I awoke to a strange sound in the early dawn hours. It was rain on the roof above me! For the first time in our journey it was raining. It was sooooooo nice to just lay there, all warm, cozy, high and dry, listening to the downpour.
I drifted off again and when I woke up the rain had stopped and the morning sun was just starting to warm things enough to cause wisps of steam to snake upwards from the lush plants around the shelter. It was a lazy morning and we were in no hurry to start it because we only had about 4 miles until we reached our goal of Low Divide. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and then took our time re-packing all our gear, finally getting moving around 11:00 AM. We made our way once again in the increasing daytime heat to Chicago Camp a scant 7 tenths of a mile away. We donned our sandals for a river crossing in the ankle to shin deep water which felt divine on our hot feet. We sat on the warm but shaded sandbar on the opposite side of the river and ate a snack, just drinking in the wilderness: The sounds of the river as
it gurgled by, the smells of the wet and warming vegetation as it dried out from this mornings rain, the chatter of a Douglas squirrel in the trees above us, the squawk of a Stellar Jay that flitted from branch to branch. Now, THIS is what I come to the wilderness for! THIS is living! GBH and I philosophized that THIS is where we all actually belong. The longer one stays in the wilderness, the more one realizes that mankind was meant to live out here.....not in a box in some alternate reality called "civilization" which is far removed from the simplicity of where we seem to gravitate back to when we can. Do you ever wonder why it's so peaceful & relaxing when you're really out there? Home usually is, ya know.
OK, enough daydreaming and back on the trail. We headed up the trail to Low Divide where we would camp and wait for Rainrunner and my son, Altidude to arrive on Saturday. The trail switchbacks up and up from the lowlands to eventually top out at Lake Mary & Lake Margaret at about 3600 feet.
Both of these lakes were sparkling and in the full view of Mt. Seattle which was looming above. Directly behind the lakes were Mt. Christie and numerous lesser peaks, making quite a beautiful setting. As we headed for the intended camp spot, we rounded a curve and startled a bear that was standing in the trail less than 50 feet in front of us. Startled us, too! I have never seen a bear do this, but the hair down the center of his back stood up, just like a dog that was mad! Obviously he wasn't happy at our presence, but he slowly ambled off into the bushes, all the while looking back at us.
More bear singing ensued and we walked nervously the remaining 300 yards to our camp site and set up our tarps. No one else seemed to be at Low Divide. I had stayed at Low Divide before and knew that fires were authorized. I usually don't make one while in the back country, because I am not at a low enough altitude (Under 3500') for them to be legal, so this was kind of a treat. We sat on cut log ends, cooked our dinner next to the fire and poked at it discussing life until it was dark and there was nothing left to poke at but coals. It's been a good day.....again.
Days Eight, Nine & Ten
This has been a trip report relating primarily to the Bailey Range, so the remainder of the trip is not of significance to this report. Suffice to say that on Day Eight, GBH and I day-hiked in the area of Low Divide, going up to Martin's Lakes before only Rainrunner arrived on schedule in the evening. (My son had taken ill and couldn't come along with her.)
The rest of the trip was to be on the 30.1 mile Skyline Trail which Rainrunner and I did from south to north, just last September. On Day Nine, all three of us left Low Divide, went up the Skyline Trail and camped overnight near Kimta Peak. On Day Ten, we finished the Skyline trail arriving at the North Fork Quinault Ranger Station at about 4:30 PM.
This has been the culminating trip of my backpacking career to date. It's been the hardest thing that I've ever done in one stretch and yet it's been the most rewarding at the same time. Funny how that happens, huh? I want to personally thank GoBlueHiker and Rainrunner for the encouragement and support they gave, without even being asked. You guys know what you did and what that meant to me. As I write this, my mind is still in the high country and probably will be for some time. It's a good feeling. I hope that I can retreat to the vivid memories of this, my true home, when the troubles & stresses of our "civilized" life overtake me from time to time.
- Hoosierdaddy (aka Steve)