Thanks to the Outdoor Program Student Council, we have an incredible itinerary prepared in Olympic National Park! The trip consists to two, 6-day adventures in drastically different biodiverse regions. We will start by backpacking from Rialto Beach on the west coast of the park, where the group will explore astonishing tide pools and convoluted rock features. On day three, we will journey to the southwestern shore of Lake Ozette then packraft over to the Erickson’s Bay backcountry campsite. After a day of exploration from camp, the group will navigate out to Ozette Ranger Station and transition from the coast to the mountains. The second segment of our adventure takes us into an old growth rainforest as we advance to centuries-old glaciers before a summit attempt of the highest peak in Olympic National Park: Mt. Olympus. Transitioning from the coast to the alpine will be a welcomed and exciting moment for the group to recognize and celebrate the exhilaration of these drastically different wilderness areas.
The full trip photo gallery can be found here.
Day 1: Mora Campground
After a quick morning flight to Seattle, our team of 11 made our way to the Mora Campground via Olympia and the Quinalt Ranger Station. After food and supply shopping, we picked up our bear canisters and our wilderness permit for the duration of the trip. Knowing that the itinerary had us backpacking on the coast the following morning, the group spent a couple of hours organizing all of the gear and food necessary for the first of two drastically different –yet equally challenging– 6-day wilderness segments.
Day 2: Rialto Beach to Chilean Memorial
By Andrew Felsted
That morning we got up and my group and I think most others groups had cheesy mac for breakfast because it would be easier to clean up with the water spigot that was at that campsite. We organized all of the food that we had bought the day before at Costco for our trip. We had to put our food in these bear canisters that we had borrowed from the visitors center. Bears would be in the same area as where we were going so we had to have a way to keep our food safe from them. The bear cans were all piled in one spot far from camp each night. After we got everything packed in our packs we drove in the van we had rented down to the beach in two groups. When we had arrived at the beach we still had to strap packrafts and paddles to our bags that would be used later on in the trip. We thought our packs were heavy before but then we added those rafts and we had to try very hard not to collapse. We were finally all ready to go and so we set out walking with our packs along the shore. Our packs were heavy but we were all excited and spirits were high among the group.
After a little while we started to hit large sharp rocks that we had to climb and crawl over. I kept thinking that it would flatten out again but no, not really. The large rocks and rough terrain drained energy quickly. We all were getting tired..
When it finally did level out a little we passed some others backpackers camping on the beach. At this point Mr. Watkins became unsure if we had or had not already passed our campsite for that night. We kept going and sure enough we hit those sharp, large, uneven rocks. None of us knew how far we had gone but it felt like we had gone fifty miles.
I ended up at the back of the group and I was just crossing through some water when a few students came to see if I needed any help and also to tell me that we had overshot our campsite by a few miles. Our original sight was way back by were those other backpackers were camping. We had mixed feelings about going to far, but mostly we were glad because that meant less miles the next day but also we didn’t want to be by those others backpackers. We just found a good spot along the beach to set up camp for the night. We cooked dinner and went to bed as we were all very tired from the rigorous day of hiking and climbing over rock and logs.
Day 3: Chilean Memorial to Norwegian Memorial
By Nate Battistone
Today started out with a ton of rain. Everything is soaked and we just scrambled across a by the coast and it’s amazingly beautiful. We saw five eagles hunting in pairs and feeding. Apparently, we’re rafting tomorrow; hopefully I can fish.
There are seals here that keep barking at me; they’re the adorable dogs of the sea. At this point, a granola bar is a high point on the trail. The group is united through the shared mental and physical pain.
So far the waves provide a constant form of comfort through our push to get to the next camp site. Each step we take in the sand will knowingly be washed away by the rising tide. Trying to get over rocks and logs is like a puzzle that we have to play with the waves, timing each step trying to avoid getting wet.
