MIKE MacFERRIN'S OLYMPIC SOLO TREK....July 30, 2004
After a short while, I can hear the deafening white noise of Upper Service Falls. I'm very, very close. But soon enough, I'm perched on a 100-foot ledge above the river, just around a bend from the falls. I search everywhere, scanning up and down, back and forth, looking for a route down. I drop my pack and try scrambling down a steep gully to the river, but there is no safe route down. Even if I do get down, the river is fast & deep, and there is nothing but a sheer wall on the opposite side. This is the end of my road. There will be no Service Falls this trip. The matter is finally closed.
I sit down on that ledge and begin to cry. I'm not sorry for my failure to reach the falls... quite to the contrary, I'm content to have tried my best. Since I've done everything conceivable to the very limits of my abilities to get there, I feel no regret in that. Perhaps oddly, I'm quite satisfied with the results. No, my tears are something more. The extraordinarily difficult nature of this trip, combined with not seeing my wife for a month, nor seeing anyone for close to a week, has physically and emotionally drained me. I have never felt so exhausted in my life. Drained of my reserves, and still uncertain what challenges lay ahead, I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of this excursion. I look down at my bruised and bleeding left hand, and see my wedding ring. I kiss the ring on my finger and make a promise to my wife: "Now, I'll come home to you." Call it a spiritual experience, but I feel that somehow, in some way, she's heard me. My mission now is to get home, safe and sound. I have no desire to reach the falls anymore. I only want to see my wife again.
So I haul my pack back up the ridge, fill my water in the pool of a small seeping creek, and make an early camp. When planning this trip, I allotted "plenty" of time so I wouldn't feel rushed and could rest whenever I needed. Now, at the end of day seven, I have taken no rests, my body is growing weary, and the possibility of not finishing on time is a growing concern. Obvious questions arise... what if I don't make it out of the Queets valley and run out of food? What would I do then? I do not want to have to repeat the torturous route I used to get here... but what if there is no safe route forward? Even if I did turn around now, could I make it out in time?
It takes effort to put such questions out of my mind... pondering the worst does me no good. My journey into the backcountry has ended. Tomorrow, I begin my journey home. With that, I close my eyes and fall asleep under a forgivingly clear sky.