Let the adventures begin!
It had been years since I had last been to the Olympic National Forrest. Mostly because it’s not really that close to Seattle, and traditionally I’m not much of a camper. But the 27 mile hike called the Enchanted Valley was too much to resist!
I mean, how could something called the Enchanted Valley not be awesome?
The first thing you need to know about adventuring is that food is of the utmost importance. Without it you’re in a bad place. Not to mention the people you’re with. They are really not going to be happy to have to be around a grumpy, hungry person.
With that in mind, the adventuring actually started at Trader Joe’s. Here’s the list of Trader Joe’s goodies that went the in the cooler/back of the car:
* Lunchmeat (nitrate/nitrite free, of course)
* String cheese – If you wrap the lunchmeat around the stick of cheese you have a high end (and by high end, I mean restaurants should serve this), low carb treat.
* Gourmette buffalo chicken bites with blue cheese in the middle (I had to try these, and they were pre-cooked. Can you say “perfect?”)
* Many bags of sweet potato chips
* Plantain chips
* LaraBars – Fruit and nuts while hiking are like candy. At least until you’ve eaten so many that you don’t want to even look at them anymore…
Next up was campfire food, and where better to get some great sausages than the butcher…? A & J Meats and Seafood has the best Lamb and Garlic sausages that I’ve ever had. I should say, they are the BEST sausages that I’ve ever had. Without a doubt! You must try them. Also grab some blueberry breakfast sausages while you’re there. The flavors EXPLODE in your mouth! There are literally miniature explosions of flavor.
The plan was to drive out to the Olympic National Forest, sleep at the Lake Quinault Lodge, get up the next morning, hike ALL DAY, drive to a camping location near the ocean, sleep, get up and do an easy beach hike, and drive home that night.
The Journey Begins
With food in car, and coffee in hand, it was time for the drive to begin. Well, truth be told, I dropped my first coffee as I was adding Progenex, so with my second coffee in hand, it was time.
It was a straight shot drive south on I-5 to Olympia before catching a right at the 101/8 to the Lake Quinault Lodge.
After arriving at the Lake Quinault Lodge it was clear that this was great place to chill out before an epic adventure. They have lake view rooms, lawn games, and a beautiful lake that you can’t swim in…
The Native Americans own the lake and have deemed it only suitable for fishing (and looking at… which was quite nice). Although I didn’t see any of the Indians jumping out of the woods to grab the children who “accidentally” fell off the lake dock from time to time. So you could probably get away with a dip…
After playing most of the lawn games and eating some Pacific ocean salmon for dinner, it was time to rest up for the next day’s adventure.
We woke up to the birds chirping, and stomachs growling.
A meaty breakfast omelet and fruit at the lodge restaurant was just the ticket.
With bodies fueled, it was time to find this 27 mile trail into the Enchanted Valley.
Due to slow moving, and windy dirt roads, the 16 mile drive took about 30 minutes to complete, but was fun in a sporty car or SUV. Just watch out for the large potholes.
The Enchanted Valley is known as a bear plentiful hike, with some people seeing 10+ bears during a day. The Bears in the Olympic National Forrest are black bears which aren’t usually aggressive, and average less than 200 pounds. Even with the lack of aggressiveness, we had the bear spray easily accessible. You never know when a bear will decide he wants your sweet potato chips… I mean, I love sweet potato chips, and they could too, right?
The Enchanted Valley hike is 27 miles round trip, so when we hit the trail at 11am, we were running a little on the late side. Our time estimate was less than 9 hours which would get us back before dark, so we weren’t too concerned (or really concerned at all).
The hike started with a mild climb which turned out to account for the majority of the elevation change during the whole 27 miles. After a few miles we linked up with a windy river that would guide our way to the Enchanted Valley.
With so many bear sighting in the area, we were on the lookout. Who could see the first bear… I think after about 5 miles, I stopped playing. The bear could have been sitting 20 feet off the trail, and I probably wouldn’t have seen a thing. Haha!
The windy river (and trail) just kept on winding and taking us further into bear country.
At about 7 miles in we stopped to eat some string cheese, Larabars, and sweet potato chips. All are essential for a good hiking day.
