Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Irely Lake and Big Creek Trail Quinault

I set my alarm for seven but I decided to sleep in until 8. I left the house at nine and dropped my youngest off at day care. My oldest also left the house at nine so all three of us left my husband alone at the same time.  His goal for the day was to clean out his junk room. The drive to Quinault was mostly uneventful. I stopped to use the bathroom in Aberdeen. I used to stop at the 7-11 but they don't allow the public to use their bathrooms so now I stop at a gas station across the street from the 7-11.
Parts of the North Shore Road were very muddy and slippery and my car was filthy by the time I arrived at the trailhead at 11:30. I like to hide the fact that I am a female hiking alone so when I heard a truck approaching I ducked back into my car. But the truck stopped just past my car and did not drive off until I sat up in my car at looked square at them. That was a little unsettling but it may have just been a park ranger.

At the trailhead was a sign that said there have been sixteen vehicles burglaries there in the past three weeks. Perhaps the truck belonged to a ranger who perhaps thought I was a suspicious character when I ducked into my car to avoid them seeing me. Anyway I hoped that the sign on the trailhead was old and that my car would be safe. (later I found out that this sign was really old) I don't have much of value in my car anyway, just a $100.00 CD player and a very eclectic assortment of outdated CD's.

In order to make it back to my car before dark I decided that 4:30 would be my mandatory turn around time. That would give me five hours to hike in and four hours to hike out with a 1/2 hour lunch break.

My goal was the worlds largest recorded Alaska Yellow Cedar near Three Lakes Campground. The campground was seven miles in and at an elevation of 3,200 feet. This would be my longest hike of the year but only by a couple of miles. I was confident that I would make it as long as I kept a 2 MPH pace.

At first the trail was very wet and swampy. In one place the trail was a creek, in another place the trail was a swamp and the puncheon was mostly gone. It took a delicate balancing act for me to make it across all the water obstacles on the trail and keep my feet dry.

After one mile the trail passes a side trail that goes down to Irely Lake. I did not have the time to go down to the lake but hope to go back there with my family. The walk to the lake in the summer should be a nice day hike for my family.

After the trail left the lake it started to climb and soon the swamps, creeks and mud holes in the middle of the trail were gone. The trail went through a mossy old growth forest and the creek was far below me on the left. Some of the old windfall on the trail was so big that instead of removing it the trail crews hacked a tunnel into it.

After crossing the bridge the trail really started climbing. The trail switched back up the hillside and through old growth forest. The trees for the most part were not very large. I first started running into patches of snow at about 2,300 feet. Snow this low down was not a good sign. My goal was at 3,200 feet!
At about 2,400 feet route finding became a challenge. Snow covered blow downs obliterated the trail in several places. At one point I was only a few feet from the trail but I could not see it. The trail just kept getting worse. The snow was melting out and very sloppy, people who had traveled before me left large holes in the snow where they had suddenly plunged in deeply.

Strangely my GPS was reading that I had already walked 8 miles when I was only about 6.5 miles down the trail. My legs were tired enough that I thought maybe the trail mileage was off and I really had walked 8 miles. At this point according to my GPS I was still almost a mile away from my goal and still 600 feet below it and it was already 3:30. I had to turn around in one hour no matter what, the trail was getting very hard to follow, I had a lot of climbing left to do, my legs were getting tired and I was afraid of getting hurt so far from the trail head. Reluctantly I turned around without getting to see the lakes or the large cedar tree.

I went about a tenth of a mile down the trail and then stopped to eat my lunch and brew a cup of tea.

It had been raining all day. While my tea was brewing I used my umbrella to keep myself dry long enough to take off my rain gear and add layers of clothing underneath it. I also changed into a dry pair of socks. Once I had my clothing sorted out and had my rain gear back on I sat down to eat my bagel. I ate my bagel and when my tea was done I looked at my watch and saw it was already 4:00. I only had four hours of daylight left so I decided to sip my tea while I walked down the trail.

A couple of steep down hill miles later I reached the bridge again and my legs were really sore. I went ahead and took my second lunch at the bridge, another bagel with cream cheese and another cup of tea. I had planned on resting there anyway because right after the bridge the trail regains several hundred feet before it finally starts dropping back down toward the trailhead.

When I was done with my second lunch I glanced at my watch and was shocked to see that it was already 5:40, DAMN! I had two hours and twenty minutes of daylight left (The sunset at 8:00pm and it gets dark fast in a rain forest) and four miles to go with another few hundred feet in elevation to gain. Normally this would not be much of a problem but I was tired and sore and a bit confused by my GPS readings. At least my feet were already soaking wet so trying to avoid puddles and streams on the way out would not slow me down.

I made it back to my car at 7:30 and I sure was glad to be off the trail. I felt like a drowned rat after hiking all day in the rain. I was dry but all my gear was wet. Also my rain pants have started to delaminate at the seam so my butt was getting wet.

