Finally! I got the opportunity to get back out into the Bailey Range. This time I got two of my backpacking buddies from Hawaii, yes Hawaii, to come over and join me on this adventure. They were not prepared for all they experienced here.

The way we took into the Bailey Range went up the Sol Duc past Heart Lake and out to the Catwalk along the High Divide. This is a ridgeline between the Hoh River and Sol Duc River. As usual, the trail was bustling with people on this portion. No surprise, as this is one of the most popular trails in the park. Once we set off from Heart Lake, there were only a few day hikers on that trail to the Catwalk. The Catwalk is an arête linking Cat Peak with Mount Carrie. After we crossed the Catwalk, we didn’t see anyone on the trail until we got to Upper Ferry Basin where we met a couple of guys who had taken the Rangers advice and gone up the Elwha and over Ludden as their approach to the Bailey Range.

The Catwalk is as it always is, “Interesting”. It can be very intimidating even to approach. The approach leads up a steep trail and then down across a steep sidehill with lots of exposure to falling down a long way on broken rock.

We had hiked from Appleton Pass Trail Campsite on the Sol Duc River on the second day so we were a bit tired. I am now almost 69 so by the time we got to Boston Charlies Camp on the Southside of the Catwalk, I was ready to set up there for the night. The sunset really made the day special for my Hawaiian Friends. The pinks and oranges of the sunset over the Hoh River Valley were amazing.

The next morning, we were off to the West side of Mt. Carrie and the “Gullies”. The Gullies are just that. They are washes where avalanches and Spring runoff cut sometimes deep channels into the hillside where we needed to cross. In years past we have had some trouble crossing, but no problem this year. It was smooth sailing through them all.

I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of water available all along the way on the side of Mount Carrie. All Spring I was concerned about finding enough to drink since there was so little snowpack, but no problem this year.

As Always in clear weather, the views of Mount Olympus across the Hoh River were spectacular. Early mornings in the sunrise light are often my favorite times to take photos of the mountains.

I had learned long ago not to get sucked down into the Cream Lake Vortex. This is the original route to get out into the Southern portion of the Bailey Range. It is a very hard route to follow and ends at Cream Lake, a place notorious for mosquitoes.

We climbed over the ridge toward the East and down into Stephen Lake Basin. The hillside I once glissaded down on a snowfield from the ridge was now just broken rock down toward the lake. We carefully walked down the rock into the basin to a place about 200′ above lake level and set up camp there for 2 nights next to some amazing and beautiful ponds. What an amazing place to camp!

The views down into the turquoise blue lake and the surrounding valley were amazing. The ponds were so cool and refreshing, no one could resist the temptation to get into the ponds and relax while at the same time washing a bit of the sweat and grit off.

That evening we were treated to another great sunset in the colorful cloud formations. It is at times like this that I know I am blessed to be able to get out into the backcountry still.

In the morning, we set off to explore the basin in all its wonder. Not only does it have a beautiful lake and ponds, but also some hidden wonders like Blueberry fields, small turquoise ponds, several streams, bears and a glacier. It is very hard to tell a story about how beautiful a place this is because words or even photos can’t possibly portray what you feel when you are actually in a place like this. We found our way up to the river that feeds the lake which originates at an amazing broad glacier. We thought to ourselves, we may be some of last people to see this glacier, at the rate at which it was melting.

Continuing on our way through the basin, we found some hidden wonders. I loved the fluorescent green mosses that fringe blue turquoise ponds and more glacial cirques minus the glacier which originally filled these valleys. Leaving behind the jagged rock cliffs scoured by past glacial advances, we moved on down to the valley floor. We walked around Stephen Lake and found several more ponds and an area frequented by a bear we had seen in the valley earlier.

The next morning we packed up and continued our way to our next adventure. We started out going counterclockwise around the basin and began to climb up some small drainages to the East side of Mt. Stephen that required our full undivided concentration to ascend. It is so different this time compared to my last adventure here. There is almost no snow this year. So this time we had lots of rock to climb. It was a bit challenging but all of us made it unscathed.

