The Olympic National Obstacle Course – Part 1
Hello. My name is Leila, and I have the supreme pleasure of being guest-blogger number 2! The story of how I got here (here being a part of Jansarnia’s lives) is long and involved. The short version: Janna and I played frisbee against each other in high school, she hated me, but then I transferred to UNC and I eventually fought myself into her good graces and we became friends and Pleiades teammates.
Tania and I were on the same backhoe rookie class of 2009 together and then Janna joined us on PHX in 2010 and Sara jumped on board in 2011. I’ve been living and teaching music in NYC for the past 2 years, but I just quit my job and am making the logical transition into organic farming in Western Massachusetts, so I was lucky enough to get to join these lovely ladies for a week of their trip before I begin my vegetable adventures. So, off to the woods!
Monday: The morning after Potlatch, we groggily packed up, did some much-needed laundering, ate some delicious brunch consisting of several 4-egg omelets, went to REI to stock up on freeze-dried delicacies, and then set out on I-5 North for Olympic National Park. The plan was that we would get to the park, grab some bear cans, get our permit and then immediately traipse off into the wilderness. However, due to the deadly combination of a lack of Internet and a lack of foresight, we neglected to check the ranger station hours. Obviously it was closed at 6pm when we arrived. So, instead, we drove to a campsite on Quinault Lake (beautiful), ate some delicious beans, rice, quesadillas and chocolate pudding, skipped some rocks, and then passed out for almost 12 hours.
Tuesdays: Feeling a little bit rejuvenated, still pretty sore, and in no great rush, we leisurely awoke and made pancakes on the camp stove. Still in no hurry. We packed up camp. Slowly. Now afternoon. We drove back to the ranger station only to discover that that particular station is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Perfect. So, we looked up another, drove to the other side of the lake (directly next to where we had just been camping) and rolled into the South Shore ranger station.
After a brief conversation with Ranger Levi (while perhaps not the most seasoned ranger, definitely in contention for the most-boyish-park-ranger Award) we discovered that the hike we had planned was probably covered in snow and that we would almost certainly need a map and superior orienteering skills in order to navigate our way through the icy snowscape. It was now almost 2pm and still not on the trail. Master Ranger Levi recommended that instead we do a 32-mile out-and-back hike starting at the North Fork of the Quinault, up to Low Divide, and then back. We hurriedly agreed, pretty anxious to get started, and assured Supreme Master Ranger Levi that we would have no problem with 12-mile days.
So we grabbed the bear cans, portioned out our food for the next 4 days, crammed everything into the car and raced off down the long, unpaved road towards the North Fork Trail Head. It was immediately obvious that we were going to be witness to spectacular beauty all week. With massive Douglas-Firs as a canopy, we finally set foot on the trail. It was now 2:10pm. Our objective: hike 12 miles along the Quinault to 16-mile camp sight (awkward naming considering the actual mileage), ford the River, and then set up camp, eat, and fall asleep.
The first 4 miles were a wonderfully glorious, sweet-smelling, active recovery from the 3-day tournament we had all just played in. The next 8.2 miles were, perhaps, a little more than we had bargained for – especially considering our mid-afternoon start time.
While the beauty of the mossy-tree fairy-land that we were exploring did not diminish, our endurance did. 54 fallen trees, 6.5 hours, 6 uphill miles, 2 river fords and 1 angry and disoriented grouse later, exhausted, we finally reached the final obstacle before reaching our camp sight: the icy, thigh-high, snow-melty furious surges of the Quinault.
We donned our Chacos, breathed deep, grasped hands, and in a 4-person chain we inched our way across the 15 yard-wide river. It was scary. It was cold. It was almost 8:30pm after a million hours of non-stop hiking. But, we made it. Shivering, we threw on all our warm clothes, pitched our tents, boiled some water, and had the most delicious lasagna-in-a-bag and astronaut ice-cream you could ever imagine (It was freeze-dried Italian night). By 9:30pm we were fast asleep.
Stayed tuned for part two of our backpacking adventure….