|To Mt. Carrie|
Day 3 -8/27 “…You just CAN’T make this stuff UP!” – to Cream Lake
I woke up to find we were still mostly dry except for the condensation on the walls and surprisingly we had stayed warm through the night. Outside the drizzle had turned back to a heavy mist and the morning clouds were still hanging low all around us. I was hoping the best for Scott. He was up moving around but was admittedly feeling stiff and sore in more places than yesterday. He hadn’t slept much and never found his aspirin. Tim gave him some of ours hoping it would be enough for him to keep going that day. I couldn’t imagine the physical and mental pain that he was enduring.
In the night, Scott had fixed his mind on somehow being rescued in the morning by helicopter – in between bouts of vowing to sell all his gear and never go hiking again. All of us tried our phones for reception that morning with no luck. Scott’s hope was that the guys we had met at Bruce’s Roost hadn’t turned back toward Sol Duc this morning and would be coming our way. They did appear to be more experienced at this and might possibly have a GPS device that we could use to get help. We finished breakfast and were starting to slowly pack up, figuring we had no other option but to keep going as far as we could. And then, what seemed like a mirage, Scott spotted two hikers coming up fast in our direction. It was indeed the two guys we had met at Boston Charlie’s.
After Scott told them what had happened, they were even more amazed that we had made it as far as we did. They had huge packs, surprisingly no GPS, but offered to do whatever they could to help. They were intent on making it out of the mountains today. All we could think of was to have them notify a ranger about Scott’s condition and to leave us a marker on the trail where we knew it was going to be hard to find the right route to stay high on the mountainside around to Ferry Basin later that day. With that agreement, we watched them quickly disappear down the trail leaving us alone once again to make our way the best we could. It was some comfort to know that at least we would have fresh tracks to follow now that they had gone ahead. Scott was not going to give up hope easily that somehow a rescue would come, but he decided to grit it out and stay with us. We agreed to just take it slow and rest as often as he needed.
|Akula (aka Scott) Pointing at our wonderful view of the clouds|
As we left camp, the clouds started to break up revealing the mountainside above us. There were several outcroppings of rocks above us arranged in such a way that they looked like the spires of a cathedral rising up out of the marshy meadow. Off to the side there was a small trickle of a waterfall feeding the creek that ran alongside where we had made camp. I stopped for just a few seconds and made a conscious effort to appreciate the beauty of it all, knowing I may never be here to see it again, and then quickly shifted my focus back on to what lie ahead. My biggest hope for all of us was that it didn’t include any more ravines, but that was not to be.
|Meadow was full of butterflies drying out after the morning rain|
The trail started off still in the meadow and made it a little easier to appreciate the morning as the clouds continued to break up, some dropping into the valley below, and others ascending high. Intermittent views across the valley revealed another awe-inspiring string of snowy peaks. But with each bend in the trail, as the ravines started again, I cringed inside, unsure of whether Scott would be able to make the next one. We had slowed some and he was not letting on that he couldn’t manage. I guessed it was a combination of his military training and sheer adrenaline that kept him going. I was grateful for each time we made it across without a heart dropping moment.
|Hoh River zoom|
|Me and Akula on the trail from Eleven Bull Basin|
But before we could be done with the ravines, there had to be one that put all of us to the test – it was the wettest, mossiest and steepest of them all with the most amount of rushing water. By that time I guess we were all a bit wise to the terrain and had learned the hard way what it took to keep our feet underneath us. We each carefully chose our paths up to the ravine crossing looking for the least slick footholds and kept our bodies close to the hillside in the event our hands had to dig into the wet mossy crevasses in the rock.
The ravine was a two part traverse. The first section was narrow but vertical forcing us to all fours to navigate across. Although it was just a stride-wide, there was only a small sliver of rock exposed to move across the water before it dropped down into a steeper gully. The next section had considerably more rushing water and was not a stride-wide. To cross from a crouched position on a sliver of rock, the gap required an energetic thrust of body laden with pack to make it across. But before making a move, there was no question that mustering all confidence and sincere hope was required to ensure that the landing was solid and did not throw one off balance and back into the gully to be rushed with the water down the side of the mountain.
