Friday, May 19, 2017

Lower Big Quilcene Trail

The ferries hate me. Or at least sometimes if feels that way. This is the 5th time they have almost ruined my hiking plans...but I have prevailed!! The evil ferries cannot win!
Mostly it's the Coupeville ferry that has been my nemesis. Winds, tides, and tons of people I don't expect to be also taking the ferry are all to blame. I prefer to not blame my own forgetting or waiting too long to make a reservation, because what fun is that?
The line to get in line. Not good.
My sister in law had been begging me to take her on her first backpacking trip, which of course thrilled me to death. There's nothing quite like a first timer--especially one who is game for April temps! Juli grew up camping and is no stranger to roughing it; her only concern was that she felt too "old" and "out of shape" for a backpack. Hogwash! I knew she was tough as nails; and besides, neither of those things have stopped me! ;) I can't think of much that should stop anyone from going out into the wilderness, if that's what they want. I've come across a blind hiker, I've seen articles on hikers with every condition you can imagine (and there's my friend Cynthia, who came with me last year with her own breathing machine in tow!) and as far as old goes--if Lee Barry can thru hike the Appalachian Trail at 81, then age is not an issue. (And of course there is Grandma Gatewood who was my inspiration to start backpacking--look her up!!)
You go girl!
So Juli had the most important requirement needed; the desire to do it. "Nature therapy" is what she was after, because as we all know, life is stressful. But there is something about the simple quiet of the outdoors that heals. And that therapy is accessible to anyone who wants long as they can get past those dang ferries! ;)
Can you see Juli? Ha ha, my brother made her take his hunting gear.
Thank God, because she would have froze without it!
I know I'll bore you if I try to explain all the in's and out's of coming up with the plan for this simple one night let's just say this hike was a constant work in progress. In my own defense, I did try to make a reservation once we nailed down an agenda, but it was too late to book a spot, so I had to chance getting on as overflow. I had a bad feeling that 11:45 am would be full, but I figured even the 1:15 would work because it's starting to stay light much later. But the 2:45? Seriously?
Madly texting Juli that maybe a hotel reservation was in order as my stupid phone was approaching less than 5%, it dawned on me that because she was waiting for me with a car in Port Townsend, there was no reason I couldn't just get on the ferry as a walk on. Well, there was the little problem of the 2 fully loaded backpacks, but I figured I didn't have to carry them very far.
Once I figured this out (unfortunately too late for the earliest ride) all was smooth sailing; until I discovered we needed to go back to the restaurant to finish the bottle of wine Juli had ordered at her favorite waterfront eatery while patiently waiting for my arrival. "It's such a better deal than buying a glass"...she's a woman after my own heart! And how could I argue that the half bottle waiting for us couldn't go to waste. Of course we'll go back there and finish it!!
We'll get hiking when we're good and ready!
So, not getting on the early ferry, spending extra time at the restaurant, and the fact that we missed the turn off to the trailhead made for a much later start than we were hoping for. (Hiking lesson #53: Do not rely on your co-pilot to navigate if she's had a the majority portion of a bottle of wine, hahaha! But getting distracted by talking really is a problem--one I've had multiple times, so I seriously need to focus when the GPS signal can no longer be relied on.) Arriving at 4 pm and having 5 miles to our camp meant possibly setting up in the dark, which was not the experience I wanted for Juli's first time. But thankfully Juli was game for anything, so off we went.

The first 2 miles of this trail are sort of a snoozeville. But it's easy and pleasant, and then you are down to the river and it starts to take on a much more rain forest feel. Before we knew it, we were at the first camp. I hadn't even considered staying at "Bark Shanty", probably because I had read that "Jolly Camp" was beautiful; and besides, stopping at just 2.7 miles felt like cheating. But dang, this camp was NICE! And huge! And stopping meant we would have more time to just enjoy ourselves. Well, y'all know I'm never above cheating, so stop we did!
Juli was completely gaga over our location. I didn't realize her expectations were "pick a random spot under a tree" low. And the fact we had warm food!...she was blown away. Fire?! Not in her wildest dreams. She was making me feel like I had brought her on a Caribbean cruise! I'm afraid my next newbie has a lot to live up to!
Snug as a bug in a rug
Next day we packed our gear, and then left it so we could complete our goal pack free. (I had to see if our original destination of Jolly camp was's not. But the 2.5 miles to get there are lovely and definitely worth doing.) When we got back to retrieve our stuff we found Bark Shanty was completely taken over with another large group, which confirmed we did well in persisting to make this trip happen on a Friday instead of a Saturday. 
Jolly Camp didn't feel very jolly to me
The signs on this trail are super cute! I may have to try Notch Pass next time
Quite a crowd, and we saw another family coming in as we were leaving!
Once we were done, we had to stop for the obligatory burger; so we decided to check out the crazy place we both have taken pictures of on other trips, but have never dared to try. 
Holy Moly! "Fat Smitty's" is even crazier on the inside! What a treat though. We decided to split the burger, (highly recommended!) but then Juli hesitated because she saw that it was an extra $1 charge. "No worries" I assured her, and pretended to grab one off the wall. Heck, what else are they there for, ha ha! (FYI, you do need cash to eat there though, because they don't take credit.)

How stupid were we to not even check the ferry schedule for the trip home? Of course it was just pulling out as we were pulling in, so we had a little over an hour to kill before the final crossing of the day. Thankfully Port Townsend is a place Juli visits often, so she was more than happy to stay and drive me around for a little tour. We both decided we would definitely have to meet there again, but next time I promise I will have a reservation in hand!
P.S. Thank you Juli for being the photographer for this trip! Hiking lesson #54: Always check to see if you've put the memory card back in your camera! :)