As we got closer to the Enchanted Valley magical things started to happen. Well, either that or hiking for that long was causing hallucinations. 🙂 We saw a pack of Elk hanging out along side the trail. You can see in the picture (below) that they didn’t want to hang around as we got closer. No smiling for the camera.
The last 2-3 miles into the Enchanted Valley seemed like they wouldn’t end. I kept thinking that around that next bend would be the glorious Enchanted Valley, but there would just be another meadow or forresty trail to hike through. But then it happened… up ahead, the hills started to open up a bit, as if they were making way for something enormous to come through. And finally we saw it… It was the old Ranger’s house/cabin that could be seen in all of the Enchanted Valley photos.
It was a long hike to get to this middle ground, but the views were stunning. Snow melt that lead to little waterfalls all over the sides of the mountains.
We posted up along the riverbed, which made up only a small portion of the valley floor, to rest our legs and eat some more grub.
After about 5 minutes of enjoying the amazing 360 degree views, and refueling our bodies, it started to rain. Seriously, not one rain drop the whole hike up to this point, and it started raining HUGE rain drops. So that was our cue to keep on moving. No rest for us. We snapped some pictures, and started back down the trail. This time we decided to move a little faster, and the running began.
Moving at a run we figured would get us back to the car in about half of the time of our hiking pace.
The run felt good, and we were moving at a pretty nice pace. And then it happened…
My body started to feel not so good. Specifically my right achilles was very unhappy. I was testing some new Altra Superior’s from Mountain Plus Gear that felt great on my feet until that very moment. For some reason the heel cup was pressing on my sock, which was pressing on my achilles and causing some pretty good pain. I mean we were at around mile 20, and that can be where things start to break down, but pain like this isn’t normal. I gritted through it for a while, but decided to slow down to a fast walk.
We estimated that about 5 miles of running was accomplished. Not bad, but we still had about 8 more miles to go, and the daylight was starting to fade…
My achilles still wasn’t happy with the walking/hiking, but it was bearable.
Achilles aching, head down, walking around a corner in the trail, and boom! I’m face to face with a black bear! At about 3 feet away, we looked at each other, I jumped back, and he bounded into the brush. Wow! Had we been running, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have had time to stop, and would have literally run into the bear. It was digging for something on the trail (probably grub), and apparently didn’t hear us coming. We must be stealth walkers…
That definitely brought some more life (and adrenaline) to the hike. A face to face black bear encounter. Finally! Bear spray was not deployed. FYI.
The remaining 5 (or so) miles were… get it done, not much talking, hoping that the next bend would be the last. There were 2 or 3 times that I was sure we were at the home stretch, but the trail kept going.
Finally, there was a familiar sight. We were back at the river crossing which marked only 2 miles to go. Actually, at the time, I couldn’t believe that we still had 2 more miles, but was happy to know where we were.
Only 2 miles left to go, and there was still plenty of sun in the sky to make it back to the car. In fact we had all kinds of time before the sun would go down.
As the car came into sight we raced to get our shoes off and grab some food. It always feels great to get your shoes off after a long hike or run. It’s like your feet can breath again. Wonderful!
After some much needed sitting and eating, we raced off back down the dirt road. Next stop… campsite near the Pacific Ocean.
We made it to a campsite up on a cliff that overlooked the ocean. And after some serious tent assembly struggles, it was snoozing to the sounds of the ocean thundering in the background.
Getting up the next day was a large accomplishment. Just walking was rough. My legs felt like the blood had been removed and replaced with drying cement. And we had another hike to do!
The next hike was more of a long walk on the beach, and to my amazement… the shoes off, bare feet on the sand, felt wonderful. It was like all of the cement was gone, and my legs were fresh again.
After a couple miles. We’ll call it “active recovery”. It was time for some heat recovery in the Sol Duc Hot Springs. With three pools of natural hot springs that had temps of over 100 degrees, the legs were in recovery heaven. Even the natural stench of sulfur couldn’t detract from the recovery bliss.
With bodies broken down, and the recovery process started, it was time for one last thing… a HUGE burger! The burger was found at Harold’s Take Out in Port Angeles. And wow did it hit the spot!
Now get outside and have fun by working hard! 🙂