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[personal profile] canyonwren
Part 1

I'm way overdue for these, although Camp Muir was just last weekend. Enchanted was the 2.5 day backpack the weekend before. As I'm probably going to go out again next weekend, I should at least put down a few passing words. This weekend was an attempt and failure. I tried to choose one away from the fire influence, but when I got out there (a three hour drive), a very short time outside the car led to extremely burning eyes. My lungs were fine, for the moment. 24 hours later, my eyes are still burning. I simply can't tolerate wildfire smoke, it seems.

The two other hikes I wanted to do this month are right out, as both are too near the fires. (Both are Enchantment-area.) I am so fucking brokenhearted about this. I wish I'd done Chiwakum more recently than 2009, when I backpacked up there with Francie for a few nights. Someone on Facebook posted a picture taken from HWY 2, and I knew exactly where it was. The flames reached the top of the trees. Personally, I felt like throwing up. The individual? Posted something like, "Woo! S'mores! Hahaha! Too soon?" Yeah. Too fucking soon.


Enchanted Valley
27 miles
Buttkicking Factor: Maybe a 3, but it's got the handicap of being the Longest. Hike. Ever (or so it feels), and mosquitos.

It's a long drive down to the Quinalt Rain Forest. I took the route down through Olympia, passed through Aberdeen, and turned back north again for 30 miles. A few miles in to the famous (and lovely!) Rainforest Village area, and I stopped at the local ranger station to acquire my backcountry permit and bear can. When picking it up, I asked for some advice on what to do if I spotted a bear on the trail. The ranger told me that the bears were completely used to hikers on the trail and left them alone, but the babies might be curious. If a baby approached me, throw a rock at it. At my expression of, "That sounds stupid and fatal," she said sternly, "We'd rather have a bruised bear than a dead bear." Dead HIKERS now, that's another matter. I passed on this information to a few other hikers along the way and it became quite the joke. "Hey, someone reported a bear around the turn. Do you have your rocks?" Alas, or not-alas, I did not actually see a bear. So much disappoint.

I was doing this hike because I'd read on the Hikers Forums that the old Enchanted Valley chalet had been undercut by the river, and that they couldn't save it. I wanted to see it before it fell into the river. It had been painstakingly built in the 1930s, with the builders carrying in all the materials (except for logs of course) by horseback. It served as a traditional hut for hikers for years, giving those early days people a place to bunk and buy food. It eventually turned into a backcountry ranger station, then an emergency shelter.

The hike is a lot harder than it seems. By the map, it looks like a long, meandering trail that follows the river to the valley. And it is, but the creeping elevation gain in the muggy heat end up being completely exhausting. The first day, I didn't get on the trail until nearly 5:30 pm. I had no interest in staying in a hotel or some such, or camping in a campground (last resort!), so I trotted in about 2.5 miles and stayed near Pony Bridge. I was the only person camping in the general vicinity--the next day, I saw some people who had laid their packs down about a mile away. It's always a strange feeling being so very isolated, but that's when reading by headlamp until exhaustion sets in comes into play.

Got up decently early, with the goal to get the final 11 miles before... oh, 1 pm or so. Ha. Yeah. A slow slog, two distant bears (no rocks), many huge trees, and 10,000 mosquitos later, I arrived at the valley at 4:30. It was such a slog. The word that kept echoing around my mind was "grueling."

Trail to the valley

First view of chalet

Enchanted Valley Chalet

Enchanted Valley

I was really sad to turn around (after camping overnight). This is a great jump off point for going high into the Olympics. Lots of great stuff out there. My only complaint was that there was no air flow through the valley and people were allowed to start campfires. The smoke actually filled the valley by 9 pm--it was weirdly like camping in a wildfire zone. I wanted to scream at these folks, "IF YOU WANT SMOKE, PLEASE GO ANYWHERE ELSE IN WASHINGTON!" I intended to have a word with the rangers on my return, but I forgot. I'm going to be emailing them that they need to rethink the campfire policy.

On the way back, I managed to trigger my food repulsion problem. It usually only kicks in when I'm hiking for 4+ days and under extreme exertion. Well, it kicked in anyway. I managed to force feed myself a sweet and salty bar, but I did the entire 13 miles back on about 400 calories. Luckily, the effects wane pretty quickly once I quit exerting--although not if I'm still on the hike, weirdly. My appetite slowly came back over a few days, but I think I was under calorie for about a week. Ugh. I was worried about doing Muir, but figured it wouldn't kill me.

Next time, I'm packing for *any* overnight like I'm going to come down with this bizarre anorexia, now that I know it can come on more quickly than 4 days. (When it comes on, the only things I can eat with any appetite are extremely condensed salty soups and such. Salt is the key.)
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Jen Kleis

November 2014

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