Monday, February 24, 2014

Coastal Winter Backpacking Trip

Sunset on Friday
Some local hikers have been meeting up for a coastal hike in February of every year for three or four years now.  This year I was invited to join in on the fun.  We hiked in to Norwegian Memorial on the Olympic Coast.

This was a 160 mile drive for me and I really did not want to put that much gas into my high clearance gas hog, so I drove my compact car.  I picked up Jake in Port Angeles and off we went.  My car almost made it to the trail head.   I decided it would be prudent to park it about half a mile from the trail head since it was starting to high center in the middle of the road.
The hike in was just like Mildred Lakes except without the elevation gain and with the addition of some serious swamp.  I somehow managed to make it to the beach without going over the top of my boots in mud.    We got to camp in plenty of time to pitch our tents, start a fire, do some exploring and enjoy the sunset. 
My tent, nice and dry the first night
plastic vertebrae I found on the beach

Sun sets on Japan as it rises in Japan

After sunset Jesse and  Melanie arrived in the dark via flashlights.    They brought a huge tarp in with them and in the morning we pitched the huge tarp  over our communal fire pit and then we all went for a walk up to Starbucks mine.

Group tarp set up hilarity

Starbucks mine

Obligatory starfish photo

Jesse and Jake at Starbucks mine

Boat floats and Starbucks mine

Pellia liverwort at Starbucks mine
 After our morning hike Jesse and Jake hiked back to Jesse’s car to get beer and potatoes.   They came back with a 15 pound bag of potatoes, two cases of beer and all kinds of food that was generously shared.  We wrapped potato, onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, salt, pepper and butter in aluminum foil and laid it on the coals to cook.  What a wonderful meal it was!  I am going to try that again.
 There was a steady drizzle coming down all day but life was grand under the communal tarp with a nice fire.  Then everything changed, at about 7 PM the rain and wind really picked up and the fire was nearly drowned.    The weather was about to deliver on the forecasters promise to soak us good.
I decided to check on my tent and discovered that my sleeping bag was wet.  Uh oh!  I had my big camera with me and I need to be sure to find a way to stay dry.  I moved my tent in land a bit and in the dark I pitched a rain fly over my tent that we had found in the woods.  But the rain fly leaked even worse than my tent.  There also happened to be a small blue tarp in the woods, but there was no way for me to attach it to the top of my tent.  What was I going to do?  At this point I was not a happy camper.  I thought about just bailing out and going to my car.  A two mile swamp hike in the dark and wind and rain seemed more fun than dealing with the possibility of my camera getting wet.
Then it occurred to me to put the blue tarp over my tent and cover it with the huge rain fly from the woods and then stake the rain fly down.  The leaky rain fly held the blue tarp down and I even made a little awing with my trekking poles.  I did all of this by myself in the dark and the rain while  Jesse and Jake were engaging in a losing battle to  try to keep the fire going.  Melanie, for the most part had wisely decided to retreat to her tent.
getting soaked

getting soaked

A pterodactyl eating my tent in the morning.

The back of the pterodactyl, not quite so pretty
After I had my Franken tent all set up the way I wanted it I went back to the scene of the rain and wind vs. fire battle and stood with my fellow hikers.  We were all getting soaked; sideways rain was blowing the fire out.  There was no real heat coming off the fire we were all just standing there in the dark and the wind getting wet and wondering if our giant communal tarp was going to blow away.
I decided to go hide in my tent while the rest of the group stayed up for about another hour trying to get keep the fire going for Jeffro and Ariana who were planning on joining us at midnight.  They all gave up at about 9pm and went to their tents.  Jeffro and Ariana arrived at about 11:30 and found everyone had gone to bed.  They shined their headlamp on my tent trying to figure out what the heck it was. I saw the head lamp on my tent but did not realize that it was the new arrivals checking me out so I said nothing.
Inside my tent it was still leaking and I could not figure out why.  I put my camera in my sleeping bag with me and I tried to sleep, but I woke up about every thirty minutes and soaked up water with a tiny bit of cloth I had brought just for this purpose.  Why was my tent still leaking?  It now had two rain flys and a blue tarp and I knew that the blue tarp was not leaking, so what was up?
Each time woke to sop up water I would look out to see if my friends were still trying to keep the fire going and to see if the big tarp was still up. At one point I noticed the fire had gone out but the tarp was still up, so I figured the others had gone to bed.   I was still awake trying to keep my tent dry, well after the fire went out.  Eventually I figured out that rain was dripping off the corners of my little blue tarp and onto the seams of my bathtub floor.  So I pulled the tarp up a bit and then no more water came in. 
Finally at one am I was able to fall asleep knowing that I was not going to wake up in the middle of a puddle with my camera destroyed.  The rain continued all night long and it was still raining in the morning.  I had planned on hiking out the following afternoon, but I decided to go ahead and leave after breakfast.  The hiker that I picked up in Port Angeles decided to stay and ride back with the other hikers who were staying. 
It took me less than an hour to hike out of the swamp and back to my car in the pouring rain.  I had to drive my car in reverse for about 1/10th of a mile before I found a place to turn around and then I had 50 miles of logging roads to navigate and I was anxious about the weather forecast.
It took me about 4 hours to drive home. I had no trouble at all navigating my way to the pavement, but after I reached the pavement  I got confused and took two wrong turns before I found highway 101.  Snow was forecast for the hood canal, so I opted to drive down the coast rather than to retrace my route through Port Angeles.  Too bad I forgot how to do the short cut that avoids Aberdeen and Hoquiam and McCleary.  As much trouble as I had finding 101, I decided that I had better just stick with the main roads and risk driving through McCleary.

 I took a long dinner break outside of the dreadful little ticket trap called McCleary.  I did this for two reasons, one to brace myself for the drive through McCleary and two to brace myself for my arrival at home.  I had left my spouse and daughter home alone all weekend and I knew there was going to be a price to pay for that.
I was correct; the house was a disaster of dirty dishes and piled up garbage.  I made such a fuss that I drove my spouse and child out of the house.  They came back about half an hour later with steak and cake and nearly all was forgiven.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I had a blast and hope to do it all again next year, but first I need to reseal my leaky old tent, or buy a new one.

This was my first hike with my ULA Circuit backpack
Scary path through the Jungle

Fridge from someone's home in Japan, quite sobering to think about

Industrial lightbulb from Japan

Stuff on the beach

Jeffro and Ariana in the morning just before I hiked out

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