Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Olympic National Park Traverse DNF

Over the winter I again planned a few long routes I wanted to focus on for the summer, including an approximately 100-mile traverse of Olympic National Park. The idea was to complete a "Rainforest to Rainshadow" ecosystem tour, starting in the Hoh and ending in the Buckhorn Wilderness. I headed out to the peninsula last Saturday for a Sunday-Monday attempt and unfortunately was unable to finish.

I had an amazing run up the Hoh, over the High Divide/Seven Lakes Basin, down Bridge Creek/Sol Duc and then up to Appleton Pass, completeing ~25 miles and two of the four major climbs in exactly six hours elapsed. The descent down Boulder Creek is a little slow because of brush up top and technical trail lower, but the real killer section was the 12+ miles of road from Olympic Hot Springs to the Whiskey Bend-Elwha trail. A warm day and the monotonous roads (6 miles paved) really drained me. I still was feeling good when I started heading south down the Elwha but almost immediately got very sleepy at only 5pm and took a short nap. I continued for two hours, and then took another nap. An hour later I found myself laying down for a third nap in four hours. Ugh.

About 51 miles in with 44 to go, I realized I was most likely going to need to sleep for most of the night to feel truly awake again and with no real bail options ahead, continuing on seemed like an unwise choice. I reached out to my friends via my SPOT to alert them that I was changing plans and turned around for nine miles back down the Elwha trail. A huge thank you to Will, Erik and Ben for talking and coordinating to come get me in the middle of the night. I was planning on just crashing at the trailhead until morning and was surprised when I saw a headlamp coming toward me about 11:30pm that turned out to be Will.

Of course it's hard to admit (and accept) failure when I still had a long and interesting day in the mountains. But that's basically what it was and it does sting. I did get to see my first bobcat and on the way out a baby cougar ran in front of us on the Whiskey Bend Road, another first sighting for me. There was also one habituated ONP black bear up the Elwha who did not even bother looking at me when I was hooting and banging my poles together. It just ambled on, unbelievably slower than me.

Thanks to Will for hosting and driving me all over the place at all hours for the entire weekend; wouldn't have been possible without you!

I'd been on basically all of these trails before so I didn't take too many pictures.

Early morning on the Hoh River trail
On the climb up to Hoh Lake, through the old burn
Hoh Lake; I remember swimming here 20 years ago...
ONP is the only place I've ever seen pink and purple paintbrush (?)
Western side of Seven Lakes Basin
Obligatory Olympus from High Divide picture
Busy morning at Heart Lake
Small falls on the upper Sol Duc
Looking down south fork Boulder Creek drainage from Appleton Pass
Former Mills Reservoir and Glines Canyon Dam
Former Mills Reservoir
Elwha River below Glines Canyon
Who's horrible idea was it to include all this road...
Probably near where I turned around to trudge back down the Elwha


  1. You have good friends! :) Any idea what made you need sleep earlier than usual? Food? Started too tired?

    1. Hey Martin, I think it was maybe a lack of sleep heading into it (though I didn't feel overly tired), combined with a warm day and probably me mentall checking out on the super-boring road section. That was a real struggle and I think I shut my mind down there? Was fine on food/hydration, for once :) . Good friends indeed!