MIKE MacFERRIN'S OLYMPIC SOLO TREK....July 13, 2004
It is not. After crossing a large bridge several miles later, the trail heads uphill to a weedy boggy stretch of forest, where a dingy little shelter sits to the side. There is no view, no open area to camp from the trail, and no water source nearby. I am not gonna stay here. So, I will try to scout a route down to the river.
Heading off-trail, the river is easy to find. Getting down there is not. After finding a 60-foot overlook above the river canyon, I scout upriver and stumble upon an unexpected view. I see a magnificent 3-tiered, 50-foot waterfall in the valley. Just below me is a weed-choked steep gully leading to the foot of the falls... if I can get there, that is where I will camp. So I shed my pack and crawl on my belly over the ledge to scout a route down. I gain footholds on secure branches & rocks for about 10 feet downward. From there, I shuffle over to a small outcrop, where it appears I might climb down thirty feet through a steep bed of ferns to a gentler grade below. For a moment, my heart races, but it works. Then, suddenly, my right foot slides three feet down and nearly takes me with it. I instantly realize that this "bed" of ferns rests on a single inch of loose soil, with nothing but slick, wet, nearly vertical rock beneath it. I try grabbing handholds, but every bush, root, and branch I can reach only slides away and makes my position more precarious. I take a deep breath, recompose, and slowly scramble back up over the ledge to safety. If I am going to find a way down to the river, it won't be this way.
So I grab my pack and find another way. A quarter-mile past the shelter I scramble over uneven rocks down a nearly dry streamlet that flows in a general 45° grade to the river's edge. Within 20 minutes, I lay my bag out on a small bed of pebbles along the river's edge. It won't be my cushiest camp, but it is beautiful, and makes a fine bed for one.
After dinner, I slip on my Tevas, snag my camera and head upriver, looking for those falls I saw before, which are unmarked on any of my maps. With a knee-deep wade and a couple of boulder scrambles, I reach a deep, clear pool lined on either side by vertical or overhanging rocks for 20 feet. The falls are only 100 yards upriver, cascading over a large log and into a deep pool at the bottom. There's no way I will get any further without swimming. It is almost dark tonight, and the clear water is frigid... I will have to wait until tomorrow. I look at the falls, sigh with a slight smile, and head back to camp. Clear skies tonight... no need for the tarp.