This post has been a long time coming. Over the past few months I’ve been using my blog time for travel, planning, and work deadlines. Lately, due to a recent spike of interest in the book that Conor suggested I read, certain events were illuminated and I felt compelled to write about our magical Olympic Park Experience from 2021!
The Olympic National Park experience was a two part trip. The first being the Olympic National Park backpacking portion and the second an island adventure.
AllTrails Link was 404’d
Originally, Dan and I were going to attempt the thru-hike depicted above as the “Olympic Traverse” though later, in early 2021, a friend who was living near Seattle at the time reached out to ask when Dan and I were planning on coming to Olympic. I don’t remember the exact details nor the timing, but from that point, my Seattle friend and I took over planning to turn this trip from a potentially grueling long distance backpacking trip into something more of an adventure that would be more attractive to a larger group. In fact, I blogged about the details of these changed plans shortly after, in “Circumstances Have Changed” if you’d like to get an idea of the expectation before we jump into the actual.
Boy oh boy did I seem excited, which is understandable at the time considering how close I had felt to the fam after our adventures in New Jersey:
“With most of the logistics planned and plane tickets purchased 🤑, I can finally say this trip to put simply, has me giddy to reflect my high anticipation for this trip. With our set route we will be backpacking through a lush mossy rain forest, up to the higher elevations 🏔 with the lakes🌅, meadows🌾, more trees🌲🌳, & wildlife 🐻🦌, back down to a waterfall💦, back up over a pass, and past some natural hot springs! ♨ Rain 🌧 or shine 🌞 this is going to be a dope 🍑 hike! 🤙🏻 Even better, I’ll be surrounded by some of my closest friends. 🔥 Afterward, to rest, we found an Airbnb to address those needs with a sauna and hot tub. 🙌🏻”Circumstances Have Changed
Flight to Seattle of Seattle
The Actual – July 17
We, which included Ariel, Conor C., Conor H., Dan, Hope, Jake, and I, coming from different parts of the East landed in Seattle relativity all at the same time, meeting up with our Seattle friend for lunch at the Elysian Capitol Hill Brewery. Due to a sudden change in plans, our Seattle friend committed to a place in Madison Valley, Seattle for the entire group which I will admit was a lot cleaner logistically than our original plans, which involved taking rideshares to Colman Dock from the airport, a ferry to Bremerton, and then shuttled by our Seattle friend to his place.
After lunch, we walked to the Airbnb in Madison Valley to get settled in, broke down the logistics of our next moves for the trip, and split into different groups. I believe one group stayed, one went to REI (fuel and last minute purchases), and another (Dan and I) went on an adventure.
I don’t have too many photos during this time interval to illustrate the rest of the day, but we basically dinnered at Rhein Haus and hung out until our early slumber for our early rise the next day.
Day Two – July 18
Getting Ready to Head Out
Early morning waiting outside of Airbnb
The start of our day was not too smooth. In short, we missed the ferry to Bremerton from Seattle we needed to be on in order to meet up with the shuttle on the other side to take us to the trailhead. Supposedly the time on the website for the ferry and actual schedule did not match up. As a result of our miss, our Seattle friend setup an Uber to a drive around instead which was quite scenic, but also doable for the time interval we needed to be there.
The shuttle ride was actually much longer than I realized it would be, totaling six hours from 8 AM to 2 PM. Of course we had plenty of necessary stops which included: lunch, the bear canister rental pick up from the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center (backpacking requirement in ONP), and dropping off a car at the trail end. It would be good to note that there was a long line of traffic getting into the park via Hoh Valley Road, adding to this time. While I don’t have exact details of the shuttle from Bremerton, WA to Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, here is the shuttle’s contact: IG: @hikeolympic | Phone – (360) 457-2259 that I picked up on the side of the van.
Thankfully, our first day hiking was an easy trek, however I bet if it was hard, we would have made moves to get to the trail the day before.
The trek to our first campsite in the rain forest was pretty neat. I just wish I had more than a phone camera to capture its beauty.
