|July 15, 2004.
I awake this morning under a slight drizzle. My gear isn't soaked, but everything is noticeably damp. After a delightful breakfast on the riverbank (whole-grain Enertia Trailfoods oatmeal with extra butter and sugar... yum!
), I pack my gear and ford the river back to the Bogachiel Trail. I half-expected the water to be frigid, but it seems not to be so bad. Perhaps it really is warmer. Or, perhaps my toes are simply getting acclimated to frequent dips in cold water... it's an encouraging thought.
With the exception of a few large trail washouts (Mineral and Mosquito Creeks being notable), most of the lower Bogachiel River Trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. In fact, several sections look very recently
maintained, with spiffy piles of dry sawdust and freshly cut logs, complete with rerouted sections and new gravel over old mud-pits. After stopping to explore a large campsite riddled with a half-dozen identical, empty tents, I pass a gallon jug of gasoline (seeming out-of-place here) and an empty "STIHL" bag lying empty beside it.
Moments later the mystery is solved, as I hear the piercing rip of a chainsaw further down the trail. I soon pass two gentleman, part of a trail-crew, busy at work rerouting a section of trail that clearly doesn't need any work. I want to remark that this section of trail is fine... that perhaps fifteen miles upriver they would find the overgrown, weedy mess of woodland trail in urgent need of repair. But I know it'd be a pointless venture... trail crews have always been famous for over-maintaining the first few miles of a path (where the dayhikers roam), and quite frankly I enjoy the difficult, remote sections of trail better, just the way they are. So I smile and nod, affirming their toil, and continue downriver.
I pass several sets of dayhikers today, being less than five miles from the trailhead. I also spot two new sets of mountain lion tracks, both distinctly different from the trail I spotted yesterday. By mid-morning it's obvious that I'll finish the trail today, a day early, and I know that Cate will not be here to pick me up until mid-day tomorrow. I eat lunch at the trailhead, hanging out, hoping to hitch a ride back to the highway from a generous stranger.
A family of five pulls up in a motorhome, and although they're friendly enough, they seem wary of this lone smelly, shaggy backpacker at the trailhead. I pick up my gear and start walking, West down the Undie Road, back towards Highway 101. Eventually, a small car comes down the road behind me, and I push out my thumb with a broad, friendly smile. An older couple from Forks (where I'm headed!) stop... they'd come to pick berries for the morning, and are headed back to town. Sure, they can give me a ride... hop on in! It's nice to know I'll have an extra day in town to run errands and resupply before heading out to the coast on Saturday [July 17th].
Once back in town, I say hi to Cate, who seems unsurprised to see me early ("People always seem to finish that trail early"). I stop by the Towne Motel for a wonderful $3 shower, dinner at the Forks Coffee Shop, and before long am off to bed, asleep on a rooftop porch, watching a paraglider sail through the skies above this tiny logger's town. Leg one of my journey is over, and so far, everything has been grand! I look forward to traversing the legendary Olympic Coast next week. But for now, surrounded by civilization once again, a laundry-list of "ToDo:" errands swims through my head... an obvious symptom of an over-developed world. Life in the backcountry is simpler... and I'll be back there soon enough.
July 16, 2004.
Resupply day in Forks. I'm off to the Thriftway grocery, the hardware store, the coffee shop, the laundromat, the ice-cream and candy shoppe (they don't have Jelly Bellies at the regular grocery!
), and the public library, where friends and family get long-awaited e-mails.
Mid-afternoon I meet WrongBridge (aka Jeremy... who will accompany me on the coastal hike) and we spend the remainder of the afternoon walking this little town, getting to know each other.
At night we're both camped out on the porch. As I crawl under my tarp (unsure of the weather tonight), I notice a putrid smell... what on earth is that? I don't smell that bad, do I?
Nope. I soon find out that the pet cat, seemingly upset with my campground on it's porch, peed all over the hood of my sleeping bag sometime this evening. Gross! WrongBridge has an empathetic laugh at my sorry predicament, and I can't help but chuckle at the misfortune myself. I sleep an uncomfortable night, avoiding the wet bag like the plague. We leave for the coast at 8:00 tomorrow morning... plenty of time to get to the laundromat by 7:00 and (hopefully) clean this bag before we head out for leg 2.
Besides the incident with the cat, it's been a wonderful trip, and I look forward to heading to the North Olympic Coast tomorrow. Here's to a safe and glorious journey!
July 17, 2004.
This morning, after a quick breakfast at the Coffee Shop and visit to the laundromat, we catch Terri, our gracious shuttle driver. Before long we're headed to the North Olympic Coast. While Terri & WrongBridge converse in the car, I spend most the time with my sleeping bag. After a wash & dry in the laundromat, the fabric is dry, but alas, the down feathers aren't! I squeeze out countless tiny bundles of wet feathers, one by one, as we drive towards the coast. At least the bag smells better now!
Soon enough we're at the Shi Shi beach Trailhead. Judging from all the cars, we're not the only ones with this idea. We meet two rangers in the parking lot, who grill us rudely for our permits and warn us ominously of our proposed trip down the coast. "It'll be rough," they say. "You'd better prepared for a rough time out there. It's a lot tougher than most people think."
After 2 muddy miles through the used-to-be-old-growth forests of the Makah Reservation, we're at Shi Shi beach, ready to go. The beach is crowded with dayhikers and weekend campers scattered about everywhere, but after a quick walk down the two miles of beach and around the Point of the Arches (our first headland), most people have disappeared. After the second headland, all of them have. Progress is slow under the bright cloudless sky, and we round the headlands, one after another, frequently using ropes to haul ourselves over the steep cliffs that point into the sea. The going is steep, but the rocks are beautiful! Around each rock is a new view of the terrain. It's much like climbing over a high mountain pass to see the valleys and peaks beyond, only it happens more often and without the elevation gain!
High tide arrives just after lunch, and despite our better judgement, we proceed around several more headlands marked "Caution" on the map. Over one in particular, we scale a precipitious vertical outcrop of sharp stone and leap over the pounding surf, several yards below. (In retrospect, it would have been prudent to wait for low tide and walk around.) Eventually we hit a headland we cannot cross, and we wait, stranded by the high tide for several hours. We watch harbor seals play in the surf and a bald eagle perch itself majestically on the sea stacks (rocks sticking out of the water just offshore). A deceased sea lion is rotting on the beach nearby, it's skin hanging loosly over a rack of gaunt yellow bones, several hundred pounds of maggots squirming visibly below. WrongBridge doesn't care for it, although I find it somewhat fascinating. But the putrid smell leaves something to be desired.
A couple hours wait and the tide finally clears. We proceed southward, finally arriving at the 3-mile stretch of open beach leading to Cape Alava. We originally planned to walk all the way down to the Cape tonight, but it's late already, and we're tired, so we elect to stay at the nearby Seafield Creek. My sleeping bag is nearly dry now, having been draped over my pack in the sun all day.
This beach walking takes a lot out of you! Progress through pea-gravel is slower than on a groomed trail, and negotiating endless boulder fields and headlands under a glaring sun quickly drains your reserves. However, the wildlife is sensationally unique, with endless varieties of sea stars, hermit crabs, snails, clams, otters, seals, sea lions, eagles, gulls and falcons among just a few of the huge variety of coastal life found here. We'll see what tomorrow brings!