Monday, June 4, 2007
Enchanted Valley Backpack
For my birthday my husband gave me a solo backpacking trip. This was my first solo backpacking trip in nearly four years. My last solo was when I was 8 weeks pregnant and I had to be airlifted out. That child is now 3 and this was the fist time we spent the night apart.
Day one I got up at about 8:30 and opened my birthday presents and got some good stuff from my family. My mother gave me a neat long handled titanium spoon (for eating out of my can pot) and an ultralight fire starter. Then my husband started yelling at me, perhaps his way of saying he was going to miss me, so I left.
Two plus hour later I arrived in the town of Quinualt.
When I went to turn on my GPS I realized that I had forgotten to put batteries in it. I knew that the South Shore store would be an expensive place to buy batteries but there was no place else nearby to shop. Still was not prepared to pay the $12.99 that they wanted for batteries. I decided that I just might not be able to use my GPS for the entire trip.
After I left the store I stopped by the Forest Service office to pick up my trip permit and while I was there I mentioned the price of batteries next door. A very kind older gentleman over heard me and offered me four fresh batteries for free.
I reached the trail head at about noon and started my hike. My starting pack weight was 27 pounds. Heavier then normal because I brought my bear can (2.5 pounds) and binoculars (about 1 pound).
At first hiking came easy I was fresh and I was excited to be on the trail. But as the miles dragged on I got pretty tired. My first campsite was to be O'neil Camp 6.5 miles down the trail. Well the park service is wrong here, the actually distance is 8.5 miles plus another .10 of a mile once you reach the spur trail to the campsite.
I had the campsite all to myself. It was a bit creepy to be all alone so I kept a fire going all night long.
I hope that someday I will be more comfortable with camping alone. I will have to get over that fear if I am ever going to hike the PCT.
Luckily for me there was a full moon and moon rise was just 1/2 hour after sunset so it never got very dark.
My cook pot tipped over when I was cooking dinner but my dinner did not spill out. I'm going to have to come up with a new stove to use with my can pot. The ion stove is too small.
My long handled titanium spoon was wonderful to use.
The sun came up at 4:30 am and everything was bright and cheerful again, including me. I did not feel sore from the previous days hike.
I left my campsite at about 9:30 and trudged up the hill to the trail. By the time I reached my lunch spot at Pyrite Creek I was pretty tired. Three rangers who were hiking back towards the trailhead stopped and talked to me while I rested. They warned me about bears on the trail and told me the bears were not running away from hikers and I might have to walk around them.
After the Rangers were gone I continued my hike out of Pyrite Creek Camp. Pyrite Creek was missing it's bridge and the only way I could see to cross was on a really sketchy log jam. I nearly fell in the river and had to crawl on my hands and knees to get across the jam. That experience left my heart pounding.
1/2 mile after I left Pyrite creek I found a tree that was loaded with Oyster Mushrooms and I stopped to take some pictures and pick a few. Then I noticed something moving in the woods, A BEAR! My first bear of the hike, I took a few pictures but the bear was moving away from me and back in the trees.
About a mile later as I came around a sharp bend in the trail I let out a gasp, there was Bear two and s/he was only ten feet away. Bear two was startled by my gasp and s/he made a run for it.
The trail continued on through a Beautiful Valley. I was getting very tired, the trail was going up hill and my pack was getting heavier by the mile. Then 1/2 mile before the Enchanted Valley I saw bears three and four. They were a mama and a cub and they were walking down the trail. The mama saw me but tried to ignore me, she did not want to leave the trail. But her baby said to her
"Mama look at that scary thing!"
So the mama bear propped her front feet on a rock to take a better look at me and then said "
"Oh alright we'll get off the trail if we must"
They only went 15 feet off the trail and expected me to pass them. I was nervous about getting that close to a mama and a cub so I hesitated a bit and made some noise with my trekking poles. Eventually the bears moved off out of site and I passed by but I could still hear them moving in the bushes.
Finally I made it to the Enchanted Valley at about 5:00 PM. I fixed a small fire to cook dinner over since my cook pot had already tipped over twice by this point. Dinner was cheesy broccoli soup with several different kinds of dried mushrooms that we picked last fall plus two fresh oyster mushrooms.
I woke up in the night because I was cold and I had to put my rain pants on in order to keep warm. I should have brought my cold weather sleeping back after all.
I really did not want to leave the Enchanted Valley but I had to if I was going to make it home by Sunday night. I left the Valley around 9:30 and recrossed on the scary log jab at Pyrite creek around noon. At Pyrite creek camp I rested up for three full hours. A nosey "jobs worth" type ranger came by and demanded to see my trail permit, I was glad when he was gone.
I saw one hiker pass by so I decided to watch him cross the creek. He found a much easier way to cross then I did and I felt a bit foolish for crossing the way I did.
At 3:00 pm I dragged myself up and headed back to O'neil camp. I saw the last bear of the trip as I left.
I hoped that I would not have to camp alone but was pretty sure I'd sleep well even if the campground was empty. As I approached the actual camp spot that I had used on my Birthday I saw that it was occupied by a one person tent.
The owner had been down at the river and she came up and said hello when she saw me. She apologized for taking up such a huge campsite all for herself. She told me she had been with a group but got hurt and had to say behind. I guessed what group she must have been in and she confirmed that I was right. (one of the people in her group was also with the Mountain Goats and we recognized each other as we passed) She asked me if I was alone and when I said yes she invited me to camp with her so I did.
Her name was Ginny and she was 76 years old. She had been backpacking for 50 years. She had a lot of good stories to tell and I really enjoyed her company and would gladly camp with her again but she could have talked the hind legs off a donkey.
I had no choice but to cook with my stove because Ginny's tent was too close to the fire pit and she did not like camp fires. My can pot did not tip over so maybe I'm getting better at using it but I'm still going to toss that small ion stove.
I was cold again that night and had to put my rain pants on in order to stay warm. I woke up with a back ache that forced me to get out of bed. Ginny go up shortly after I did, we both ate break fast and packed up.
Ginny left but I stayed behind to reminisce and take pictures of the campsite that I spent my 40th birthday in.
About one mile down the trail I caught up with Ginny and we said our final goodbyes.
The hike out was a real struggle, I was tired and my back and shoulders hurt. To make things worse there was a long uphill climb right before the final descent to the trailhead. I finished my hike about noon and was back home by 4:00 PM.
I'm glad that I got to see the Enchanted Valley and all those bears but I really wish I had time to take a break from hiking on one of the days I was out. I got home yesterday and I'm stiff, sore and tired today and probably will be the same way tomorrow.
If I ever hope to through hike the PCT I'm going to have to be in much better shape, but that is still years away so I have time.
The Enchanted Chalet
Roots from two fused cedar trees
Camp O'Neal on the last day
Sign at Pony Bridge
Camp on my Birthday
Both track logs from this day show the distance from the trail head
to Camp O'Neil to be over 8 miles and NOT 6.5 miles. The Park service advertises this as 6.5 miles.
One way track log showing a 16 mile hike instead of a 13.5 mile hike.
A big Douglas Fir