Not sure on how it was brought up knowing me, but I remember stating (by this river where the above photo was taken) that Hope’s eyes are some of the coolest eyes I’ve seen. Disagreeing our Seattle friend says, “Look at this man’s eyes” referring to Jake’s eyes. Jake’s eyes while not exactly hazel in color were more of a blue and brown combo with speckled clusters, which I would agree are cool. If you know Jake, ask permission to look into his eyes. You won’t be disappointed. 😂 Same with Hope’s eyes. She has green eyes with a black border around the circumference of her iris.
Hoh River by camp
Day Three – July 19
Trees man 🌲
Hiking wise, day three of our trip was one of those challenging, but rewarding type of days. As you can see above our “up, up, up” (challenging incline – coined by Dan referenced from a scene in the Walking Dead) was an intense 7-mile incline for the first part of our day. The reward being some of the best views I’ve ever seen in one vista while backpacking.
Most photos in general never do a justice in showing steepness of an incline, but in these you can actually kind of tell.
Not to pick on Conor, but if you know him, it looks a little out of the ordinary for him to be dwarfed by the log behind him.
When you don’t know where the trail goes, it’s likely the path of most resistance. I’m joking because the purpose of a trail is the exact opposite as well as a means to preserve nature in a way where it is still accessible for those to enjoy, but it often feels as if trails follow the path of most resistance in the moment.
More trees 🙌🏻🌲🤙🏻
The alpine mountain herbage and flowers were pretty dank.
Less than two miles from the top we came up on Hoh Lake…
…where our group discovered a bunch of River Otters.
After the lake, the scenery got better. The further we hiked up, it seemed like the color of Hoh Lake got blue and bluer. This is the actual color:
Just look at this view! 🏞️ Isn’t this the most beautiful vista you’ve ever seen?!?!? 🌞😍 It almost doesn’t look real with how perfectly the river curves between the snow capped 🏔️ mountains into the distance.
This part is pretty close to where we encountered an old man with a long white beard, informing us unsolicitedly that we had a long ways to go, which vibed as condescending. I’m sure Dan would love to tell you about it. 😅 Plus, Dan tells the story better.
High Divide by Bogachiel Peak
After our high point, we only had down left to our campsite.
candid believe it or not
Pretty much just forest and fields of flowers until our campsite at Deer Lake.
Absolutely breathe taking.
I don’t remember too much about our camping experience at Deer Lake other than the mosquitoes, but if it’s like any other, Dan’s the life of the party. Seriously, come backpacking with us. Dan is a gem.
Most of the time I’m not recording, so while this is a rare capture of his angelic vocal abilities, this barely scratches the surface of Dan’s talent.
My apologies for extra noise of me moving around in the background audio of this vid. 🙇🏻♂️
Day Four – July 20
Despite being our shortest day, day four was a bit challenging for the group and I think it had to do with finishing the day with an “up, up, up” that gradually kept getting steeper.
Cute as a button
From Sol Duc, it was pretty much all uphill until camp.
It was at this moment I realized I had packed too little food. I remember because I felt bad for not being able to share the Korean Barbecue Beef Steak Strip and Chick-fil-A sauce combo I had packed for such purpose. I ended up just barely having enough, but it surely worried me. What I likely did was over eat earlier in the trip during down time, though now I always carry an extra freeze dried meal for peace of mind, so lesson learned.
When the real “up, up, up” began.
Once we got to the top of Appleton Pass, I realized that the planned water source was in actuality several hundred feet below where we were, so planning by ear to avoid water at a lower elevation, we hiked a little further to a pond, though maybe it is a lake considering the name of the trail leading to it being called Oyster Lake trail. I’m still unclear on the difference between the two. You’d think Google would have an answer, but it only leads to more questions.
Hope Chilling by Oyster Lake
Wondering further past Oyster Lake primarily to find a nice spot to use the bathroom, I stumbled upon this beautiful vista:
A little bit later we had quite the majestic visitor🦌
While I was happy to be rid of the mosquitoes, the buck in the distance background of picture above was walking around our campsite into the night so I got very poor sleep thinking it was potentially something else as my mind wandered.
Day Five – July 21
Thankfully we knew before starting the hike, but usually what I do when I’m looking for trailheads is look at the satellite view in addition to trail maps. None of the maps, including Google Maps was up to date. The roads were washed out between Elwha Ranger Station and Cascade Rock trailhead which I believe is the trail that connects the the two ends of the road where the wash out occurred.