Day 4: Norwegian Memorial to Allen’s Bay
By Travis Damon
The plan is to hike a little over a mile to Norwegian Memorial campsite and then 2.4 miles along an abandoned trail to Lake Ozette before inflating pack rafts and paddle to Erikson’s Bay campsite. The entire hike should take us about 4 to 5 hours at most. The day starts with a 7 o’clock wake up and packing up camp before doing some stretching on the beach. The hike to Norwegian Memorial begins with a steep climb using fixed ropes to get over a point on the coast. After reaching the beach on the other side of the point we hike halfway to Norwegian Memorial to a creek to fill water bottles before continuing to Norwegian Memorial. At Norwegian Memorial there is a thirty second break to get the group together before starting on the abandoned trail. The trail starts out as a reasonably well defined trail that is overgrown with tall ferns and downed trees over the trail. The trail should briefly go up before descending and running parallel to a slough that we can put packrafts in after about a mile to get to Lake Ozette. The trail starts out as anticipated going up the hill and then continuing along the top of the hill. However the trail keeps deteriorating and getting less and less defined and the trail becomes very hard to follow at some points. Eventually we find our way to a section of trail that is well defined yet very overgrown, as we follow it the paddles on our packs get caught in trees and slow our progress. The trail keeps going and we end up having to climb over and under many downed trees and in some sections crawl on our hands and knees or even on our stomachs through three or four inches of mud to get under logs. Some sections of the trail are completely overgrown into tunnels that we have to crawl through. Whenever the front of the group mentions there is another log to go under, or a crawling section, a collective groan can be heard from the rest of the group. One of us gets their paddles stuck in a tree when going over a log and decides to just force their way though and ends up getting catapulted forward onto their face when they break out of the tree. Another one of us collapses on the trail to rest until the group behind catches up and forces them to keep moving along the trail. Eventually the decision is made to break trees out of the way to make the trail more passable for the group. After about two miles of breaking trees we encountered a section of trail covered entirely in waist height tree branches. By this time estimates on how far we have gone range from 6 to 10 miles and we have been hiking for most of the day. The trail is deemed impassable, and as we can see what looks like a slough down and to the right of the trail about 100 yards through the trees, we start looking for a spot to bushwack over to the slough. After finding a decent spot to bushwack, backtracking along the trail, we start to make our way toward the slough. The bushwack feels a lot easier than following the trail and 15 minutes later we break out of the trees into the knee high shrubs of the slough. From this point we can see where the lake should be and start another bushwack through 6 to 7 feet tall grass to get to the lake. The entire time being careful of where we step so we do not fall into the slough. After about an hour we have not found a way to lake as the creek in the middle of the slough blocks our progress, so we stop to rest and eat while one of the leaders scouts the creek in a packraft to see if it is passable or if a downed tree will stop us. About 15 minutes later we get the go ahead to inflate pack rafts and paddle down the slough to the lake. Everyone at this point is happy as the day looks like it is almost done. As we paddle down the slough it is nice calm water with no obstructions until the last bend where we find a downed tree blocking our path. The group gathers together and one at a time we do a portage to get our boats and gear over the downed tree, and ten yards after the tree and around the bend the slough opens up into the lake. As the sun descends we paddle about a mile along the lake before finding a spot to camp along the shore. We set up camp as quickly as we can as it starts to drizzle a little bit and start a small fire with what dry wood we can find to try and dry things out. In conclusion, a simple looking hike and a short 4 to 5 hour day turned into a very long 11 hour day that makes no sense. We encountered every land mark as we should have reaching Norwegian Memorial, then following the abandoned trail to the slough, and then paddling out to the lake. However the time and distance covered make no sense at all when looking at the map. At this point spirits are low but higher then they were when in the forest. We will see what happens the next day.
