Olympic National Park – entering from Marmot Pass – loop around White Mountain
Distance: 65+ miles
Elevation Gain: thousands
Date: August 24 – 28, 2014
Hikers: Groucho & Harpo
Duration: 4-5 days
Day 1 – Sunday
Groucho and I start out on Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. It’s only 4.5 miles up to Mystery Camp where we will start our 5-ish-day trek around the SE Olympic National Park. Surprisingly crowded for a non-holiday, non-weekend, we find a spot next to the stream and quickly set up camp in the nippy mountain breeze. Sadly, for the first time ever, our bear hang falls in the middle of the night and later we discover why… A mouse or chipmunk has tampered with my food sack, chewing a hole in the bag, and then through a ziplock in order to eat my fresh peach and all my dried fruit!! Little devil.
Day 2 – Monday
We wake early to begin an 18 mile day. Groucho jets up hills like a billy goat (he just finished a 10-day PCT section)… while I struggle, having typed more, and hiked less, as evidenced by my soft urban feet. I put on my good mood and try to keep up. Starting with a nice easy jaunt up Marmot Pass (6,000 feet), dipping down 4ish miles to Home Lake for brunch – an hour of savory oats, blister care, and a frigid lake swim. By noon we’re heading up Constance Pass (5,800 feet), continue up another mile to 6,500 feet, near the summit of Mount Constance. The views are 360 degrees, the weather clear and gorgeous.
We catch our breath and begin the knee buckling trek down down down down down 6 miles to the Dosewallips riverside trail. Along the way we pass a little pond with hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of tadpoles. Charming, charming little fellows.
Reaching the river we trek another 5 flat miles until my blisters start to burn. Diamond Meadows, a huge camp among the old old cedars next to the Dosewallips river, is empty. We set up camp, Groucho leads hiker yoga, we eat cold hydrated ramen and enjoy a sweet, little fire. A dreamy end to a grueling day.
Day 3 – Tuesday
Breaking camp early, we hike further up river to Honeymoon Meadows. Fording a small river, we meet Steve, a 67 year old gentleman who really has his it together. I appreciate his approach – using Honeymoon Meadows as a base camp for a bunch of short hikes over 5 days. While we’re only carrying 9 lbs base weight, with 1.2 lbs of food per person per day, the 15 lbs total was starting to weigh me down. Starting up to Anderson Pass (4,450 feet), we continue counterclockwise around White Mountain, leap-froging with our new friend a few times.
The fun really begins with a long late morning walk on a high, flat path at 4,500 feet around the south end of the range. In and out of the trees, the views of nearby glaciers, lowland forest, and river valley are epic. Finding a creek Groucho sets up a glacier-cold foot soak to help with my increasingly painful blisters. After a short break, we continue 7 miles through subalpine meadows dripping with huckleberries – we devour pints, and our hands stained with blueberry bruises. We hear – and then SEE elk – crossing our path, scattering through the woods, hooves pounding headed straight down the steep slopes. At 6:00 p.m. we cross O’Neil Pass (5,000 feet) -the rocky path makes for sore feet, but it’s all downhill for the rest of the day.
Passing Marmot Lake, we share the trail with a doe and two precious fawns. I’m reminded of my mom taking me to Bambi as a little girl. We descend to the Duckabush River and find a place to make camp as the dark settles in – the softest cedar forest beneath us we sleep, minds full of the wonders of the wild.
Day 4 – Wednesday
We’ve been anticipating the climb up to Lacrosse Pass (5,566 feet), which one hiker relayed, up or down, was “hell either way.” It’s difficult, but nothing out of the ordinary for the Northwest. Abundant huckleberries, my personal power pellets, appear in blue, blue-black, hot pink, and regal purple. Taking our time we reach the pass at noon, running into our new buddy Steve. We have a fantastic conversation about gear, snacks, photography, mediation, and public service.
We climb down to Honeymoon Lake again, and begin the long trek toward the river. Arriving at Dose Forks we score a secluded site by a rushing, aquamarine Dosewallips river, finishing a 17 mile day with a quiet fire. Somehow, even using a park-provided bear wire, a mouse sneaks in my food sack as I sleep, and I lose the rest of my Grouchy Mix. I am too tired to be hungry, or mad.
Day 5 – Thursday
Labor Day looms, and the park grows crowded. We get up early, hoping to knock out the rigorous 6-mile climb to Constance Pass before we fully wake up. Marching straight uphill 4500 feet it is, as they say, challenging.
We continue without much rest until Home Lake, where we take a lovely late lunch. It’s hard to believe we have 10 miles left. Fortunately with the last of our food gone our packs are light both up to Marmot Pass, and down the remaining 5.4 miles to the trailhead, arriving by 6:30 p.m.
We open the trunk and find – to our disbelief – that a mouse (or some dark eyed bandito) has crept in to the closed trunk of my car (?!) and again eaten my resupply of Grouchy Mix!!!!
The trail mouse is my spirit animal for the journey. Fin.