Friday, July 25, 2014

Coming full circle on the high divide -day 5 the primitive trail

Day 5 Olympic Hot Springs to Barnes Creek
13  miles (I don't care what the map said, it was 13 miles dammit!) with 3,000 feet elevation gain and 3,500 feet of elevation loss

We got up early and hit the trail at 6am.  I still had a touch of the migraine from the night before, the nausea was gone but I had a mild headache so I took one of my migraine pills, figuring just one would do it. 

We had a long day ahead of us.  We had to leave a day early so we would not run out of food, so instead of doing just 3 miles to Boulder Lake we needed to go about 13 miles to Lake Crescent to position ourselves to take the bus back home the next day.  My goal was to get within one mile of the bus stop.

My daughter was not a happy hiker as we headed up and out of Olympic Hot springs.   She went on strike; she kept sitting down and saying there was no way she could do the hike all the way out today.  I did not know what was going to happen, we were fresh from resting up the day before and should have been strong and ready for this hike, but my daughter was not going to make it at this rate.   What was I going to do?  Staying at Boulder Lake was not an option, we just did not have a enough food for that.  We had to get out, but how?  How could we ever hike out with my daughter flopping herself down and the trail over and over and refusing to budge after just 1/4 of a mile?

Boulder Lake
I changed my psychology.  I told my daughter Okay, we will camp at Boulder Lake today and not hike all the way out even though it means that we will run out of food. 

 I would let her have the last of the food and I would go hungry.  My daughter cheered up; soon she was rushing down the trail ahead of me and singing and I could barely even keep up with her. 

Then something I was hoping for happened.  My daughter came around; she said she thought we should take a break at Boulder Lake so she could look for frogs and then we should try to hike out.   I said that I thought that was a good idea.  With the idea of hiking all the way out now her idea instead of my idea, she was happy to do it.  Wow, what a difference.  That little bit of psychology saved the day.

Boulder lake
We were a little bit cold leaving Olympic Hot Springs and then we had to climb up 2000 feet to Boulder Lake that sits at 4,500 feet.  Boulder Lake was big and cold and in the clouds.  My daughter explored the lake shore while I searched for the pit toilet.  The flowers and grasses in the meadow were tall and wet, soon my pants and boots were soaked.  We both got cold at the lake and knew that even if we had enough food we would not want to stay there.

By the time we got to the lake my migraine was gone.

Brook Trout
We found a dead trout on the shore and my daughter moved it to a log,  it had pretty red spots.  We were told that a troop of boy scouts had camped there two nights before, but we could see no sign of them being there.  I think the fish was a brook trout.

Brook Trout
I tanked up on water before we left the lake as there was to be no water on the trail for at least the next five miles.  We left the lake with five and a half quarts of water between us.   Almost immediately I had to dump some of the water out because my bear can and a full 3 liter platypus will not fit in my pack at the same time.  The bear can takes up my entire pack and forces my  platypus to move over the the side in a way that is not comfortable to carry.
We left Boulder Lake and headed up the trail that said “Happy Lake”.  That was the only sign and we were not going to Happy Lake, but I knew that we would be on the Happy Lake trail for a bit.  Another sign mentioning Aurora ridge or Lake Crescent would have been comforting.   

 Soon we were climbing up into lovely meadows and ridges covered with wild flowers.  We were still in a cloud and everything was wet and cold and misty.  I had been warned that this trail was hot and dry, so I was glad for the clouds and I dumped out more of my water.  Now we had three and a half liters of water between us and even that was more than we needed. 
I was very worried about what laid ahead on the Barnes Creek Primitive trail.  Would we really have to drop 4,000 feet down on a short primitive trail?  How was I going to do that without killing my knees?  Would we lose the trail again?  Oh anxiety, my constant companion, I wish I could shake it off.  I convinced myself that we would drop some of the elevation on the ridge trail.  But every time the ridge trail went down, it went right back up again.

It was a beautiful ridge, wild flowers were everywhere and the cloudy weather made the colors more vibrant.  But I kept waiting until later to take pictures of them, I was too anxious about the next segment of our hike.  I never did get any good pictures of the flowers on the narrow ridge trail.


Happy Ridge and Aurora Ridge Junction
Soon we reached the junction of the Happy Lake Ridge trail and the Aurora Ridge trail.  We turned left to follow Aurora Ridge.  The trail was in good shape and flowers were everywhere.  In a couple of places we could not see the trail under our feet but could clearly see it just a few feet ahead of us.  Someone has done a good job of laying branches over the side paths to keep people from accidentally leaving the trail too.
There was much hilarity and silliness as we traversed the ridge.  I was anxious but my daughter was happy go lucky as usual. I released my anxiety with silliness.  Screeching whenever the trail went up hill that I couldn’t do it and condemning the trail for not letting me hike downhill.  Why wouldn’t the trail let me hike downhill?  That was fun.
slightly confusing junction of Aurora Ridge and Aurora Divide trails

Tiger Lilly
Next we reached the three way junction of the Aurora ridge trail and the Barnes Creek primitive trail.  Uh oh, we had not dropped any elevation to speak of and now we would have to go straight downhill on a primitive trail. 

