|July 22, 2004.
First thing today, we have a choice to make. Immediately across Mosquito Creek is a 3½ mile overland trail that traverses around the top of the Hoh Head, one of the larger and more precipitous headlands along the entire Olympic Coast.
However, our map indicates a route, since abandoned by the Park Service, that allows us to continue along the beach for awhile, cutting off half of the boring reroute. We have to cross a headland that can only safely be traversed at a half-foot tide. Lucky for us, this morning we have a -1.0-foot tide, plenty of cushion to allow for safe crossing. So we opt for the beach route, knowing that when the tide rises, we would not be able to retreat back until the next low tide (the next morning).
It was worth it! Not only is the rarely-used rocky route full of sea-stars and anemones, but there are several cliff-side caves exposed in the deeply eroded sandstone. We take a moment to explore, but are deterred by the moist cave walls, which are crawling with inch-long roachlike bugs that creep up the walls and fall from the ceiling. We're content to take pictures and continue onward.
Eventually, we reach the extremely steep and brushy trail abandoned by the Park Service.
After a quick quarter mile scramble up through intense bushes, we reach the main overland trail, where we cross around the Hoh Head and continue our final miles of beach to the mighty Hoh River's convergence with the sea. The channell of the Hoh River is deceivingly narrow (one could throw a rock to the other bank), but is running so unbelievably deep and swift that even with a powerboat we would be unlikely to cross without being swept to sea. This is the official end of our beach hike, and we take the obligatory pictures, happy and content with our week of sand, surf & sunshine.
Of course, we're here a day early, and our shuttle isn't scheduled until tomorrow. After waiting around the parking lot to hitch a possible ride out, we give up and start walking the road in search of a phone. WrongBridge's parents live nearby, and if all goes well we will call for a ride back to town. So, we head down the road, unsure of just how far a phone might be (it's 20 miles to the highway). If all else fails, we have plenty of food for another night, so we continue onward.
A mile after leaving the National Park Boundary behind us, we chance upon a large homestead and a series of small shops, all quiet as the breeze in the blistering sun. After inquiring a bit, we knock on the door of a small art shop, where a white-haired woman sweeps her studio. She graciously allows us to use her phone (we have a phone card), and then, quite unexpectedly, invites us to sit back and relax. We begin talking, feeling a bit awkward about our three-day trail funk,
but our fears quickly evaporate as we talk to this amazing old woman. Over the next two hours, we get the most impressive history lesson I have ever witnessed. This woman lives on the original homestead that her grandparents built when the first white settlers were populating the peninsula. Her grandmother was the first white child born on the entire Olympic Peninsula. She speaks bits of local native American tongue, and has a rare English-Chilkoot dictionary (a language long-since dead) on her bookshelf. Hearing her stories and seeing the impressive collection of native artifacts she holds close to her memories, I am in awe of the rich and lively history held within this seemingly unimposing woman. I could have sat and listened to her talk for days, but eventually Jeremy's parents show up, so we bid our farewells and part ways. Someday soon I should like to come back and visit her studio once again.
A short time later I'm back in Forks, enjoying another paid shower at the Towne Motel and sleeping once again on a rooftop porch, this time being a bit more precautious of the resident cat.
July 23, 2004.
Resupply day in Forks.
Half my trip is over. I have lived on the trail for two weeks, and my wits are uneased by speedy schedules, roaring engines and busy people that circulate about in the midst of civilization. Forks is a small town, all things considered, but to me it seems crowded, noisy, congested. I circulate through town, picking up provisions and supplies for my most ambitious undertaking to date. Tomorrow I will head to the Queets River Trailhead, once again solo, and attempt a 16-day transect of the Queets River Valley, off-trail, capped with a full traverse of the legendary Bailey Mountain Range. This attempt, this plan of mine, has been labeled by different well-meaning people as insane, inspiring, ambitious, and just plain crazy. I have never prepared so thoroughly for any single effort in my life. Two years of obsessive planning and consideration have culminated to this, and it seems unbelievable that it's here.
Sitting on the porch, I count and recount my dinners, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, drinks. Approximately thirty-eight thousand calories, in various shapes and sizes, are sprawled before me in a multitude of gallon-sized plastic ziploc baggies. My survival for the next two weeks depends upon getting this right. Extra batteries, extra water-purification drops, extra toilet paper, sunscreen and bug repellant... nothing can be left unconsidered. Leather gloves, emergency PLB, multi-vitamins, first-aid provisions, insulin supplies (yes, I'm diabetic), and food. Especially food. Eventually I pack it all into my pack, creatively using every available square inch of space. In the end, my pack sits ready to go... an overstuffed monstrosity of it's former self. All said, it weighs a nearly-prohibitive 62 pounds. On a trail, this kind of weight is exhausting and ungainly to carry. Off-trail, bushwacking through a rainforest, it could restrict my balance & movement enough to be dangerous. "It'll get lighter" I assure myself... "it'll only weigh this much until I eat the first candy bar." Thankful for my strong legs and lungs from the past two weeks of training, I fitfully fall asleep under a clear sky.
Yesterday, the vacation ended. Tomorrow, the adventure begins.