When I first started hiking more consistently in 2014, I spent most of my time exploring the Cascades of Washington State. I dabbled a bit in the Olympics, but not nearly as much as the Cascades. My first consistent hiking partner lived in Seattle, an area much closer to the Cascades, so I would meet him in the city and we would go from there.
Occasionally he would come to my side of the water where the Olympics are, but we both felt more of a draw towards the Cascades.
Then my hiking partner moved, I couldn’t find any other willing participants, and I began hiking alone. My mountain range of choice was still the Cascades, because somehow I felt more comfortable hiking there alone. In the beginning of my solo hiking endeavors I spent a lot of time on trails I was already familiar with, but eventually explored some new to me trails as well.
Fast forward many years, and I have spent more time in the Olympics this past month than I did in all of 2014.
I have managed to weasel my way into a somewhat consistent group of hiking pals, and these adventures have quickly become a highlight of my week. I have recently seen three new areas of the Olympics, places I would never go if I were alone. There is something deep, and vast about the Olympics.
This isn’t a bad thing, but there is an eerie energy about these mossy trees and muddy trails that give the feeling of complete isolation.
In a group setting the strong sound of a raging river, or the absolute silence of wide open woods is welcomed. Alone, these auditory stimulations are a quick reminder of just how small we are in these endless mountains of trees and terrain. I have shared a few photos from my hikes the last month in previous posts, but today I share a proper trail report.
The latest mountain adventure took my pals and I to the Duckabush River Trail, a 10.5 mile moderately rated hike deep in the heart of the Olympics. The early bird not only catches the worm, but also catches a good parking spot. Although hiking in the winter months on less populated trails will also help with that. All of the hikes I’ve done the last month have had little to no other humans around for miles.
I’m stoked to have friends who also believe in the power of an early start, it can be like pulling an abscessed tooth with some people convincing them to get a head start.
This trail starts out mostly flat with a bit of a down hill grade, weaving in and out of large lichen covered trees and a few small stream crossings. Despite the fact we were hiking in February, the trail conditions were excellent. Nothing a good pair of waterproof shoes cannot combat. It’s somewhat comical to think I have been hiking for as long as I have, and only recently purchased a pair of waterproof shoes.
I still wear trail runners though, because I am adamantine with footwear and cannot commit to the extreme discomfort of a hiking boot.
The weather was moody and wet for the first half of our hike, and despite the trail name there was only a small section that hugged parallel with the river. The terrain was ever-changing and the cooler temps were a welcomed reprieve when we reached some quick, but steep switchbacks bringing us to an expansive view of the valley below.
I’m much quicker when the external temperature is cold, I give off heat like a personal portable furnace.
Our first vantage point was a large rock fit for baby Simba, and we stopped to appreciate the view. After the switchbacks to this rock the trail is moderate again, moving onto the backside of the mountain we had just climbed. Endless rows of burned trees guided us down towards our destination next to the river. We encountered a small amount of snow on the backside of the hike, but nothing my Salomon trail runners couldn’t handle.
Upon arrival at the river we sat and savored a snack before making the trek back to the car.
The sit at the river brought my core temperature lower than comfortable, and I was quite chilly as we ate our snacks. As if by the Grace of God when we started our walk back the clouds dispersed and the sun came out to play. We were much quicker on the way back, per usual, and managed to finish the hike in a little over six hours. I appreciate the desire to stop and savor the views along the way, as well as the focus to get back to the car after we’ve seen all there is to see.
This group of pals reminds me of the three solid guy friends I hiked with regularly while I was living in Yellowstone, one of which was my absolute savior during those intense but amazing months in the wilderness.
When the spring and summer months arrive, I plan to spend more time in the Cascades. The sweeping peaks of those mountains are a welcomed challenge, one that will remind me of how fortunate I am to have found a balance in living life with an autoimmune disease. Each day brings forth new challenges, but I have dialed down what I need in order to keep up with these three hooligans, or any others I embark into the mountains with.
Until then, I will relish in these lowland hikes through the woods of the Olympics. A forest unlike any other I have seen.
Q: Are you a fan of winter hiking?