Olympic National Park | Washington| September | 2015

What a fantastic trip to Olympic National Park.  This year we were itching to take a guided trip with Andrew Skurka (check his website out) not that we needed the "guided" aspect but looking for some added insight on off trial navigation.  If you choose to peruse his website you will understand (check out his 4700 mile Alaska-Yukon Expedition he completed).  Anyway, this year I was originally targeting Yellow Stone but I was having a real problem with logistical planning, especially on trying to plan a decent 5 day/4 night or 4 day/3 night loops.  It just was not materializing for me, probably due to my inexperience.  Then some hiker was partially consumed by a grizzly bear and that sealed it.

I had some familiarity with ONP (Olympic National Park)  since we were there in 2012 and spent much of our time on the coast and West side of the park but never the East side.  Having ambition to experience the East side, it made sense to venture back to the place we really fell in love with (well, Glacier NP is right up there as well).  A bonus is  there are plenty of forest and NP roads that lead into the surrounding areas of the park that make accessing many trails easy by car (this was not the case for Yellowstone).  Local towns are also close by that can be utilized as a base camp, logistically, it's easy around ONP.

O' dear!  There is snow at Dear Park and we had not planned on snow!  I had done my weather research and checked average historical temps which had been in the lows around 40 and highs nearing 72.  Although I had gear for this unexpected event, I did not think I was actually going to experience snow.  Nevertheless, this trip was on.

A bit of pack adjustment as we embark on our journey

One of the few times the Sun (that strange yellow orb in the sky) revealed itself.

Lesson learned - I should have worn the contacts.  My glasses did nothing but fog up as soon as my body heat kicked in from the constant elevation gain and loss.  It got so bad there were times visibility for me was two feet

A pleasant break in he sky revealing the  valley and surrounding mountains.

Coming out looking for trail snacks.

Houston!  We have a problem.  About 7.2 miles in on a 14 mile day I look down to witness Shana's shoes deciding to surrender.  My only words to her at that moment were, "Sweetie, we got to turn around"!  When I told her the reason she lost reality a bit and said, "well maybe we can hike out tomorrow or get a cab at obstruction point"!  My response was, "cab"?!  I mean, we had no cell phone,  no cell coverage and no cab was picking us up at Obstruction point anyway.

We had to high tail it out of there and head back to Port Angeles where luckily Browns Outdoor was still open.  That was a lucky break.  A $120.00 later, she got some nice new shoes and we headed back out the next morning.

A bit chilly this am but at least the sky's were starting to open up and blue peeking out from the cover of clouds.

He really could care less that I was watching his morning graze.

Your typical footbridge crossing.

The next day was much different with warmer weather and the sky's opening up, I decided to dry off a bit in a nice meadow and just relax.  We found many avalanche shoots during this hike that opened up the sun from the think forest canopy.

This is looking from the other direction.

Well, things change quickly in ONP, especially when elevation gain is involved.  When you go up in elevation the weather is going to get a bit cooler. This is close to Cameron pass with elevation at about 6200' (Upper Cameron Camp)  I learned from experience that balaclava's are the way to get warm and keep warm.  They really offer great head and neck coverage.

That night we would experience freezing rain, snow and wind gusts up 35 mph and a semi tent collapse thanks to a not so secure tent stake coming loose.

A truly beautiful morning and this scene literally made the entire trip worth it. The stream near camp looked so mystical, it could have easily come from a scene straight out of the Hobbit.

Although most of the dramatic fall colors have already left the Olympics, there were plenty of pockets still remaining that offered some rewarding visuals.  This trip we found absolutely no huckleberry's remaining.  Either it was a bad crop or the bears picked them clean.  I'm a notorious berry eater and I'll sit in a patch and stuff my face.

Another meadow.

So it was off to find the pass.  We were trekking on a primitive trail that the park service no longer maintains so in some areas it became a bit sketchy and difficult to find.  Nothing to worrisome - we just needed to be patient.

Getting into the sub-alpine.  Our favorite location is the sub-alpine areas of hiking trails.

Another view (and more sub-alpine).

More views.

At this point you can barley see the trail.

This is looking back to where we camped.

One of my favorite pieces of outdoor garment gear is my Mountain Hardware Conduit rain jacket.  I can really stretch the use and it serves many rolls beyond just keeping rain off away.

