MIKE MacFERRIN'S OLYMPIC SOLO TREK....August 1, 2004
On the way up, I scare a black bear nearby, feasting on the profuse hillside berries. Too tired and grizzled to be
surprised, I smile at the bear and nod. We both stare at each other for a short while before he tumbles off into the
bushes. Onward and upward I plow, sweat dripping from my face. Soon, I crest a ridge onto a flat alpine plateau,
criss-crossed with clear rivulets and tiny lakes that brim with tadpoles. This is it... the Upper Queets basin, the
ultimate source of the mighty river I've followed for nine straight days. I'm nearly brought to tears. The crevassed
blankets of the Humes and Queets glaciers can be seen on the not-so-distant slopes of Mts. Olympus and Queets. The
many jagged spires of the Olympus Mons seem so close I can almost reach out and touch them. A sweet-scented breeze
blows the hot air of summer across my cheeks. I walk around aimlessly for an unknown time, soaking it in. My heart
leaps; my body too tired to scream for joy. I have completed an entire traverse of the Queets River valley. I made
Two days ago, I promised myself that I'd get out of this river valley. Today, I think it just might happen! My mood is
much improved. After finding a relatively easy crossing of the Queets River to avoid the Humes Glacier River,
I continue up the Queets. The forest, while thick with brush in places, and steep in others, is passable, and profuse
with fresh berries (which I gorge on regularly)! At one point, I reach a view that puts a lump in my throat. There,
before me, is an unbelievably steep-walled canyon, at least a hundred feet deep, which looks positively impassable.
It surprises me, because the map makes no mention of any more large side canyons. After checking my GPS, I soon
realize the obvious... I'm staring at
the Queets River
where it makes a turn in one last canyon after draining from the Queets basin. I don't have to cross this... I can
simply go around it (yippee)! Schlepping uphill along the canyon rim, I continue through the dry, subalpine forests
of the upper Queets River. Slopes are traversed and gullies are crossed, but everything is manageable.
Scrambling over the rocks of one final gully (a minor one), I look up the river and see open meadows ahead, profuse
with wildflowers. The Queets Basin! I surge uphill along elk paths, flush with energy, through the final bits of
forest to treeline.
Shouldering my pack (which by now seems positively featherweight ), I navigate up the convoluted knobs & valleys
so characteristic in the Upper Queets Basin. Before long I reach the Dodwell-Rixon Pass (a famous divide between the
Queets & Elwha drainages). Most people who visit this basin take this pass to get here... positively no one goes the
way I did. Either way, no one else is around... not today. After a brief photo-op to prove I was there, I continue
uphill through the basin, passing beautiful snow-filled tarns on my way to the rim.
I now sit in camp, on the bank of a beautiful clear tarn, just below the ridge of the Queets-Elwha divide. A stone's
throw to my north lies
the Bailey Range,
that legendary spiny
row of peaks that I will spend the rest of my trip traversing, starting tomorrow. The peak of Mount Barnes sits
so close I can almost touch it. I eat dinner as the sun sets over the backside of Mt. Olympus, and wonder to myself
about the past nine days. Will I ever do anything like that again? I'm not sure. How difficult will it be to cross
the Bailey Range
? Will I be able to make it out in time?
These are questions for tomorrow. Tonight I can rest; tired, joyful, and ready to come home.