Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Coming full circle on the high divide -day 3 Ghosts on Appleton pass

Day Three Appleton Crossing to Olympic Hot springs
8 miles with 2,100 feet elevation gain
No fridge required bacon, our first time eating it and it was good
We slept in a bit and had bacon for breakfast at Appleton crossing camp on the Sol Duc trail.  We were tired from the day before and I knew that we had a big day ahead of us, so it seemed like the best day to have our one bacon breakfast of the trip.  We started hiking at 10am, but first I had my daughter fill all our water bottles.  Then up the trail we went only to find that the trail crossed the creek, so the special trip for water was pointless. The creek crossing was a little tricky but we both managed to keep our feet dry.

Leaving Appleton pass junction camp in the morning

Reshi conk at rocky creek crossing

As we headed up, up and up to Appleton pass my daughter got tired.  She said I was hiking too fast, but I really only have one hiking speed, my I can maintain this pace all day long speed and if you break my stride I might poke you with my trekking pole speed.  So we kind of leap frogged each other up the trail, me the turtle, her the rabbit.  At one point when she was really lagging I left a bag of M&M’s in the middle of the trail and yelled down to tell her about it.  There were so many switchbacks that we were never really out of each other’s sight. The M&M’s got her up to my level pretty darn quick.

My daughter found a King Bolete on the lower section of the trail.  We have never  before found a King so early in the year.

Near the top we passed by two tarns that were filled with frogs and tadpoles.  The trail up was in excellent shape.  I think we made it to the top at about 2pm.  Appleton pass is where I started my solo hike of the high divide in July of 2003.  My husband was at base camp at Olympic hot springs but he saw me off to Appleton pass. 

We lost each other on the way to Appleton Pass playing the rabbit and turtle game, me being the rabbit this time.  I went ahead of him and took a nap in a campsite next to the river, I never heard or saw him pass me by. 

I waited and waited for him and I was preparing to spend the night in that campsite waiting for him, I even lit a fire hoping he might see the smoke if he had somehow gone ahead of me without me knowing it. 

But the campsite was too creepy and nothing made sense, so just before sunset I decided to hoof it up to Appleton pass to look for him.    I had our only shelter; he would be without a shelter if I did not find him.   I heard him calling for me as I rounded the second to last switchback before the top of the pass and I answered him. 

The switch back my husband ran down in his socks
He ran down the trail in his socks to great me.  I’ll never forget that moment.  We spent two nights on Appleton pass instead of one, since the trip took so much out of us.  We swam in Oyster Lake, we got bit my mosquitos.  Two mornings later I headed for the high divide loop and he headed back to base camp at Olympic Hot Springs.  I got airlifted that evening but it was another two days before I was able to get word to him at Olympic Hot springs that I was in Port Angeles.  He saw the helicopter fly over him having no idea that I was in it. 

Coming back to Appleton pass was emotional for me.  I had been down this trail before but never up it and next I was to go down the side I had gone up but never came back down. 

Appleton pass was so beautiful, there were flowers everywhere.  I wished that I had planned for us to spend the night there instead.  There was not enough food for me to change plans and add a day to our hike so we had to keep moving.  I let my daughter play in Oyster Lake for about half an hour.  All of the tadpoles in the lake had legs and they were all dead.  What had killed all the tadpoles?   

Oyster "lake"

Frogs mating in Oyster Lake

Frog eggs in Oyster Lake

All dead tadpoles in Oyster lake

As I left Appleton pass this time with my daughter, I was overcome with emotion, I felt like I was leaving my husband up there on Appleton pass.  I knew he would never get to go up there again and that I had left him there before.  It was with a sense of doom and foreboding disaster that I left Appleton Pass.  I kept looking back up to the pass unable to shake the feeling that I was leaving my husband up there.
Fresh Bear poop in the meadow on the East side of
Appleton Pass

 As we headed into the meadow I heard a noise and I thought it was either human or bear.  There was one set of fresh boot prints on the trail, so I kept expecting to maybe see someone.  As we headed down, the valley grew narrower and the brush got taller and soon we could not see the trail at all.  I knew the trail was below our feet though.  This went on for awhile and then we completely lost the trail.

