Monday, October 28, 2013

North Fork Quinault Trail Backpack

Home for the night at Wolf Bar
With the weather forecast to be dry and sunny I decided to take my 9 year old daughter backpacking.   My daughter is not used to doing a lot of elevation gain, so I thought it would be best to take her on a fairly level hike.
I decided to take her to the North Fork Quinault River because it is level and I’ve only been there once before.  I went on a day hike there in 2005, with the goal of making it to “halfway House”; I did not make my goal due to a fast and dangerous side stream that I was afraid to cross.  I remember that hike well because it was on that hike that I realized I was sensitive to MSG.  With MSG pinpointed as my migraine trigger I was able to eventually end my suffering.
This has been a very dry October and Quinault is a very wet place, it’s best to go there when it’s dry if you want to avoid wet feet and dangerous river crossings.  All the biting bugs are gone for the year by October.
I decided to save gas by taking my little car even though I don’t really like driving my little car on dirt roads.  My route took me through Matlock and then onto Cougar-Smith road and put us on the 101 just south of the town of Humptulips.  The route was 95 miles and did not go through any cities.  I always like to avoid driving through the ticket trap town of McCleary.  Missing the slowdowns in Aberdeen and Hoquim was a bonus and this route saved me 15 miles.  Did I mention that this route also avoids the McCleary ticket trap?  McCleary is a nasty little town that makes it money on writing traffic tickets to folks who pass through.

The drive took 3 hours with a couple of stops.  One stop on Wynoochee Wishkah road gave us a real surprise.  I stopped there and ducked into to bushes only to find half a dozen king boletus and a bunch of chanterelles.  What a mushroom year this is, it seems I can’t go anywhere without tripping over King Boletus.
Bull elk in the brush
(click to enlarge)
When we arrived at Amanda Park, I asked a store clerk if the north shore or south shore road was the best to drive on but the clerk did not hear my question and kept answering questions that I did not ask, so I gave up.  I drove down the south shore road to the trail head.  We saw a herd of elk crossing the road inside the park and I got one good picture.   We took the same road out.

When we arrived at the trail there was one car there and another car pulled up while we were getting ready to hike. 

Moss was growing on a car that was parked at the trail head and moss or algea was growing in the middle of most of the paved part of North Shore Road.

Moss growing on a car and everywhere else at the trailhead

We started our hike at 12:45 and my goal was Halfway house or maybe Wolf Bar.  I knew we would be out for two nights and we would be hiking each day.  Would our first day be our longest day or would our last day be our longest day?  Since my pack is heavy with food on the first day, my inclination is to do the longest hike on the last day when most of the food is gone.  But I remembered how much trouble I had getting my little one to hike on the last day of our Bogachiel trip so I thought maybe we should do our longest hike on the first day when we were fresh.

My daughter immediately started to lag behind and I was constantly scolding her, telling her to keep up and stay in my sight because we were in cougar country and I did not want her to get lost.  

 What was wrong with her this morning?  I had a 30 pound pack, she had a ten pound pack and she should have had no trouble keeping up with the slow pace I was setting.  It was looking like it was going to be a miserable hike and it was too early in the day for me to start drinking.  What's a poor mother to do?  Lie through her teeth I guess.   It’s no fun to carry a heavy pack down the trail while yelling at a child. Something was going to have to change or this hike was going to be ruined for both of us.
Then we heard a woodpecker up in a tree.  My daughter asked what that sound was.  I told her it was a cougar.  She believed me and asked me if it was growling.  I said yes, it was growling at us and the noise continued every few minutes.  She wanted to know why the cougar was growling at us.  I told her the cougar was warning us. 

She is a clever one; she wanted to know why a cougar would bother to warn us? I told her that the cougar did not want to eat us but it was mad because we were in its territory and it wanted us to hike away quickly. 
Okay, I was very bad, but it was so worth it.   For the entire weekend after that, I never had to remind her to stay in my sight.  She hiked quite well, was full of energy and we had a great time.  If I had not told that lie it might have been a miserable hike for both of us.  My little lie energized her.

She found so much energy that she was easily able to hike all the way, five miles in, to Halfway House on the first day.

