MIKE MacFERRIN'S OLYMPIC SOLO TREK....July 25, 2004
Elk are responsible for the "wide-open" feel of these rainforests, grazing back the underbrush under a canopy of old-growth giants. They feed often, and know how to get around out here! Following their tracks saves me considerable time searching for cut logs and other trail indicators, and is a bit more exciting to boot. When I reach Pelton Creek, I use my GPS to search vainly for the old emergency shelter, but after criss-crossing several times through the forest where the shelter should be, I give up, and sit down by the riverbank.
I've gone 11-miles so far today, which is pretty good considering the condition of the trail and the 55+ pound load I'm still hauling. Still early in the afternoon, I decide to pick up and continue upriver, following elk-trails as I go. It seems I'm officially off-trail now, and I know I will be for at least the next week. A couple easy river fords and a half-mile later, I settle for camp on a grassy sandbar meadow among a grove of red alders. The Queets valley is narrowing considerably... it used to be several miles wide and flat-bottomed, but now the valley walls are now a little steeper, a lot closer, and I can see snow-clad peaks beckoning behind them. After a pleasant dinner and a few repairs (both my trekking pole handles are shot, and I stitch a hole in my pants with waxed dental floss), I sit quietly and contemplate the task ahead of me. I saw no people today, and now that I'm off-trail, I doubt I will see anybody for quite some time. I can't remember ever going two days in my life without seeing a fellow human, even in the backcountry. This will be a new experience!
Tired, but satisfied with my progress so far (this ain't so bad yet! ), I fall asleep under the stars, listening to the wide river gurgle a lullaby over a field of nearby rocks. Tomorrow, I start hiking off-trail (in earnest), and I am curious to know what mysteries await me, further upriver.