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.