The circled section above is where the washout occurred and I did look at each of those blue dot street view images to see what was up, but the street view images were from 2017, so I figured they would have fixed the road by 2021.
I actually don’t think we knew for sure until our Seattle friend talked to the shuttle company about dropping his car off at the Olympic Hot Springs trailhead that the road was no longer connected and would have to instead leave his car at Madison Falls Trailhead.
Despite knowing before starting the hike, it was a bit of a bummer. It would have been nice to have the time to check out those natural hot springs on the way out before departing Olympic National Park.
Anyway, we began our day with an early start at 5AM. There were quite a few things that needed to happen before our ferry from the Port Townsend Ferry Terminal which had its last trip of the day to Coupeville at 5:15PM. We ended up having plenty of time, but it definitely was a ferry 🚢 we could not afford to miss.
The sunrise was stupid beautiful. Even if I had my camera with me to better handle the light, I don’t think it would have been able to do a justice to what it was like to actually be there in person.
This part of the trail was surprisingly overgrown and poorly marked almost as if the National Park Service had stopped maintaining this section of the trail.
Had to go through some shrubs almost as tall as Hope.
As soon as we passed the natural hot springs, the trail became much more road-like similar to most touristy trails, in which I sort of appreciated at the time realizing how it was in relation to how it is now. Not the wide pathway, but the fact that you have to hike at least 10.6 miles in order to visit the hot springs meaning the hot springs are getting less foot traffic, further preserving the area.
The sign in the image below really ties the story together, but suggests that the road would have still been accessible, so I’m thinking while also looking at 1980 topo maps in relation to present day maps that the restoration project did not allocate enough funds to redo the road system to accommodate for the new uncontrolled river patterns after the removal of the dams.
Upon arriving to the road about 4.5 miles before where this sign is located, we split up into two groups. The game plan for Jake, me, and our Seattle friend was to hike at a faster pace ahead of the group so that two of us go pick up food and I would go to pick up the rental car we reserved. That way, by the time the group made it to the trail end, we would have everything ready. However the car rental agents delayed my return by an hour. To my surprise they were out to lunch during the pick up time, so I was pretty much stuck there waiting for approximately an hour before I was able to pick up the incorrect car.
Little did I know they tried to contact me while we were backpacking, so they released the car I had reserved in March since I was unable to reconfirm. To be frank, I was pretty salty. Having no other option, I held my tongue and took what I could get – a Toyota Rav4 with a quarter tank.
I would like to note that car rental companies nowadays rarely allow drop offs to a different location than the pick up, which is what this was (so we could just drive it directly to the Seattle airport after we were finished with our trip). So, if you are planning your trip from point to point like we did, you may realize you’ll need alternative logistics. Maybe arranging another shuttle to pick up your group at the trail end and communicate via a Garmin communication device (since there isn’t reliable cell service within the park) could work.
|Name||Olympic National Park|
|Trailhead/Parking||Start: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center|
End: Madison Falls Trailhead
|Campsites Reserved||Night #1: OGS (Olympus Guard/Ranger Station) Group Sites|
Night #2: Deer Lake Group Site
Night #3: Appleton Pass Camp
|Hike Length||45.2 miles|
|Gaia GPS Link||Entire ONP Backpacking Trip|
After a gas station stop, I made my way back to the trailhead to rejoin my group. From there our Seattle friend along with Dan and Jake made moves to retrieve and return all of the bear canisters, so the rest of us could drive directly to Port Townsend Ferry Terminal, saving time.
Ferry was lit. I’ve been on one before, but not as an adult, so it was kind of special.
The Airbnb we reserved as mentioned in Circumstances Have Changed, was dope. 🔥🙌🏻🤙🏻 From the hot tub, you could see Mount Olympus, Mount Rainier, and the North Cascades in one vista. I remember having a hard time finding an Airbnb big enough for our group on the same land mass as Olympic National Park, but was able to find one big enough on Whidbey Island, so as a result our adventure took us to the islands for an island adventure. 🛶🐋🦀🍻 As rural as it was, there wasn’t a lot to do, but just enough for the amount of time we there to chill.
