Last weekend I headed out to the Olympic Peninsula in search of one of the most remote fire lookouts in Washington and the only one remaining in Olympic National Park. Here's how the pre-planning went:
Me, in June: I want to get out to Dodger Point later this summer!
Ranger: Cool! But there was a road washout on the road in that is impassible to cars. You have to park about six miles before the trailhead and either walk in or bike in.
Me, in August: Cool! I'll plan to take three days total and bike in to the trailhead before starting the 14-mile backpack.
Ranger: Actually, they just started repairing the road, so now it's completely closed to all public access until October.
Ranger, in September: Now the road is only being repaired on weekdays, and is open to foot traffic on Saturdays and Sundays.
Me, to two friends: Hey, you want to cover 40 miles in two days to get to this lookout?
Friends: We're gluttons for punishment. Sure!
So that's how Max, Gretchen, and I ended up loading three mountain bikes onto Max's tiny Scion xA before catching a Friday night ferry to Kingston. We stopped at my friend's house in Port Angeles to borrow a bear canister, and he and his partner graciously invited us in for a late dinner. We feasted on tacos, homebrew, and homemade cider before stopping by the Wilderness Information Center to self-issue backcountry permits. We needed to get an early start and wouldn't be able to get to the WIC during business hours. By the time we set up camp, it was nearly midnight.
Early Saturday morning we drove to the Madison Falls trailhead (where the road closure began) and hopped on our bikes. The first mile and half is flat along the paved Olympic Hot Springs Road, but then we turned onto the Whiskey Bend forest service road and begin climbing up, up, up on the gravel.
|Biking in with packs on the Elwha River Road|
|Crossing the Elwha before the|
climb up to Long Ridge
|Hiking up through the trees and the mist|
|Climbing over a big cedar that|
smashed a little bridge
|Enjoying the views from the subalpine slopes|
|Reaching our destination: Dodger Point lookout!|
|Starting the hike out|
|Mist in the Long Creek valley|
|Turn of the century homesteader cabin|