Once we got to the North edge of the valley rim into Ferry Basin we stopped to rest and enjoy the views while we ate our lunch and filled our water bladders with snowmelt right off a small snowfield. After lunch, we decided we would make our way along the rim on the East side of the basin along the “trail” toward Mount Ferry. I use the term Trail loosely as it is hard to find and is made up of scattered game trails, and whatever route was the easiest to traverse. Much of our time was spent sidehilling. Sidehilling may not be a proper term, but anyone who has traversed along a steep slope of trees, brush and low growing plants, knows how tiring it is on the feet and ankles.

Eventually, we moved down into the upper basin just below Mt. Ferry. Here we found another amazing place to camp. We set up on a flat rock and scree floor that was basically rock on top of a flowing stream. Just below the surface of the rock, water moved through only slowed down by the rock. The valley floor was very wide and surprisingly flat. Our campsite was in the middle of this beautiful area with streams and small ponds and surrounded by amazing peaks.

Early the next morning, we headed up past the glacial lakes just below the saddle between Mt. Ferry and Mt. Pulitzer. The lakes here are so beautiful you just can’t stop staring and wondering how they got to be so blue.

Our route went South between Mount Ferry and Mount Pulitzer then up over Mount Pulitzer and on down to Lone Tree Pass. The pass is named for one solitary windblown tree standing alone having faced numerous Winters and the high speed winds that are a part of the makeup of the Olympics. The tree still stands as a monument to its strength, but the huge twisted tree near the single campsite in the middle of the pass seems so much more interesting. It is twisted sideways and then turns up again just to spite the winds. Just South of Lone tree is a steep hill which was covered by snow last time I hiked this area. This time it was just rock…and steep. We had to climb up pretty much in the middle of the hill on sometimes loose rock at pretty steep angles with razor sharp handholds. I am not a climber so this was a bit challenging because of the exposure.

The Bailey Range is relentless in its challenges. It can break you in any number of ways, but if you succeed, the gains are great. We felt the need to keep moving but with caution. Out here, if someone gets hurt, it can take several days to get help. Once past the rock beyond Lone Tree Pass, there is somewhat of a break in slope, but the rock we crossed does not go away.

Then a new challenge confronts us. Glacier! My past trip, snow made the crossing easy with crampons, though this year, thinking we were in no need of such equipment, only one of our four man crew had a set. What to do when it looks like your only option is to unsafely cross a glacier? Go down. We decided to go on down several hundred feet below the face of the glacier. There was no trail down, but as with so many places along the Bailey Range, we just had to do some route finding to safely make our way down a steep, but doable slope. Then WOW, what a view back up at the ice and rock surrounding us.

We still had lots of days to go, but we had allocated plenty of time for a somewhat leisurely pace so we decided to camp at the base of a glacier. What an inspiring place. Rock to camp on, views of a glacier the fog starts to roll in and out and in and out. As the day comes to a close, we get another wonderful sunset. How perfect!

One thing that surprised me was that under all the snow we crossed on my first trip out there, is that we were crossing a series of glaciers that were exposed this trip. So sad that all their snow cover which acted as insulation for the glacier is now melted away exposing the bare ice to the sun. I fear that soon, all of the glaciers I know will be gone altogether. Such a shame. Anyway, at least we can see them now and record their present condition.

After spending the night below the glacier, I was itching to get up on it. I borrowed the one set of crampons our group had so I could walk on the glacier to reach the high ground beyond the glacier. The rest of our group climbed up the adjacent rock to the area above.

Just South of the glacier is a rock area I think may be called Ragamuffin. It is a very jagged rockmass that has the look of Godzilla’s back spines. It is very picturesque but doesn’t look like anything a reasonable person would climb. This is also one of the flatter sections of the traverse and was a welcome respite compared to some of the more difficult areas. There was a solitary set of elk prints across the snow spaced in such a way as to make you think it may have been running fast.