At first this all looked impossible to navigate safely. I had often wondered what it would be like to watch the two guys ahead of us traverse these ravines – simply to know whether it could be any easier, or if these ravines brought everyone down to the same level. Tim went first and with his long legs amazingly made the leap safely landing on the other side. He then guided our moves and bolstered our confidence. Both Scott and I were grateful to have Tim’s hand hold to make the final leap and avoid careening down the gully.
|Deborah (the author of the story)|
|Finding our way through the brush|
A few bends in the trail later, when it opened up into a long stretch of meadow and trees, I was finally convinced the ravines were behind us. We started to see more piles of bear scat on the trail but never saw any bear. We did get surprised by a spruce hen running up the trail ahead and off into the brush. And every once in awhile we would see a chipmunk pop its heads up from behind a rock and scurry off in the other direction.
The sun just started breaking through when we came to a massive granite boulder field. Scott was ready to take a real rest, so we each found a boulder-sized seat and put our feet up. Scott’s spirits were better than I expected although he was still wishing for a heli to be circling the sky above. He gave us a look at the goose egg bulge on his thigh now starting to turn from shades of red to purple. Just looking at it from a distance we could tell the color was going to spread and turn all shades of purple – seeing it just added to my amazement that he was able to stay with us. Although he was tiring sooner, Scott was doing well enough; it gave me hope that the worst was behind us and we would make it the rest of the way together.
We walked for another couple miles passing through stands of trees and meadows until we came upon a pretty little spot with a creek and a small pond tucked into a corner of the mountainside with a nice little camp spot alongside. The sun was fully out from behind the clouds and with our packs off, what started as a short rest stop, turned into a bit of sun bathing. The warmth felt so soothing after yesterday’s bout of dreary gray and misty rain. This section had restored my hope that we could actually enjoy taking in all the scenery around us and not be focused on every step clinging to the side of the hill for our lives. If it would only stay this way to Ferry Basin it would be a much needed break from the stress of yesterday. But it was now into the early afternoon and although we were feeling rested; Tim was growing a little anxious about the amount of trail we had left before reaching our next camp. We still had to find the “y” in the trail and navigate from there across the mountainside, where the trail apparently wore very thin, around the valley above Cream Lake, and on to Ferry Basin. Scott and I reluctantly pulled ourselves from reclining poses and packed up.
|Reclining after a long bushwhacking climb and running from bees|
It wasn’t far along when I realized the trail had given us a respite, but it was not going to let us off the hook. To all of our amazement we reached another point in the trail where it went straight up the mountain through brush, rocks and trees. It took a lot out of Scott to make all those heaving steps one after the other. At the top, Tim and I waited, taking in the new vantage point. As we heard Scott push his way through the last of the brush and put a foot on level ground, there was only one word that satisfied him. We took the hint and dropped packs to rest before moving on into a whole new section of trail.
The elevation gain we had just made put us on another plain heading over to a new string of mountains, away from the valley we had been following, into the one that would take us over to the Bailey Range. The trail started out beautiful heading through another meadow with a whole new view of snowy peaks off in the distance. It reminded me of the Von Trapps heading out into the Alps in the Sound of Music. At least we were out here by choice with high tech gear. I couldn’t imagine early hikers doing what we were with ten times the weight in clothes and pack. Even more incredibly, this trail we were taking was first blazed years ago by a fifteen year-old. I wasn’t sure right then what that said about us being out here at our age – either that the kid was mature beyond his years, or we had made a ridiculous assumption that we could summon the will and might of a young teen and make it through.
We were all relieved when we came up to a nice sized cairn and an arrow-marker laying on the trail made out of twigs, directing us away from the trail heading down into the trees. The hikers from Bruce’s Roost had come this same way and left us just what we had asked for, along with their foot prints to follow. It was another sign that we were being taken care of when it mattered most.
|Following the arrow|
From there, we headed up. The mountain side turned to mostly loose dirt and rock with low bushes, small trees and evergreens scattered throughout making the trail much harder to follow. We’d go for a short stretch and the trail would seemingly disappear in front of us. We’d then spend a few minutes looking around for signs of trail or footprints to follow in and amongst the brush, possibly heading in another direction or just further up ahead.
