Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Enchanted Valley

It's been an amazingly warm and sunny spring in Seattle. As soon as the weather got nice, I started getting antsy to get out of town and into the woods. It's still early for any higher elevation snow-free backpacking, but the Olympics are always a good bet for valley rainforest and coastal hikes. My sweetie suggested a weekend backpack to Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park- 13.5 miles one-way to get to a valley with steep sides, numerous waterfalls, and an old forest-service cabin. It would be a decent amount of mileage but not much elevation gain, and the trail was snow free, so we decided to go for it!

Saturday began with breakfast on the edge of Lake Quinalt- coffee, egg breakfast sandwiches, and homemade yogurt panna cotta with the waves lapping on the shore.
Then we drove east another half hour or so to the trailhead. It started out as a typical beautiful Olympic hike- constant river sound, glowing moss, huge old-growth cedars, humid air, sculptural exposed root balls, and lots of little critters.

There were also a ton of creek crossings. Some had logs as bridges, and some were shallow enough to stone-step across in boots. But there were two crossings that were pretty dicey- either the bridge had washed out or the water level was higher than usual. There was really nothing to do but ford the ice-cold river. Luckily, we both had brought sandals, but even then the varying water depth and strong current made for a pretty sketchy crossing. We passed a couple people on the trail who had fallen in and saw several pairs of wet boots.

Also, after about six miles in, it became evident that no trail crew had done any maintenance yet after winter storms. The trail was in pretty rough shape. There were huge fallen trees constantly that we either had to go under, over, or around. In other spots there were piles of branches and debris. In one place there was a sign that said "Please Close Gate" but the gate had clearly been demolished by falling limbs and there was just a hole left in its place.

We knew there were remnants of an avalanche from a few weeks back from trail reports and the ranger. The mass of snow had melted considerably and was now melting holes into the river.
I have never seen a bear in the wild and really wanted to see one on this trail. Toward the late afternoon, we came across this guy! When he saw us he took off up the hillside. Later we saw another bear that was busy eating and didn't want to seem to leave his spot, and then on Sunday we saw a third! 
It was a gorgeous and varied trail altogether, with the early-season factors like high rivers and trail condition making it that much more epic. The icing on the cake was reaching the valley that evening, and getting to sleep in such a stunning and lush place. It felt like something out of Lord of The Rings, like we had truly stepped into another world or time.
The warm dry weather left shortly after we ate dinner, and all night it poured rain. In the morning, it was misty and wet, cool but not too cold. We made breakfast under the cover of the forest service cabin porch. Then we headed out back down the trail, in the rain but in good spirits. 


Anya Traisman said...

Thank you sweetie for sharing... what a beautiful, lush experience! My heart yearns to return to the brisk mountain air and green surroundings. We're pretty sure that we're going to move to northern CA eventually, and Shaina and her fiance Jason are trying to close on a 10 acre piece of land on the gorge just outside of Portland. I hope we can camp there with you when you visit after the wedding if they do get it! Will that still work out for you to come down on the 5th of Aug?

AmberAnda said...

I could SO see you in northern Cali. When I spent 2 months living outside in Mendocino and Humboldt I loved it. I hope things work out great for Shaina and her partner if they are meant to get that property- that is so exciting! Yes, we are still on for a post-wedding Portland visit, and I love the idea of a campout if it works out :)