I knew that I needed to turn right here onto the Barnes Creek trail but the sign made no mention of the Barnes Creek trail, it said Aurora Divide trail and Aurora Ridge trail, the sign also said it was 7.2 miles to Lake Crescent on the right and 15 miles Sol Duck straight ahead.  The arrow pointing to the Aurora divide trail was missing as the corner of the sign had rotted away.  Also the sign was leaning on a tree, so no way to know if any of the arrows were pointing in the right direction.

 We turned right, but my GPS said I was on the wrong track, it said I was on the Aurora Divide trail.  This was confusing.  I knew I need to turn right and go down to the lake, but I thought I was supposed to be on the Barnes Creek trail.  I double and triple checked and was never satisfied that I was on the right trail; all I knew for sure is that we were headed for Lake Crescent and that was all that really mattered.  The actual name of the trail did not matter as much as the destination.

Small landslide on Aurora Divide trail

Tarn at the start of Aurora Divide Trail

So we headed down the primitive trail not even knowing the trail name.  After about a quarter of a mile I exclaimed to my daughter that this was the most civilized  “primitive” trail that I had ever seen.  It was nice and clear and it had wonderful tight switchbacks that snaked down, down and down.   Perhaps primitive trail means something different in the park than it means in the forest?

I kept expecting the trail to turn primitive, I kept expecting to lose the trail, but we never lost the trail.  All that happened was that we got very tired, but we kept on going until we got to the junction with the Lower Barnes Creek Trail. 

 I looked at the sign that pointed at the trail we had come down and it said Aurora Divide Trail.  Okay, so there was never any need to worry about a primitive trail, it was just that both of my GPS maps at home pegged this trail as the “Barnes Creek Primitive Trail” when it really was the Aurora Divide extremely civilized trail.  My guidebooks that I studied at home did not make the situation any clearer; it just seems to be a confusing area when it comes to the actual names of the trails.

Ah, so we were on the Aurora Divide Trail all this time

One what??
We took our packs off and took a break at a switch back and my daughter lost control of her pack when she was putting it back on.  Her pack fell down the hill and I watched in horror as it began to achieve terminal velocity, bouncing and rolling down the steep mountain side.  This was not good, that pack was going to be gone forever!  It kept going faster and faster, bouncing higher and higher and then it hit a log and stopped rolling.  Whew!  I was sure her pack was going to bounce right over that log.

By this time we were very tired and the trail was longer than expected. My left knee and ankle took a pounding dropping down 3,500 feet on the Aurora Divide trail in spite of all the wonderful switchbacks, I would be limping soon at this rate.

 I was ready to quit for the night, but my daughter wanted to keep going and she was not happy when I made the decision to camp at the most beautiful campsite in the history of entire world, ever.  The camp site was three miles up the Barnes Creek Trail.  It was beautiful because I was so tired and so ready to stop for the night.  It was also beautiful because it had logs to sit on, a river to get water out of and a fire pit with a stack of fire wood next to it.  I did not even care that it was in a creepy little ravine.

Our last camp
My daughter was mad that I stopped so she sat on the hill one switchback above the campsite and refused to come down as I fumbled around exhausted setting up camp.  I nearly pitched my tent inside out then I lit a fire and started cooking dinner.  We had been wet and cold all day, the fire was very welcome.   It felt great to dry out my boots and walk around in bare feet. 

 My daughter was being stubborn, she got out her sleeping bag and set it up on the switchback and then she started filtering water and doing everything else she could think up to make it clear that she was setting up camp on the switchback.  I knew she would come around before it got dark, so I ignored her carry on, but told her she was welcome to join me by the campfire at any time.

She was tired too, she accidentally dropped both of her boots and her water bottle down the hill.  Then I watched in silent horror as her sleeping bag in its stuff sack began to roll down the hill and stopped just short of falling in the creek.

I continued to dry out my socks and my boots and to eat dinner while she stayed up on the hillside.  She eventually gathered her stuff together and came down and finished off my dinner. 

 I collapsed into my sleeping bag at about 7pm but I had to get up and walk around some because my legs had started to cramp up.

 We had to hike three miles down to highway 101 to catch our bus at 10:20 the next morning so we both  went to bed early.

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