it that. (Head toward Henskin Lake until you see signs pointing you toward the PCT – it’s a tough 3 miles.) Finally up on the PCT, we went SOBO another 8.4 miles to Dewey Lake. Unfortunately, my friends had misunderstood that the resort was not directly on the trail at Chinook Pass (thinking we were simply doing the “White Pass to Chinook Pass” hike as described on WTA) so those added 5.4 miles to Hwy 410 were a “bonus” for them.

DAY 2: 12.4 Miles to Bumping River

We were wanting to get a couple more miles in this day so we wouldn’t have to do 14 the last day, but the Spirit said to stop. (Okay, maybe it was my feet, ha ha!) Considering the stream here was looking daunting, waiting until morning to go across it seemed like another good reason to call it a day. And besides, it was a lovely camp.

DAY 3: 14 Miles to White Pass

We were all concerned 14 miles were going to make for a really long, tough day – but they were pretty easy and we crushed them in seven and a half hours! That is light speed for me! And thank God, because we had the same LONG detour drive home, since Hwy 410 was still closed. But it was SO worth it (I can’t thank Heidi and Julie enough for supporting me and helping me get these miles in!) and now I only have those last 30 left from Harts Pass to the border (hopefully THAT won’t still be closed next summer) to finally finish all of Washington’s PCT miles! HOORAY!

P.S. Answers to our “google it when we get home” questions along the way: 1) Bears go into hibernation pregnant and give birth while sleeping. 2) The difference between a lake and pond is mostly depth. To be a pond it must be shallow enough for sunlight to hit the bottom. 3) Roads used during this excursion were 1-5/ I-405/WA 167/WA 512/WA 161/WA 7/ US 12/WA 410/ NF 52 (the WORST!)