Bear Pass is an area which is amazing and beautiful with many exposed glaciers. They seem to stretch all the way from Bear Pass over to Mount Olympus. In high snow years, it might be possible to walk all the way from Upper Queets to Mount Olympus on snow.

As we crossed into the Upper Queets Basin over Bear Pass, the ground was once again exposed rock. We searched up high for a campsite but finally decided we would camp lower down near Mt. Barnes at a series of lakes and ponds on nice flat rock. This location provided plenty of water with views of Mt. Olympus, Mt. Queets, Mt Noyes, Cougar peak and Mt. Seattle. Once again, we had a great sunset as the sun went down behind Mount Olympus.

Several years ago I did this part of the Traverse and walked down the entire Snowfinger on ice and snow all the way to a Cairn indicating the place to leave the Snowfinger and climb up a hillside and over into upper Elwha Basin. Now, only a sliver is left melting away. Our hike continued down on bare, slippery river rock, and avalanche derbies. The morning of our 8th day began with rain after Seven days of perfect weather which made this section the most grueling. Below the remnants of the Snowfinger was a small hill of ice called the Snowhump, an area where snow from avalanches accumulates and has been very deep for as long as I can recall. I can’t tell you how much this hurts me. So much of the NW I knew growing up here is depleted, shrunken or gone… Now, there is only a small bit of ice at the Snowhump. This area, and a tiny sliver not too far from Dodwell-Rixon Pass, are the only areas where snow and underlying ice still exist.

Below the Snowfinger, we found the old cairn along the river. It was partially hidden in the trees. We did our best to clear away the trees and brush so others who might venture out here might find the way out of the valley and up to the Upper Elwha Basin. As we climbed up the hillside toward Upper Elwha basin, we entered the tree zone again. Unless someone goes out there to clear some brush, this part of the trail will permanently be lost. Only a really good route finder could discern the trail at all now. Soon I fear some of the trail will permanently be lost unless a good amount of trail maintenance is performed.

Once in the Upper Elwha Basin, the area opens up somewhat so you can see the waterfalls coming down off of Mount Queets, Mount Noyes and Mount Seattle.

As soon as you get across the basin and re-cross the Elwha River, it becomes a trail again all the way to Chicago Camp. Worn out, from the long wet rainy day, in the river and through the brush we reached Chicago Camp. Chicago Camp is at a place where the trail splits. One route goes down the Elwha River, and the other turns up toward Low Divide and the way down the North Fork of the Quinalt River. Chicago Camp meant big trees and of course, people…the end of the solitude. The Trail to Low Divide is littered with wind fallen trees. We must have crossed 25 trees up to the divide from Chicago Camp. Farther down the trail we met a trail maintenance crew slowly working their way up from the Lower areas of the North Fork Trail. Hopefully, they will get the trail cleared before Winter when trees start falling again.

Our next camp was at Trappers Shelter. It had rained most of the day so we were wet and ready to get dry. No one felt like setting up a tent in the rain so we all decided to just stay in the shelter for the night. Normally, the shelters have resident mice who love to scurry all around you during the night so I try to avoid them, but this was an exception. I was so tired, I don’t think I would have noticed if they even cuddled up with me all night.

Our final day was mostly downhill all along the river valley. The way down the North Fork Trail is quite beautiful in a very different way. There are big evergreen trees up to 4’ diameter and huge maple trees covered in lime green moss draped over the branches. In some places, the whole understory is big swordferns. Views of the river occur more frequently and deep pools of green water seem very inviting. But, as we are nearing the end of this great adventure, visions of pizza and beer overtook our senses causing us to speed up our pace in anticipation.

And so ends another great Pacific Northwest and Olympic National Park Adventure. In all, we spent 10 days enjoying this amazing and beautiful place. All the visions of the trip will stay with us all for life. It would be impossible to forget such peace, solitude, and beauty.

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