Saturday, June 9, 2018

Enchanted Valley Spendor

After one magical afternoon and night of camping at O'Neil Creek and 6.5 more miles of hiking on Memorial Day we arrived at the famous and popular Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park's Quinault Rain Forest (13.5 miles in from the trailhead).
These pictures don't do it justice, we were surrounded by waterfalls on all sides flowing down from permanent snow fields into the roaring river.
We took a couple hours to recharge in the Enchanted Valley, finding a perch to have lunch on.
This is the historic ranger station which is now closed but is trying to be preserved. There were no other people around when we arrived, most people were heading back out to the trailhead.
This was my favorite waterfall to gaze up at.
I dipped my feet in the frigid water and let all the miles I walked to get here flow downstream as I enjoyed this moment just to be in this amazing place!
Many waters converging here.
Another waterfall to gaze at.
Indian Paintbrush growing near the waters edge.
Still quite a bit of snowmelt. This is the perfect spring hike. We heard someone in front of us spotted a bear but we did not see any bears during our three days of wandering. Maybe they were up a little higher.
Part of the amazing panoramic view of the valley.
Enchanted Valley lives up to its name and popularity. I am already wondering when I can return and continue up Anderson Pass.
We said goodbye to this magical place and hiked back a few miles to camp but continue to carry it in our hearts and very much enjoyed the less dramatic parts of the river and old growth forest as well.

Enchanted Valley- The journey along the trail

This is my second backpacking trip already this year with no kids and it is still May! I went with my friend Corinne on labor day weekend Sunday to a place toward the top of my bucket list- the Quinault River trail in Olympic National Park to Enchanted Valley. We arrived to a very full parking lot but hoped by hiking Sunday-Tuesday there would be quieter days ahead. We easily got a flexible permit for both nights. I had my bear can, and we set off in the afternoon. The trip is 13.5 miles each way and we chose to do it in three days.
The day was pleasant and the forest was magical with its very old trees!
I kept looking up and I felt very much at home and in my element.
Since it was afternoon when we started we stopped pretty quickly for a lunch break.
The sun even came out for us in the rain forest!
Enjoying the forest!
We came to the first campground, Pony Creek. The gorge reminded me of the Rogue River. The sound of the rushing water was loud.
The forest floor was also very cool with many nurse logs and different types of ferns.
As we hiked along, I saw some Columbine.
I continued to enjoy the magical trees.
We crossed several little creeks but did not get our feet wet- the park service has been working hard to restore bridges in the places where they were needed.
We came to our camp for the night, O'Neil Creek which was 6.7 miles from the trailhead. Though it was crowded, we camped right next to the river which drowned out any other campers and made our campsite feel wild. We even camped on sand.
In the evening, we spent time watching the water, cooking, and filtering. A little dipper bird put on a show for us trying to catch his dinner.
This May river water was COLD and felt good on my feet. Some other campers submerged themselves but this was perfect for me.
I woke up quite a bit earlier than Corinne after an early and relaxing night listening to the river, filtered more water, and enjoyed a cup of tea. We headed out toward our destination, the Enchanted Valley.
It was another lovely day for a walk in the woods. We passed so many people heading back out to the trailhead on our Memorial Day hike.
Though some of the forest floor was full of nurse logs, we came to some open meadows surrounded by old trees.
I continued to wonder about the many layers of ecosystem in these old trees, who all made their home here?
The nurse logs blended in to the forest floor.
 This bridge made me a little woozy due to how high up it was and just how fast this water was moving.
We made it to Pyrites camp and continued on toward the Enchanted Valley, soon we had the whole wilderness to ourselves.
We reached some very cool open meadows on the way to the Enchanted Valley.
I was stuck by this tree which seemed like it's branch was growing right out of the ground because it had integrated so much with the forest floor. 
We continued our 6.5 mile trek toward the Enchanted Valley as the trail went back toward the rushing river beside us.
We passed these enormous and impressive tree roots.
 It was fun seeing how this mushroom positioned itself under the tree.
We crossed over one last creek and took some time to savor the breathtaking Enchanted Valley (featured in the next blog)
We had the valley all to ourselves but decided to hike back to Pyrites camp making it a 10 mile day so that we would have only 10 miles tomorrow as well.
The clouds lifted enough for some snow covered peaks to show themselves. 
When we arrived back at camp we again got a campsite right near the river. This time I stripped down to underclothes and got a little more wet but the cold glacier fed river was still not swimmable.
We enjoyed the evening by the river remembering the amazement of the valley we were in today.
We woke up in the morning of day three feeling fabulous and ready to hike back toward the trailhead. I noticed this twin tree.
It was such a nice day and even though we had a pretty good pace, I tried my best to stay in the moment and enjoy every bit of this forest!
I took time to look up!
Back at Pony Creek just a couple miles from the car we sat right on the edge to eat lunch. My muscles started to cramp from sitting so still over the raging river far below.

Corrine is a wonderful friend to hike with- patient, persistent, and adventurous. This is us reaching the trailhead to end our 27 mile hike.
On our way back out of Olympic National Park we took time to visit this very big tree!
The sign says it all.
You can't hug this tree but I paid my respects by leaning into it!
What a wonderful time along the Quinault River with perfect weather, no crowds, no bears this time, and just time to enjoy the beauty and magic of the Enchanted Valley!