Today’s miles: 17.6
Total miles: 429.7
In the morning I am wildly relieved that it hasn’t rained yet. It means I can pack my tent in one piece and that I don’t have to work to keep my dry things dry while packing up. It’s cold and windy, with layers of grey clouds sitting on top of the mountains. I’m on trail by 6:30, wearing my rain jacket for extra warmth. The clouds break up just enough to give me one last look over at Mt. Olympus.
Today is a long downhill into the rainforest section of the park, then mostly rolling gradual down to my camp. I feel vaguely anxious in the morning, and realize it’s because I know the rain is coming at some point. The initial descent, about six miles, takes way longer than I anticipated. The trail tread is has lots of tree roots and rocks to navigate around. A few times, I see patches of blue sky through the clouds, and once I see actual beams of sunlight falling on the trees overhead.
I reach Hyak shelter at the bottom of the descent around 9:30, and stop for “lunch.” I want to eat a lot of calories now, because I know once the rain comes I won’t want to stop to eat. I finish my beef jerky, most of the Pringles, and about half of the remaining chocolate-covered nuts. I’m running low on food and really wish I had brought one more Snickers bar. Tomorrow I have a bar for breakfast, the rest of the Pringles and nuts, and a packet of Nutella. That’s not a lot for minimum 12 miles, but at least the trail will be pretty flat, and I’m headed into town where I can eat whatever I want. (I want pizza.)
I climb down to the river for water and filter, another task I will not want to do in the rain later. By the time I’ve finished, rain is misting down around me. So it begins. I clip on my pack, pull up the hood on my rain jacket, and set off for another eleven miles.
It’s a soft rain, and once I just give in to having wet pants and shoes, it’s not so bad. I’m literally hiking in a temperate rainforest, after all, so I might as well embrace it. I’m also feeling a lot of gratitude for trail crews today, as several miles of this section used to be a notoriously overgrown bushwhack with tons of blowdowns, so thick that hikers reported not being able to see the trail in portions. But crews have cleared it all this summer, and I’m a very lucky beneficiary of their hard work.
I hike alongside the Bogachiel River all day, its rushing water becoming so familiar that I stop noticing the sound until I turn a corner around a very large uprooted tree that blocks the noise on my left side. The brief silence is startling.
Though the trail is mercifully clear of blowdowns and generally brushed out, the tread is often frustrating. Especially now that it’s rainy, all the rocks and roots are extra slippery. I can’t keep to any kind of pace because I have to constantly step over or around all of these obstacles. As an extra bonus, I have two new blisters that I think must be from my big mileage days this past week: one is set into a callus on my heel (the worst — I’m never able to drain these to gain any relief) and one is forming on my big toe. The toe especially really hurts as my foot has to twist and bend on the uneven trail, but what can you do? Just keep hiking.
By the time I reach Flapjack camp, four miles before my own, I’m tired. I’m soaked, my feet hurt, I’m hungry, and the trail has felt pretty monotonous today. I press on. There’s a really irritating stretch of up and down over tons of loose rocks. Near the end of this I pass two backpackers going the opposite direction. “Where ya coming from?” they ask. And I’m so tired I can’t even remember. I think my body is pretty beat up from this ONP section, even though I’ve been hiking strong. I find my thoughts continually returning to town things: shower, food, laundry, everything dry.
The slugs are back today, looking beautiful as always. Green, bright yellow, pale yellow, and pale green with black spots. I step around them carefully. I also see several large toads, a few medium-size orange frogs (extremely springy, too fast for a photo!) and a few of the large snails I saw on the rail trail out of Concrete. These creatures are enjoying the rain in their forest, traveling at their own paces. In my last few miles I try to take that approach too.
The campsite is confusing, because there’s no sign marking it, and according to hiker notes, I need to go 0.1 mile past where it is on the GPS. I think I’ve done that, and see a spur trail, but walk way down it before deciding it can’t be a trail to campsites. I return to the main trail and keep going. Just when I’m starting to despair that I won’t have any place to camp, it appears. A nice flat spot under some big trees that are even blocking a lot of the rain. I put up the tent and begin the laborious process of changing from wet things to dry things. Everything must be done with care lest the wet items contaminate the dry. Already I am dreading putting my cold wet clothes on in the morning; this is, for me, the very worst aspect of hiking in the rain.
My feet are wrinkled from walking in wet socks all day. I air them out, deal with the toe blister, and then rub climber’s balm all over my feet before putting on wool socks. I break my own rule about food in bear country and carefully eat dinner in my tent. It’s not even 5:30pm when I’ve finished all my camp things, and I get under my quilt and read a novel until falling asleep. Town tomorrow!