At Lost Pass.

Navigation was difficult in the thickets.

We were supposed to camp at a tarn near that small lake in the middle of the photo but when we got down there it was so incredibly damp we decided to head to the next camp opportunity (4.5 miles). We were pretty wet from the energy exertion of getting up to the pass and our clothes were soaked and the entire area was socked in under the cloud cover.  My main concern is it would be damp all night and into the morning never giving us an opportunity to dry our gear.

Trying to figure the trail and best route.

Continuing to ponder the route.

My synthetic puffy I decided to bring over my down puffy.  It provided ample warmth but in hindsight I would have brought my down puffy.  I just prefer to be warm then on the border of feeling cold.

Getting dinner ready.

Love these big trees.

This slug was going to town on this fungus.

Taking a break.

Some of the pit toilets in NP can be intimidating and disgusting.  At least there is plenty of fresh air around.

Fresh water!

Nice shot of the cirque in the distance.

One of my favorite photos.

This was a rough section of the trail.

An example of some fantastic work the Park Service does.

Time to get some fresh water. "Get me some water woman, now"

Another tree shot.

Taking a moment.

This could snap an ankle.

I'm not drinking out of that!

Deer around our tent site.

Up at Black and White Lake.

Up at Black and White Lake.  Panoramic views abounding.

Black and White Lake.

Black and White Lake -  that's me .

Here is the zoom ( from the above picture).

River crossing.  We had plenty of them and all were just a rock hop.  Much better than having to ford.

Fall colors still lingering.

Our Camp site up at "Home Sweet Home".

The views here were great (Home Sweet Home)!

Home Sweet Home.

The meadow area at Home Sweet Home.

The sun is falling.

Our Morning view with a bit of alpenglow.

Our last camp site and day in Olympic.

A nice sunny day means an opportunity to dry things out.

It was time to dry out some clothes so the hiking pants had to come off.

That water was pretty darn cold but my feet loved it!

And... We are done here.

We did not have to deal with snow too much and the fact that I only brought a 40 degree quilt concerned me a bit but we only had snow one morning and an evening.

And there is the pass, so close!

Her favorite pose.

We found this really nice meadow and that is where we decided to camp.

Once again, perfect pitch on the Tensegrity 2 Elite.  This tent has a ton of room it was like staying in a five story hotel.

Shadow me.

After a long day of hiking 14.4 miles I needed to dry out some gear.

Cooking our meal for the evening.

You always wonder where is the rest of the carcass when you come across a fresh batch of entrails.  Then you wonder what might have done this.  Then it occurs to you that it still could be nearby!

Darn close to a perfect pitch again!

We brought the book, "A Walk In The Woods" and finally finished it off this trip.

Two peas in a pod.

A relaxing view.

Flap Jake

Flap Jake and some nice crags

Flap Jake Lake.

Flap Jake Lake.

Flap Jake Lake camp site - a very scenic area.

Black and White lake.

Black and White lake.

Another spectacular view of the horizon - and clear skies in ONP.  When the could cover is sparse the panoramic views are just spectacular.

Shana - just pondering random thoughts.  The background can really provided much needed balance and it really has way of prioritizing things.  Just has a way of grounding you.

During the final days of our back-country trip the weather was just spectacular and on the last day, actually quite warm, with no clouds visible in the sky.

Shadow man came out during the abundant sunshine.

The office in Tacoma.

Mt. Rainer showing herself (view from downtown Tacoma).

Another view (Tacoma Dome and Mt. Rainer).

The capital of Washington (City of Olympia).

I will share my insurance policy with you.  It's my ACR PLB (personal locator beacon).  It's worth the added weight and if anything bad should happen it might end up saving a life.  So we make sure we carry it because, you never know when you might need rescue.


  1. Hot dang, I was out on the beach in ONP last week and we had considered heading up to Deer Park as well. When did you two go on this trip?

    1. Sam - I think we literally just missed each other - Our entire trip was 9/2-16/15 with us in the Deer Park area from 9/4-8/15. Wish I would have dropped you a line but who would have known!

      We wanted to stop by Port Townsend but did not have time.

  2. Small world, eh, Ric? We did literally just miss each other. We camped on the beach on the 15th and then headed through Port Townsend on the 16th. I'm glad the two of you did such a big adventure out there - such a great place.


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