These were the options we came up with in planning:
After we settled in, I was so exhausted that I sought a safe place, so photo wise I don’t have too much to share. If I was in the mood I’m sure I would have at least gotten a group photo in. Execution wise, I knew it wasn’t too much of an issue since our Seattle friend was in control of the itinerary for the group during this part of the trip, but I could tell there was some concern about my lack of presence. At one point during a group activity, I overheard Conor assuring everyone that Macon was tired from logistics when I was resting in the other room. That was not entirely the case, but I didn’t know nor have the words to say differently what I was actually going through. Plus, I didn’t want to concern anyone with my issues on their vacation. It didn’t sit right with me. Trust me, I really wanted to be involved with how it was on our wonderful Jersey trip, but had trouble recovering my energy with no where to escape to since I refused to disappear on Hope.
Day 6 – July 22
After lunch we split into two groups for a seafood pick up and for another grocery run so our designated cook had all of the ingredients needed for dinner. I wish I was more present for this meal because it was really something special.
Prior to dinner, there were some party games 🍻 that I promptly strayed from, though I must have come out of my cave at some point to take this photo.
Day Seven – July 23
We had quite the action packed seventh day, starting out with some Sea Kayaking. The plan was to do the 90-minute kayak tour, however instead what was booked was the 3-hour tour, which was pretty brutal in the moment, especially since I had skipped breakfast. This was the moment I realized just how much grit Hope has. It felt as if Hope, who was in the front was pulling us more than I was pushing our Kayak from the back.
Photo Credit: Hope
Other than the grit required for the amount of time, it was pretty cool. I know Hope was enjoying herself, which is all that really mattered to me at the time to keep on gritting. We saw a number of things on the tour including a Bald Eagle, a cuddle puddle of sea lions, kelp (edible and difficult to paddle through), and a few others that I’m blanking on.
Dan’s rating for the kayaking tour was: “10/10.” 💯😋
Next we made our moves to get lunch in Anacortes, while we waited for the ferry to San Juan Island. I should have paid more attention to the logistics for this part of the trip because anyone can make a mistake in any given moment. Anyway, this ferry transport was at least 90 minutes each way.
I think originally we were going to do an organized event, but decided we would rather just explore Friday Harbor, so we split up and found ourselves together again at a local pub with a couple of pool tables.
Anyway, while waiting for our Ferry on the docks at around 8PM after our fun in Friday Harbor, our Seattle friend realizes he made a mistake on when the ferry was supposed to return to Anacortes, WA, the next one leaving close to 10PM, so we made moves to get dinner in town real quick before the depart.
On the way back I started to notice that the ferry stopped at almost every island on the way back, which slowly but surely made me more anxious until I could barely cope between the gaps of cell service. At this point, most of the group was asleep. The thing here was that I had an obligation to get Ariel and Conor H. to the airport using the rental, but if I were to do that, I would not get back to the Airbnb until 5 AM at the earliest. Realizing I was fucked (yes, this is the appropriate word) energy wise, I quickly searched the internet when I had service (only at ports) for taxi services nearby. I called, realized where they were coming from and asked if they could direct me to any taxi company closer. They said no such company existed, so I asked for them to drive over anyway. To my surprise, maybe 15 minutes out from our destination port, I found a single nearby Lyft driver that could take the trip, so after I received text confirmation that he was real, I cancelled the taxi (suffering the consequences of the cancellation fee) and lived happily ever after.
The amount of relief I felt in that moment could bring me to tears. It was without a doubt most most expensive rideshare I’ve ever committed to, but in a heartbeat would gladly in these conditions commit again.
I think I made that Lyft driver’s day. He was pretty eager upon meeting him. He also said I looked exactly my picture – I created the Lyft account on the ferry. 😅
Driving back with Hope to the Airbnb, I could tell that I was right to assume I would not be an attentive driver.
Day Eight – July 24
The last day was a chill all day type of day. With no itinerary, Hope and I went exploring around town.
I don’t know if I mentioned this anywhere, but the weather was absolutely perfect the entirety of the trip!🌞🙌🏻😍
We did have the Airbnb for one more night, but I thought it made more sense to get a motel next to the airport for our very early flight back the next morning.
On our way back we had one last meal together before splitting and departing for Seattle.
