Friday, July 25, 2008

Upper Skokomish to Riley Camp

Trailhead sign

I was spending too much of my time at home engaging in activities with a high possibility of leading to painful consequences and I was half expecting a legal process server to come visiting. So my husband got me out of town. We went to a Shelter for the week and being in the woods camping did calm me down quite a bit.

This is a lovely free to use shelter on the Skokomish River. People always leave a little tribute to the place when they leave so it is rather well supplied. Our tribute was this pot holder that I made and a couple of ½ full propane canisters.

Shelter Toilet

My pot holder

I got up at about 7:30 am and tip toed around the campsite making tea and getting ready without waking up my family. For a few years now I’ve wanted to make the trip to Sundown pass so I could see the pass and see the headwaters of the South Fork Skokomish. But I did not make it that far on this day. I started my hike at about 8:00 and by 8:20 I had made it out to the trail head where my vehicle was parked, ate the pop tarts I had stored in my glove box for this occasion, and started my hike. I picked 1pm as my turn around time, that would give me 5 hours to hike in and 5 hours to hike out with a one hour lunch break and would have me back in camp by 7pm.

The Upper Skokomish trail is only available to hikers 6 months out of the year and I think that is a real shame. I try to take of advantage of it when this trail is actually open. The Skokomish river trail used to be 25 miles long but the first 15 mile of it have been destroyed by logging and an additional ½ mile long section in the middle was destroyed. At the start of this hike one has to walk ½ mile down a logging road where this middle section was destroyed. They recently thinned 80 acres of tree (on the Pine Lake trail) just to come up with enough money to decommission this last half mile of road. To me this seems like a waste of time and not particularly good for the forest and it also makes the first ½ mile of this hike pretty awful.

My plan had been to hike to camp Riley and then decide if I had the energy to go another 1000 fee up to Sundown pass. I arrived at camp Riley at ten minutes before my turn around time and I felt too tired to go on. So I stopped at Camp Riley, lit a very small very smoky fire to chase off the bugs and took a ¾ hour long nap. The last time I was at Camp Riley I spent my entire time there scanning for bears or cougars that I just knew were going to come out of the woods at attack me at any moment. This time I took a nap, so yes I am getting more comfortable with to being out in the woods alone.

There is a really pretty meadow at Camp Riley but it is full of horseflies and mosquitoes, my fire kept them away. With 15 minutes of my lunch break left I boiled up some water for tea over the fire and consumed my lunch of sunflower seeds. I was not in the right headspace to pack a decent lunch for the trail so I grabbed a huge bag of sunflower seeds off the rack at Twin Totems and that was my only food for this hike. It had plenty of calories in it but was not particularly enticing.

At 2pm I when I turned around it was starting to get hot. About 1 mile from camp Riley I startled by another hiker. Whenever I am surprised by another hiker I scream but this time I was more startled then usual. This hiker turned out to be Cye Laramie and I chatted with him for a while. Cye is looking for an airplane that may have crashed nearby many years ago and he has a base camp set up somewhere near the pass. He had a really interesting story to tell but I could not chat for long because I was expected back in camp at 7.

I coule tell that passing Cye riled me up a little bit because ½ mile later when I ran into another solo male my scrambled up mind told me that this solo male was a member of my city police department who had come all the way up the trail to look for me. The guy was wearing camouflage pants and had a short haircut and a frown on his face. He said to me “It’s not a good after noon to be hiking is it?” So I knew he was not really there to hike and was actually questioning my as to why I was hiking because he knew I was not really hiking but was on the run from the police. So I asked him “Why?” He said because it is too hot to hike. Then POOF went my cloud of paranoia and I came back to my senses. I was not really hiding from the police anyway. This guy was frowning because he was hot and tired and he wanted to know how close he was to the pass. I showed him where we were on the topo map and he cheered up quite a bit but I bet his frown returned when he started that 1000 foot climb to the pass after Camp Riley.

The rest of the trip down was uneventful and it was so good to be back in the old growth forest. There is a lovely climax forest on this trail and it is as wild as any trail in the Olympics. I had to ford two rivers on the way back and I chose to cross barefoot both times. The cold water of the Skokomish hurt my feet while I was crossing because it was a bit longer and deeper crossing then the other ford at Start Up creek. The WTA is apparently going to fix the bridge at the Skokomish River sometime this summer.

I was surprised to see this trail in such good condition. Sure there are plenty of blow downs and a major bridge is out but the trail is in good shape considering the lack of recent maintenance and the harsh floods and windstorms of the last three winters.

I made it back to camp one hour before my expected return time of 7 pm and my family was pleased to see me back early. A pair of horse flies followed me about two miles down the trail and then all the way into camp! They only seemed to be only interested in me as they left the rest of my family alone. After I crossed the river to get some fire wood the horse flies went away but when I recrossed to get more wood they came back. Then when I crossed a third time they left for good.

I saw a human skull on the hillside above Camp Harps but I did not investigate because it was hopefully just a hallucination and if it was not hallucination I did not want to have anything to do with it. After returning to camp I was haunted by the sound of chainsaws in the distance, my husband could not hear the chainsaws and people do not normally run chainsaws in the dark so it must have just been my imagination. I started hearing them 2 miles before the end of my hike and then heard them until well after dark, then they went away but came back again in the morning. When people hallucinate they tend to hallucinate that things they hate or fear the most so it makes perfect sense that I would be hearing chainsaws. I love the forest, hate to see it get cut down and spent a hell of a lot of my teenage years hauling fire wood out of the forest for my dad as he bucked it up with a chainsaws.

This hike was 12 miles round trip with 3000 feet elevation gain.



75 miles on my new shoes
Cost of gas $0.00 since I was camped near the trail head anyway.

Log jam in middle of the trail, the water that left this is long gone.

Meadow at Camp Riley


This is a view from Camp Riley and might be Sundown peak

An elephant

Devils Club

False Soloman's Seal

One way elevation profile


I've been told these are Northwestern Salamander eggs, Very cool even though they look like a giant turd! There was another round blob of eggs in the pool. The beautiful reflectons in the pool made it hard to get a clear photo of the eggs and I did not want to risk damaging the eggs by taking them out for a photo. I love frog and now salamander eggs! I saw a dead Northwestern salamander about 1/4 of a mile from where I took this photo.


Anonymous said...

These eggs are Northwestern Salamander! Very cool.

mtngrl said...

I've never been to Camp Riley, but per your pictures the meadows around the Camp sure are pretty! Sundown...Lake Sundown (McGravey & beyond) has been on my wish list for a few years now. I sure hope to get there sooner than later.

I've enjoyed looking over your site, it's inspiring to see other women out there hiking - and your love of the Olympics puts a smile on my face! Thank you!


Gregg P said...

As usual, thanks for the posts. It is always good to hear how others are fascinated by the possibilities outdoors. I am sorry to hear that your encounters with others on the trail are not as enjoyable. I hope that you never have that type of reaction to meeting me out there....It would seriously lower my self-esteem!