My car was safe; no one had broken into it. It rained for almost my entire hike and I did not want to risk getting my new camera wet so I did not take a lot of pictures and a lot of the pictures that I did take were blurry due to fog on my camera lens. Before I drove off I started up my car and put my camera on the dash to dry it out while I enjoyed a hot cup of tea. I had left myself a thermos full of Chai Mate tea on the front seat of the car. I sure was glad that no one had burglarized my car and stolen my hot tea.

On the drive out I decided to take the South Shore road and I was well rewarded. I spotted three heards of elk. I stopped to take pictures of all of them but the fading light made my pictures turn out poorly. One movie turned out ok though.

By the time I made it out to highway 101 it was 8:30 PM and my cell phone does not get any reception until I reach Hoquium. I decided that I better use a pay phone to let my husband know that I was ok. Normally I call him much sooner in the day and Hoquium was 42 miles distant. I was right to call, he was worried.

I stopped for dinner at Taco Bell in Aberdeen; it was so too late to eat dinner at home with my family. I also stopped for gas in Aberdeen. By the time I made it home it was after 11PM! My husband had made a good start at cleaning out his junk room; I hope he does not stop where he started as he often does.

Now it's the morning after and my legs hurt! I'm not sure why they hurt; this hike was only 1.5 miles longer then my longest hike this year and the elevation gain was comparable to my last two hikes. Maybe I've hiked too many miles this week. My total ascent according to me GPS was 3,317 but could not have actually been that much, I believe my mileage was 13.3. My total ascent might have been 2,500. I'm thinking about taking it easy for the rest of this week and then maybe I'll run up and down some mountain with the Mountain Goats on Monday.

Well strike that idea, I've come down with a nasty cold. This cold might explain why I was moving so slow yesterday! I won't hike again until we get back from the ADZPCTKO and Disneyland.

Click images to enlarge them:

(My orginal track log said I went 14.5 miles but I edited out the track points that were clearly wrong and ended up with this track log. The weird bump before the high point of the hike is where I was trying to adjust my altimeter to match what my topo map said.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Duckabush and a Tree or two or three

Spring flowers have arrived. I'm having trouble with my "A" series Canon Camera, it's a lemon. I've already had it repaired once. These are the last pictures I will upload from that camera:

Pink flowers

Out of focus slime mold on the move.


The Duckabush trail is tougher then it seems. With all it's up's and downs my elevation gain was 3,100 feet in 12.3 miles.

This is a lovely flat section between the two humps

With much effort I found this terracache and got 200 points for it. I was first to find on this cache that has been in place for over a year.

The Duckabush River

A fly agaric of the panther variety. Hallucinogenic!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Jefferson Ridge Trail #808

Today I started out at the Elk Lake trailhead and hiked up to the top of the Jefferson Ridge Trail. I ended up hiking 9 miles with 3200 feet total ascent. This hike kicked my butt!

(Bridge on the Elk Lake trail, click on image to enlarge)

I hiked with a group of people who call themselves the "Mountain Goats". They hike much faster then I do so I left home early. I tried to get to the trail head an hour before them. But I had trouble finding the trail head. I drove my jeep all the way up to 2,900 feet and then back down but failed to find the trailhead.

(looking down onto one of the Elk Lakes, click on image to enlarge)

I had brand new topo maps for my GPS and the trail was on them but the maps would not load so were of no help to me. When I got home I found out that my GPS memory card was not in all the way. If only I had thought to look at that when I was out there today.

So I decided to hike Elk Lake instead but the Elk lake trail is so short and a branch of it leads to the road that the Jefferson Ridge trail is on so I hiked back towards Jefferson Ridge. As luck would have it the group I was going to hike with were parked on the road right where the trail I was on intercepted it.

So I hiked up with them, and they showed me the trailhead. The trailhead was covered by a fallen tree but they had been there before so knew where it was. I should say I did not hike with them but behind them. I was surprised there were still on the summit by the time I managed to stumble up there. I kept up ok going back down the trail though.

(On the top at last)

( A small but very deep hole near the trail, click on image to enlarge)

(Looking down onto Lena Lake, click on image to enlarge)

(Snow falling hard, click on image to enlarge)

On the way down the snow started falling pretty hard and I thought I would be hiking in the rain once I got lower down but there was no rain at this point. We did see all kinds of different weather today though. Ranging from sunshine to rain and wind to wind driven snow.

(My track log, my routes up and back were different, click on image to enlarge)

(Elevation Profile, click on image to enlarge)

I accidentally erased my track log about a mile from my car so I really went closer to 9.3 miles today but it's not the milage that kicked my butt, it was the elevation gain. Jefferson Ridge trail is rather steep and unrelenting. The view at the top was only so-so, perhaps not worth all the effort. Still it might be nice to go back when the rhodies are blooming.

I had to regain several hundred feet right at the end of my hike. This hike rates a 24 on the hike difficulty calculator.

Sunday, April 8, 2007