MIKE MacFERRIN'S OLYMPIC SOLO TREK....July 26, 2004


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"Follow the elk." This has become my new motto as I explore the uncharted forests of the upper Queets Valley. If an area is passable, elk go there... through woods, over hills, across sandbars, through meadows. If I reach a spot where elk tracks don't go, I must be wary. More than a few times I've gone on my own and been stuck in impassable alder thickets, scrambling over precarious logjams, or grappling up a steep gully only to find that I could have found an easier way around if I'd followed the elk trails.

With no more trails to follow, I measure my progress in river-miles. Today is a short day, only 3 miles upriver, although on-foot I'm traveling several times that... it's impossible to say exactly. These distances may be crude measures of progress, but it's the best I can use. This afternoon brings spectacular views of Kilkelly Creek, draining off the precariously steep slopes of the Valhallas (those knife-edge peaks on the south flanks of Mt. Olympus named after an assortment of ancient German gods). Tonight I camp directly under one of them, as it stands almost a vertical mile above me. It looks very stately indeed, and I smile reverently as I cook dinner and study my maps in the late-afternoon sun.


Tomorrow, I'm quite sure I should make it to Paull Creek, which wouldn't be significant except for one thing. At its convergence with the Queets River, Paull Creek marks the spot where I'll enter the "Queets Canyon" (as I've dubbed it). Upriver from Paull Creek, the Queets River is book-ended by steep box canyon, with 300' to 1000' walls on either side. A short distance up this canyon (approx 0.6 miles) is Service Falls, the ultimate goal of my trip. It has been my obsession for nearly two years. Will I reach it tomorrow? Will I reach it at all, or will the box canyon turn me back? Who knows? Nothing is certain yet, but within a day or two, I will begin finding answers to the questions I've pondered for so long.