With our longest hiking day out of the way I knew I could relax a bit.  My daughter wanted to camp in the river bed but I wanted to camp up in the forest where the ground was free of rocks and it would be much easier to pitch the tarp.  She happily agreed to camp in the forest the first night when I promised her we would camp on the gravel the next day back at wolf bar.
Wild Rose creek was the last obstacle before halfway house and it was  quite low but still it was a bit of a challenge to cross it with dry feet.  I was amazed at how deep and scoured out the creek bed was.  That creek must get really big!

We made it to our first camp just 1.5 hours before sunset and 13 hours of darkness arrived.   The moon did not come up until well after midnight. 

I tossed and turne all night long just like I always do when backpacking.  When the moon did come up, I mistook it for sunrise, but after a while I began to wonder why the dawn was so long.  Then I looked at my watch and saw it was only 3am and the light was not sunrise at all, it was moonrise.  Since were on the edge of the river bar and it was foggy the night never get too dark and I was glad for that.  Thirteen hours of darkness is quite a lot when you are camping.

Follow the Drinking Gourd
There was not a drop of condensation inside of my tarp tent in the morning and I thought that was pretty amazing.  I think that the pull out loops at the side helped a lot with ventilation.  Both of those loops ripped right off the tent the very first time I touched them years ago and I did not get around to repairing them until this year.  Pulling out the sides really seems to help with condensation; I wished I had fixed the loops years ago.

In the morning we took our time packing up and then walked back to wolf bar, the hike back to wolf bar went well, but I think it was closer to 3 miles from out camp at halfway house than it was to the expected 2.5 miles.  Once at wolf bar I set up the tarp tent in the sand.

Bears head (Hericium) mushrooms in our campsite at Wolf Bar
Elk tracks in our campsite
We had a fire on the gravel bar and we stayed up until 8pm.  The fire was nice since it got dark at 6:30 and it was a bit chilly.  I keep the fire stoked up all night so I could cook with it in the morning.  We were almost out of stove fuel after I had accidentally dumped two thirds of it into my tea thinking it was water.   
We had to pack up quickly and leave early in the morning because we were almost out of food.  We had a small breakfast that was really left over’s from dinner and then we started to hike out at 9:30.  After that, all we had to eat between the two of us was four power bars and two bags of junk free M and M like candy.  I let my daughter have 3 of the 4 remaining power bars since she does not have the fat reserves that I have.
My daughter ate and ate and ate on this trip.  Each night at bed time she said she was hungry and I had to break into the food back over and over.  I had packed more food than I thought we needed but we ended up eating every scrap of it.  From now on my daughter is going to have to start to carry some food.  The way she eats, I just can’t carry all the food for both of us.
Anyway, after the "cougar" scare my daughter hiked well and we had such a good time.  This might just be my favorite backpacking trip that I took her on this year.   The trip was quite bonding for us.  Next year I hope to get her into the high country.  I am starting to get a bit tired of camping in the river beds with all the sand. 
I sure would like to find another adult and child to join us on these trips.  I always get so spooked as the sun sets that I wish I was at home.  It sure felt good to sleep in my own bed last night!

I stepped on my backpack and broke a small part of it on this trip. L  My  backpack has been on well over 50 hikes and nearly 400 miles and I’m amazed at how strong it is for its weight.  I hope I can get if fixed quickly.

(update, there was no way to get it fixed)
We finished our hike at 11am and then made the long drive back home.  We stopped once in Amada park to buy pop, coffee and pepperoni.  The store clerk in Amanda Park agreed that McCleary is a terrible town to drive through, because you never know when you are going to get a ticket.

When I got home my whole street was clogged up with cars for a soccer game and there was no place for me to park my car except for in the middle of the street.

10 miles with 400 feet elevation gain.

P.S. the soles fell off my daughter's new used shoes on the first day of this hike but she did okay without them.


Moon at halfway house

Amanita muscaria

Lobaria oregona lichen, Amanita muscaria mushroom and Hylocomnium splendens moss

Mushrooms in the fire pit!

This bear keeps peeping into our tent

Creek that stopped me in my tracks last time

King Bolete in Wynoochee Valley
Something ate all the spore capsules off of this Polytrichum moss, leaving just the
stalks (setas) that the capsules were on.  I suspect it was a slug.



deathngravity said...

nice report. What was the blow-down situation? Lots of tress over the trail?

Thinking of heading up over Low Divide this weekend via N. Fork Quinault.

Mossy Mom said...

There was only one blow down. That trail is in great shape for now.