Tuesday, November 25, 2014

4 stream to the very end

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I'm uploading a video of my hike 122 minutes to go with my budget internet connection..

I’ve only attempted to hike all of the 4 stream trail once before and that was years ago.  I thought the trail ended after just two miles.  A trail that short was not worth driving all the way out to Staircase to do.   The 4 stream trail is the original trail that the O’Neil party went up when they explored the area; it is on the opposite side of the North Fork Skokomish River as the main trail.  After Big Log camp near six stream, the main trail crosses the Skokomish River and that follows the same route that the O’Neil party followed.  You can still find traces of the old O’Neil trail between 4 stream and 6 stream.

There is a little bit more to this trail though.  After the trail crosses 4 stream a branch of it heads up hill and then suddenly ends two miles later on the side of a hill.  I had a theory that this trail was headed for Snow Lake at the head of 4 stream and was abandoned when a road was built within one mile of Snow Lake.

Yesterday I set out to test my theory with the idea of following the trail until it ended and then finding a way trail that would lead me all the way to the road by Snow Lake or at least all the way to the logged out area before Snow Lake.    The land in this area is both National Forest and National Park and a lot of the National Forest was destroyed by Simpson under the 100 year sustained yield (steal) Shelton unit.

This area is on the edge of where the logging was happening when at last the Forest Service had decided that maybe, just maybe it was not a good idea for Simpson aka Greed Diamond to steal every last bit of old growth.

So here there are patches of old growth mixed in with patches of horrible ugly logged over land.  Will the forest be allowed to recover before the National Forest sells us out again?  Kind of doubtful as those trees and that Simpson aka Greed Diamond took were up to 1,500 years old.

The days are short so I got up at a quarter to six and cooked breakfast for my spouse who is basically bedridden no longer able to cook for himself.  I reached the trail head and started my hike at 7:30.  I followed the trail to the new bridge and then past that to 4 stream.   On the way to 4 stream I startled 4 elk.  I got some pictures of them but they are not very good pictures.

4 stream

 4 stream was running fast but I was able to cross it with ease.  I had forgotten to pack my crocks for the crossing so I took off my socks and took the insoles out of my shoes and crossed in my shoes.  This kept my feet reasonably dry after I wringed out my shoes on the other side, put the dry insoles in and put my dry socks on.

After the crossing of 4 stream there is a campsite and then the trail heads up into the woods away from the Skokomish River.  Immediately the trail treads changes.  The trail is over grown with moss and some brush.  Also the trail tread is wide, very wide!   I almost felt like I was walking down an old logging road.  I immediately began to wonder why this trail was build so wide and so flat and so deep.  Was I on an old pack train route?

I followed the trail through beautiful old growth forest and looked for the National Park Boundary sign.  I did not see that sign.  Eventually the trail came out onto a cliff where the rock and either been blasted or chipped away to form the trail tread and then there was a rock wall.  The trail basically just ended there at a rock wall.  How peculiar!  I carefully skirted around the rock wall and found some more trail past the rock wall but now it was reduced to just a poor way trail with many logs laying across it. 
Wide trail tread in a cliff and then suddenly a rock wall
Maybe this is the mine?

Creepy, is there a body trapped under this tree?
Right after the trail began to decline I saw what looked like a hikers jacket sticking out from under a tree that had fallen across the trail.  The jacket looked like it had been there for years.  Was there a body inside the jacket?  The jacket felt really strange and it freaked me out a little bit, so I left it be. I had a friend that was maybe going to join me; I would investigate the jacket with him.

Choked ravine
Shortly after crossing a ravine chocked with mossy deadfall the way trail seemed to end.  There was no sign of trail, no cut logs, no trail tread, nothing but a very, very faint animal track.  I was not even sure if it was an animal track.  At this point it was starting to rain and the forest was getting slick, so I opted to turn back and safe brush crashing to the lake for another day.

On the way back I got up the nerve to pull the jacket out from under the tree.  It was really stuck under there and it took all my strength to get it out.  

The jacket turned out to be a sleeping bag with grommets on the collar.  Perhaps it was a kid’s bag.  My spouse thinks it had been stashed under the tree, but I feel that the tree had fallen onto it after it had been inadvertently dropped.  It would be nice to know why anyone would drag a sleeping bag up there.  I left it there as it was soaking wet and heavy and I did not have a pack big enough to haul it out in.

This trail left me with many questions.  Why was it built, why is it so wide and why did the construction stop?  My best guess is that this is an old miners trail.  Maybe the trail was built to haul a generator up to set into 4 stream, the war ended and the price of manganese went down and the trail was abandoned.  This is all just theory.  I do believe that this is an old miners trail though.

On the way back I found a National Park Boundary Sign on the back of a tree and I looked around until I found a wooden sign that had fallen or been throw down the bank.  I dragged it back up to the bank.  I think I went about 2/10ths of a mile past the National Park Boundary before I turned around.

The trail and the forest are beautiful; it reminded me a bit of the Dry Creek Trail except this trail starts in old growth where the Dry Creek trail starts in a cat track surrounded by summer homes where the residents are busy cutting down all the trees.  There is no old growth on the Dry Creek Trail until well after you cross the Creek.

I might make the 4 stream trail my new favorite winter get away from the people and enjoy the old growth trail.  It’s a shame that the end of the trail is so anti-climactic but there is so much pretty stuff along that way that maybe it is worth it.  The crossing of 4 stream and the lack of a destination should be enough to keep the hoards out of there in the winter.  It was fun to find a “new” trail to hike on.   I’ll be back!

Old puncheon under the moss

Old, wide and deep trail

A place to hide from the rain

Dangerous Driver on the way home, the almost caused
a wreck when they tried to pass the truck up ahead
Statistically the most dangerous part of a nature hike is the drive home

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