This is the trail
I was not sure where the trail crossed the river, my GPS said the crossing was close, then we saw a clear trail up the opposite river bank.  But was that really the trail?  It was just a little bit too soon.  I could see no other signs of trail in the meadow, so we crossed the river and headed up the trail we saw on the opposite bank.  The trail climbed up and sort of ended.
  Crap, was this the real trail or was it an animal trail or was it a trail that had been followed by many lost hikers before us ?  Even the real trail was not exactly clear so there was no way to know.  My GPS said the trail was below us but it often is off by a few 100 feet as trails get rerouted and my main map is from 1958 or so. 
I needed to change to my other map and just then I realized that I had lost my reading glasses.   A wave of fear came over me, I had lost the trail, I had no reading glasses and if we did not find the trail fast we would not make it to the hot springs before dark.  I have a hard time seeing my GPS without reading glasses, but I did have an emergency spare set of glasses in my pack.
My daughter did not sense my fear, instead she started screaming about mosquitoes biting her and how I was awful because I did not care that mosquitoes were biting her.  I confirmed that I indeed did not care that mosquitoes were biting her, at that moment all I cared about was finding the trail.

I think we crossed
the creek and went into
the woods too soon.
My other GPS map put the trail in the same place and that place was two contour lines below us, so I started to search for a way down, but it was  too steep.  So I backtracked to the last time I saw the trail (or the not a trail) several times, still never finding the actual trail.  So I pushed ahead until we were able to find a slope that was not too steep.  I also turned on my track log at this time so I would be able to have some idea of where we had gone wrong when we got home.  My daughter did not want to hike down a hill in the brush, she was so slow and I just wanted to find the trail so bad.  Thanks to my GPS I knew where it was, but I was not going to relax until my feet were on it.
The woods were the dark, creepy spindly kind and my poor sleeping bag was on the top of my pack thanks to my stupid, ugly, heavy, bear can taking up too much space inside my pack.  Would we find the trail?  Would my sleeping bag survive bushwhacking?  Had I totally screwed up by taking my daughter here and getting us lost, were we going to die here?  Why had I come back to this awful place?
Finally with much prodding I got my daughter to follow me down the hill and we found the trail again.  Soon after we found the trail we arrived at the campsite where I had lost my husband last time.  What is with this place?  Appleton pass is haunted and I’m never ever going back, was all that I could think.  We stopped and took pictures of the place where I had lost my husband and then we plodded on.

Creepy campsite where I lost my husband
I was a bit unnerved by losing the trial and by the fading light and by my fatigue and by the emotion of it all.  But still, we plodded on and on and on down the creepy trail.  Finally I decided that this was the time to open up the pepperoni, we needed energy to get to the hot springs before dark.  I had no desire to be on the haunted Appleton Pass trail in the dark!
When we got to the North Fork of Boulder Creek we very  briefly lost the trail yet again since the bridge had washed away and the trail had turned into a creek bed.

washed out bridge North Fork Boulder Creek
All day I had the feeling were not alone, maybe it was the boot tracks or maybe it was the bear noises in the meadow.   As we arrived at the hot springs campground I told my daughter to be quiet as there was sure to be at least one person camped there, the person whose tracks we had seen all day long.  I wanted to see this person before they saw us so I could evaluate them. 
But we never saw that person all we found was an empty deserted car campground and the abandoned road.   How strange, those boot track were fresh, someone had come this way today, but somehow we never saw them.  Later we learned that a man had hiked from Olympic Hotsprings to Appleton pass that same day.  Why didn't we see him?
We did not see him because this trail is in the burmuda triangle of the trail world.

Slime mold crawling up a dead branch

Finally at the sign 0.5 mile from Boulder Creek camp
the light is already fading

 It was a little bit disorienting for me to come into the hot springs from Appleton pass as I had always come in from the other direction before.  But the other direction had been closed for years thanks to dam removal on the road below.  This is the only way to come into the hot springs now.  The high bridge over Boulder Creek looked a little bit iffy, it is getting too old and too rotten.
The hot springs were eerie, everything was so over grown and fallen trees blocked the way to the upper pool, it all seemed so strange, it was familiar but just different enough to be disorienting.  I reminded myself that it had been over nine years since I was last there and that the fading light was probably getting to me as well.
I really did not want to camp all alone up there, but that was the way it was going to be.  I cheered myself up by not camping in the campground.  The horrible creepy campground up the hill with no water and too far away to leave all my stuff while dipping in the springs.
My daughter was fascinated by the hot springs and did not share any of my anxieties.
I pitched the tarp tent at 9:15 and we went to bed without dinner as we were so tired and it was getting dark and we had gorged ourselves on pepperoni.  Figures since we were now out of the Bear can required area we were first  able to fit all of our food into our bear can on this night.   

The next day was to be our only non-hiking day of the trip and I was looking forward to it.


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