Up the enchanted valley

I sat there by the bees in the lupine with my knees muddy and the birds singing and the sound of some far-away traffic like a low tide going out. I chewed on an apple in a nonthinking way and cleft off pieces with a satisfying snap. Nothing really happened, nothing worth writing about. But still I wrote, and it felt good, a way to tend to my little plot.

I made plans to go backpacking again, this time to the Olympic peninsula, a span of glacier-covered mountains, river valleys, rain forests and beaches. A new destination for me called the Enchanted Valley, and onwards to a high mountain pass.

For all the times I’ve climbed I never had the patience to learn my knots, which is a non-starter for any Alpinist. So I cut some lengths of nylon cord, burned the ends, and practiced a couple hitches using an app on my phone. I left lengths of cord around the house tied to various things. They said you should practice your knots with your eyes closed or in a dark shower, because that simulates the conditions you’ll be tying knots on the mountain. I ignored their advice.

And then after thinking about it for a few days I decided not to camp on the snow at the pass but instead stick to the lower valley by the chalet. The chalet was built in 1931 and now used as a summer ranger’s station. They say there’s a large population of black bear in the valley and they often claw through the chalet to get the ranger’s food. I had gotten less scared of bear, though I still have a healthy respect for anything that could kill, maim or eat me. Now that I don’t get high backpacking I’m hoping I’ll be less paranoid when I hear something at night, but we’ll see.

And the backpacking trips are always an excuse to spend a few hundred dollars on new gear at REI. So I loaded up on backcountry food, fuel, a new pair of trekking shoes I got for half off, a first aid kit, new socks, a lightweight backcountry shovel that has no handle, just grips where you hold the blade. Then I went back for the backcountry pass I forgot the first time and bought more clothes, just because.

And because I’m so excited to get out I started packing about five days early. I laid out my compression sacks and compared the size and weight of various sleeping bag configurations. I went through my maps and took pictures of route descriptions with my phone. I tested my stove and sniffed the insides of my water filters. And packed my bear canister full of food and snacks.

The bear canisters are required for backcountry camping throughout most of our local national parks, and while they’re big (the size of a large plastic bucket) they serve as a compact way to stow all your food and scented stuff like toiletries, cookware and fuel. And you can use them as a stool which is handy.

So I thought deeply about the route and tried to picture it from the route descriptions and maps. I’d go about nine miles in on the first day and set up by a river, get up early on day 2 and head for the chalet. Camp there and then that would be the day I’d venture on to the pass to see what I could see from up there. There was a high ford south of a trail junction leading up to the pass, and full-on winter conditions from there on. I got my micro spikes and ax, my gaiters and good gloves. I’d gone so far as to consider camping up there at a place called Camp Siberia because it has views of a nearby hanging glacier and I love the sound of glacier calving, the drama. But I didn’t like the idea of having to melt snow for drinking water or carrying a heavy pack that far. That would be 18 miles from the trail head and not much to do once I got there.

I have a new lightweight camp chair that weighs maybe a pound and I liked the idea of just sitting on that in the river valley with the nearby elk and bear reading a book with my mosquito net for a hat and my sleeping bag coiled around my legs. Not much to write or think about but the birds and the bugs, the alpine flowers and waterfalls, me and my tent. Not actually a tent, more a tarp. And a good little piece of earth to call my own for the night.

Categories: travel, writing

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21 replies

  1. My sense of adventure has evolved (devolved?) to the camp chair version. Often, it’s a bit more “civilized”, involving small hotels with continental breakfasts. But, fortunately, I get to live high-adventure vicariously.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You hike 9 miles carrying a bucket of food?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Juxtaposition of new boots and first aid kit caught my eye during your shopping spree. Quite a build up to the adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t wait! Thanks for joining me from afar good chap!


      • It sounds amazing. But to much for me I imagine – I even sent that last msg in error with finger shivering in the wring spot, whilst taking breakfast with the heater on in the kitchen. I can pretend that I wish I was going with you, I suppose. And maybe there will be a post? I do hope it is as amazing as it sounds. Kind regards DD

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi again David! We just turned the heat on here ourselves. Gotta love the Pacific Northwest! You’re kind to request a post and thank you, I’ll do that for you old buddy! Enjoy the day. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I like my comforts too much to do this stuff myself but I enjoyed your process of preparation for the trip. Enjoy and be safe!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Were I as aware of camping benefits as I have become but still younger/more-robust – this would truly appeal. Being “up there” appeals. Getting there is not practical for me, will never happen short of having a helicopter drop me. (Fat chance of that!) Sooo … great to read your accounts/plans and wish myself into such scenes. Hope the bears let you be … hope you’ll post more … congrats on camping without getting high (other than altitude).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Camping without getting high ha ha! True that and thank you Jazz. Glad you are a true believer of the outdoors, the bees knees for me…be well and appreciate the kind words and encouragement, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Bill, I just discovered you’re no longer showing up in my reader. I happened to notice your smiling face on an old post and wondered, whatever happened to that guy, and followed Gravitar here. Nice to see you’re still posting.

    We too are about to go camping for the first time in a few years, (thanks for nothing Covid), but are comparative wusses – we’ll let the car carry the food to the camp site. Along with the dive gear too, we’re off to Deception Pass. It’d be tough to pack that in…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave! So nice to see you again and glad we reconnected, thanks for thinking of me and I’ll pop over to catch up with what’s new with you here too! Hope you have a great time up at the Pass! That sounds lovely. Thanks for reconnecting and look forward to catching up old pal! Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You hike, I’ll read you hiking.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Up there with Ernest Hemingway, you are.

    Liked by 1 person

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