While our Seattle friend and I took a lot of time to plan this trip, I think we both learned the logistical difficulties of traveling with a large group (more than four). While I can’t speak for our Seattle friend, I certainly would like to avoid volunteering my time to execute long distance traveling with large groups in the future. Don’t get me wrong, it was super fun, but logistics will not always go as planned. You need to be able to think on your feet and have an arsenal of backup plans at your disposal. Plus, for the organizers, it’s not much of a vacation. Needing to make a quick decision with a consequence I could live with and executing it out without waiver to judgement for the entirety of the group was difficult for me. As a result, in addition to mentally drowning for something else entirely (in which I’ll touch on in a bit), I was likely not a fun person to be around and on that note I would like to apologize to those who were on the trip for not being present as the leader and team player I should have been. 🙇🏻♂️
If you’d like a nice and easy group vacation trip with zero stress, consider an REI Adventure. I gave my take on one of their under 35 trips in, “2022 – REI Adventure Experience” which is the sole original reason I committed to this logistic-free trip the following year after with the intention to create a vacation for myself.
On the mentally drowning bit, one of the reasons I was not comfortable writing up this trip earlier is because during the second part of this trip, I was running on empty, without words to fully express what could have happened to explain my close inability to cope nor think clearly without thinking our Seattle friend was out to get me. Thankfully and recently, my friend Conor brought to my attention a book he thought I should read, called “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker. Under normal circumstances, I would have never even considered C-PTSD since it largely associates to childhood abuse, neglect, or abandonment, but to my surprise, the flight trauma personality type perfectly outlines my brain, as if someone wrote a biography for the way I operate. Over time, I felt the need to figure out the potential triggers. Since, I did not know the triggers, the author suggested to instead seek/feel out the flashes, which are described in the book as an amygdala hijack, which in itself needs an explanation. An amygdala hijack is an intense reaction in the emotional memory part of the brain that overrides the rational brain, which can include unnecessary triggering of our fight/flight instincts. As a result, I found that it is not normal to be in an adrenaline state when meeting new people or out in unfamiliar social situations. To further clarify, I even get this feeling when I am texting someone new. I always assumed this feeling was the result of excitement. Conversely, I know I am social, but it isn’t a mystery at this point in my life that I need to remove myself in low energy states to avoid embarrassing miscommunications. So while I may not want to remove myself, I know I have to, to recover. While I’d like take credit for this realization, it wasn’t until conversing with Conor about the book, that unfamiliar social situations are one of my triggers.
I need to say this here…I can not overstate this enough, but having a friend like Conor is an absolute godsend! His ability to take the time to truly listen and sense-make is among the most altruistic experiences I have ever had received in my life, which I will be forever grateful for.
With this new found knowledge, I am now certain with the lack of a flight escape in the moment during the second part of this trip, that the mentally-drowning-trauma-like-state I was in was a direct result of my perception of a real threat that I was going to be betrayed/abandoned (again) by my closest friends. By mentally drowning, my over-analytical brain was in a never ending hyperactive thought obsession state during every waking hour. It was my own personal hell for 3.5 days.
What is the trauma that my brain re-created? I don’t know yet for sure. My best guess was switching schools at a young age in which created a social reset in combination with my early diagnosis of a learning disability to further isolate me from my peers. I without a doubt struggled repeatedly attempting to rekindle those bonds, until I eventually gave up. I would like to note for clarification that my parents did not abuse me. In fact, they were over-the-top supportive in getting me the help that I needed from struggling to thriving. It was the environment they unintentionally created despite their best intentions.
It wasn’t until I petri dished my way into Conor at twenty-two, I had made my first friend who took the time to not only listen, but understand me. Don’t get me wrong, I did make and have friends, but none that actually had the skill set to peal back the mask.
Despite, the personal hell, the backpacking portion was some of the best backpacking I’ve done and was elated Hope was there to experience this with me. Her tenacity was unmatched. I’m not sure what she did to train, but it was a major improvement from the last time I backpacked with her.
Reminiscing our friendship, Conor mentioned that the Olympic trip was actually five years in the making. If we did not cross paths forever ago at Raytheon, these trips would not have the necessary bond they would have needed to occur.