We had been making our way up through rocks and denser brush for some time when we came to a spot that required some serious thought before making our way up. There was a rather large rock, almost waist-high, covered with brush on top. Scott was in front of us alongside the rock trying to figure out how to get in a position with some leverage to hoist himself on top of it. Tim and I were standing a little below him, intently studying the area to find the better hand holds, when all of a sudden I realized bees were flying straight for my head from below Scott’s feet. I couldn’t believe what was happening, until I saw that they were coming from a very small hole in the dirt. Scott’s shuffling around had disturbed their nest and now they were flying wildly out the hole to take on whatever it was! I immediately began yelling at Scott to step back down away from the hole, at the same time I looked panic stricken back at Tim, who hadn’t quite figured out what was going on. I was hollering for him to put his hood up and help me with mine, as I fumbled trying to shield my face from the bees starting to fly every direction. It didn’t take Scott more than a few seconds to realize what was happening as the bees started encircling him. He quickly came down by us searching for another way up, but I couldn’t bear to wait. Instinct had taken over and I knew I had to get out of there otherwise I would be hurting for days or worse. I clamored around Scott without saying a word, grabbed a fistful of bushes and bolted up on top of the rock. I didn’t look back until I was up behind a few larger bushes to see if Scott and Tim were following behind.
|Not the bees we encountered, I didn’t get pictures of them. 🙂|
Once we were all standing together and had a moment of calm to collect our thoughts and check ourselves and each other for damage, the full comedy of what had just happened took hold and we went into fits of laughter that lasted for some time down the trail. It was just unbelievable what the trail was throwing at us – no one could make this stuff up! Getting attacked by bees out of nowhere from underneath the ground left us all wondering what in the hell was going to be thrown at us next. It was for certain that this would not be the last challenge we would have to face. Unfortunately, we weren’t all unscathed from the wrath of the bees. Scott got stung at hairline just below his hat. The poor guy seemed to be the target of mishaps those first few days but he was not giving up – at least not until the heli showed up.
It was shortly after that – we lost the trail entirely. We had come to a huge outcropping of rock and as we tried to creep around to look on the other side we saw it was a steep drop down to a sea of boulders and rock. There was no trail and no clear way out beyond it. We turned around and started searching for a way up to possibly traverse above it but there was no clear way up either. So Tim began searching down below. As Scott and I followed him, at times it looked like there might be a start to a trail with a stray foot print here and there. But when Tim started dropping straight down the hillside through the underbrush, I began to think there was nothing to follow and yet we had no other option – a scary thought for me this high up on a mountain. The only encouraging thing was at this elevation we could keep Cream Lake in view and knew that’s where we needed to go. It was now late in the day and there was no more time to figure a way to stay high and come around above the lake to Ferry Basin as Tim had planned. The alternate route was to drop down to Cream Lake and spend the next day making our way back up to Ferry Basin.
Tim did a fine job of bushwhacking and navigating us through a few nasty butt slides amongst the underbrush and rocks. Luckily the only damage this time was superficial tears in our clothes. I ended up with a torn glove and two perfectly positioned three corner tears in my rain pants – one on each cheek. I was so glad when we finally broke through the trees into the lowland bear grass. It was somewhat shocking to experience the dramatic change in perspectives – from up above it looked like we could walk right to the lake, but on the valley floor with evergreens now towering over our heads and slide alder diffusing our view of the valley, it took some wandering back and forth across the creeks and marshes to finally find Cream Lake. It was a blessed sight and just in time, we had barely enough daylight to find a campsite. After more weaving in and out of the slide alder not finding signs of a true campsite, we found a decent sized area in between a finger of the creek and the lake. All of us were hoping to find someone else camped out, but no one was around. We were so glad to be settled and enjoy dinner lakeside as the sun dropped from the sky even with all the mosquitoes. Getting a good night sleep was next on our minds after another full day of adventure.
|Hiker trashed the place so we could dry out our gear|
|Cream Lake from Camp|
Just as we started to make camp, a lone hiker appeared out of the darkness. His name was Nat. He looked grizzled but young – probably late 20s. We learned he had been out on the trail for 10 days already and had just come down from the Bailey Range which was great news for us. We were excited to have someone to exchange trail woes and ahhs thus far, especially Scott. Nat offered to bring Scott some ‘potent’ pain pills he hadn’t used, as soon as he made camp. Tim and Scott shared what they had discovered about the surroundings for potential camp sites and he was off.
Awhile later Nat returned with the meds for Scott and his makings for dinner. Nat and Scott sat awhile out by the lake talking stories. Tim and I finished making camp so we could turn in for the night. He had been feeling queezy since the second day and not eating much. I was amazed at how he was doing so much on so little food. As we zipped in, I made especially sure we had our bear spray and headlamps within reach. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this of all spots would be the prime place for a bear to come through our camp. And with all we had experienced thus far, it just seemed to be the logical next thing on the list of wild adventures.
|The majestic Mt. Olympus|