Olympic National Park (Washington State)
Shana and I experienced absolutely fantastic weather while we were in Washington State for our trip to Olympic National Park (ONP), what a wonderful experience day hiking and back packing in the backcountry. This National Park definitively has it all. My favorite is still Glacier NP but this one's a close second!
I love testing new gear and was especially excited to try a new addition to my sleep system, the Golite 40 degree quilt. I'm new to quilting but thought I might be a pretty good candidate since I toss and turn so much (by the way, I'm totally sold).
I always like to reflect back on my trips and think of at least one take away I can learn from the backpacking experience. Here it is: Bug spray, bug spray bug spray! I could have avoided the whole situation had I been more specific while inquiring to the Park Ranger's on how the bug situation was. My error was not being specific. By just asking,"hey, is it buggy this time of year?" . Was not sufficient. What I should have asked was, 1.) What are the mosquito like this time of year. 2.) Are they more active around the sub alpine lake areas and 3.) Which is the most important, "have you actually been hiking in the area we will be going or know of any Rangers that have!" If I would have asked that I would probably have been informed of the unusually late snow fall they have had this Summer (about three weeks late) and they just had a mosquito hatching! Couple this with failing to pack the bug spray, no head net and a tarp was a recipe for disaster.
We picked up our bear canister (Bear Vault) the day before so we only needed to pack up and hit the trail.
So we embarked from Sol Duc for a three day two night back packing trip that would take us to Lunch Lake for the first night and Heart Lake for the second night. The total trip mileage would be around 18/20 miles. The hike - spectacular with constant views of Mount Olympus on the High Divide trail. We were also treated the wild flowers popping everywhere. This was assisted by the late snow melt which caused a late bloom lucky for us (but unlucky as the mosquitoes bloomed as well).
Here is another takeaway/tip. Always know where you are going and where you are at in the trail no matter how confident you are with your hiking partner. It is not about trust it's about having a good backstop! We actually missed the Lunch Lake trail spur and kept hiking well past it. If it were not for some hikers we passed on the trail asking us where we were headed we would not have known that we passed the spur trail. Not that it would have been that of a big deal but a lesson learned and well taken. I was relying on Shana and just blissfully following along like a dog following his master without really knowing where we were at all on the trail. Very forgiving mistake, no harm no foul. But in other places or circumstances it could have been an issue.
So we backtracked and finally found the spur and went to drop in. On the way we met a pair of hippie hikers who proclaimed how bad the mosquitoes were and advised us that we had better have some bug spray! I turned to Shana - do you have the bug repellent... A long pause followed with, "no I thought that we would not need it." As I'm thinking to myself, man is it going to be a very long night.
ANGELS IN THE BACKCOUNTRY
So, right about now Shana and I are felling pretty terrified. By the time we drop in to the sub alpine lake area the mosquitoes are swarming us. It looks like something out of a movie and I kid you naught! Literally, as we walked I could see a swarm of about two to three hundred mosquitoes around Shana. Right about that moment in time I actually wanted to cry. I'm playing the night out in my mind and I see my self being revenged by the flying vampires. Too make matters worse, it's only two o'clock and we still have to make it through dusk (dusk and dawn - the worst times. But man did I love the movie!) The first thing we decide on was to keep moving and try and find some other backpackers in the area that might just be generous enough to lend us some mosquito spary. Ah, pay dirt a couple with a small child, you know they are going to have some spray. And behold, they are generous enough to give us a squirt (but at first the lady was some what hesitant - the thought of giving away the precious commodity sent chills down her spine).
RELIEF FOR NOW...
The bug spray was only a temporary fix. What to do about the shelter. You see Shana thought we needed the Tarp Tent (Henry Spires). I dismissed the need and said we would be fine; the bugs, if any would be negligible. Shit was I wrong. But hell, she forgot the bug repellent, right?
So we decided to settle in our mind that it will be rough night, that's just how it will be. We needed to mentally prepare for the worst and pray for the best.
Then, we got so lucky that I'm convinced we will never win the lottery. Unbeknownst to us, Cecily, the Backcountry Ranger, was actually stationed at Lunch Lake that evening and she came to our tent site to check for our permit. She looked at the shelter and said, "is that it". Depressingly, we replied with an excuse response, "we were told it was not buggy". "By who", she replied. "Front country Ranger" wesaid in unison with an agitated tone to our voices.
Cecily said, "hey that's no problem I have a four season tent we keep up here and you guys are welcome to it if you want to borrow it." O' my God the joy and that very moment. You know we took her upon that offer. I mean, how cool was that. That made for a great night. And let me tell you, when dusk arrived,the mosquitoes were epic! Like I said, Angles in the backcountry.
The next day we headed to Heart Lake but decided to head out. The mosquitoes there were just as bad and we were not able to tag along with the four season tent. It made for a long hike that day but it was really enjoyable.
I noticed many snow fields we had to cross so late in the season. The Ranger told us that two weeks ago we would not have been able to complete the hike as the trails were closed to to snow.
Although this was only one night on this stint it was fantastic and we still had another three day two night trip planned in the Ho River area.
Out departure to Mosquito hell
We should have originally turned here but did not realize that Lunch lake was our destination:
Snow field I was referring about:
This does not serve it justice but the wild flowers were incredible:
More snow fields:
Our tarp set up before Cecily saved our poor souls with the four season tent:
The water was as flat as glass and the water was cold!
Hey, look our four season saving grace!
This is the area that was not passable three weeks ago:
Wild flowers everywhere:
Like it looks - Heart Lake:
Approach to Heart Lake:
That pink tag was a warning of a hornets nest about 25 yards down the trail:
Cape Flattery area:
Here is our start to our second stint in the backcountry. This went much better and despite the lower elevations, we had no problem with mosquitoes at all and the trap worked great. We got a little bit of rain on our day out but that was not until about half way out on our hike.
Backcountry Ranger station. It was like the Taj Mahal
Nice camp site, close to our water source and no mosquitoes
There is a deer through that brush: