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.)
|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.