Day 5: Allen’s Bay to Erickson’s Bay
By Noah Conner
Today was the recovery day, even though we had to paddle at least four miles to our next campsite. The day before, what was supposed to be an easy three mile stroll through the jungle turned out to be a ten hour crawl under dense trees and through the mud. On day five, the recovery day, we woke up in a non-marked campsite in the pouring rain. The lake stretched on for miles and miles in every direction, and the size and beauty was overwhelming. We all slept in. Once we woke up, we were still exhausted from the night before, and the rain did not do much to help our spirits. We gradually all hobbled over to our tarp city to cook in shelter from the rain. We were all starving and were not happy from the day before. All of our cooks cooked for two hours, because the rain kept us from doing anything else. The rain seemed to be constant on this trip. Everything got wet, no matter how many trash bags or ziplocs it was lined in. When you woke up, the tent was almost certainly dripping from condensation. It was everyone’s constant goal to keep our sleeping bags dry, because they were our only salvation every night from the constant downpour. Halfway through breakfast, there was a sudden break in the dark clouds. Everyone sprung up to hang and dry out our damp gear. The sun almost immediately helped our damp spirits. Once our stuff was dry, we had a short window of sunlight to get to our next campsite. Everyone rushed to pack up camp, me being the last one to finish, as always. One group pushed off into the lake in our small inflatable paddle boats about twenty minutes in front of the other one. I was in the last group with Ai Ke, Travis, and Nate. We all began the journey to our next camp in perfect sunlight. About halfway through the lake, clouds formed up behind us and we saw a wall of rain form. We paddled and paddled, always staying ahead of the looming clouds. My group eventually caught up to the front group, and everyone was excited to land at our first real campsite. Every single other camps was had stayed at before this had been little clearings in the woods just above high tide. None of them were the planned campsite for that night. Even if we arrived at this one a day late, it was an actual campsite with clear, flat spaces for tents, a fire pit, and most importantly, an outhouse. The rain never came back that day, as we had out ran it on the lake. Everyone was so excited to go wash off in the lake. Today was the first day in almost six days where we got to wash our hair. Once we finished, we all laid on the beach, hoping to dry ourselves and our clothes before the rain came back. We were all so happy to be clean and dry. Once we were all done, me, Nate, and Ben decided to finally build the sail boat we had been talking about all trip. Me and Nate both had small boats, we we tethered them to the side of Ben’s boat. Me and Nate paddle while Ben operated our “sail.” Our sail was a trash bag on top of two paddles. It did absolutely nothing. Instead, me and Nate did a flyby of the beach where everyone was fishing. They all decided to throw rocks at us. After that, we ate dinner and sat around our second successful campfire of the trip. Day five was an amazing, as everyone very quickly put our experience in the jungle behind them and go on with our journey through the wilderness.
Day 6: Erickson’s Bay to Ozette Ranger Station; Hoh River Valley
By Ben Newhall
Sammy left on her packraft early this morning to get to the ranger station, so she could shuttle the van back to come get us. The rest of us had a relaxing morning and were able to sleep in, eat, and pack up at a later time than usual. After taking down camp and packing up our bags, we piled into our packrafts and headed out into the lake. This first leg of the raft was pretty easy, but as soon as we turned around a point in the lake, the winds were suddenly against us and the paddling got much harder. We kept paddling and paddling towards a building on the side of the lake that we assumed to be the ranger station. After about an hour and a half or so, we reached the building and a older man named Larry came out to greet us. Larry said that he had seen Sammy earlier that morning because she thought his house was the ranger station as well. After talking to us for a couple of minutes, he showed us the way to the ranger station and biked over to meet us there. While us students deflated boats, Watkins talked to Larry and found out that the jungle trail that we went on was actually a WWII coast guard trail that had been long abandoned. Sammy met us with the bus about 10 minutes later and we piled ourselves and our gear inside so we could drive over to the Forks, Washington, the nearest town. There we ate burgers, some the size of our faces, and resupplied on groceries. After all of this, Watkins dropped us off at Hoh River Campground so we could set up camp while he picked up Mr. Cole. Eventually Cole and Watkins got back, and we went to sleep. The coastal section was over, and the mountaineering section had begun.
Day 7: Hoh River Campground to Lewis Meadows
By Mia Giallorenzi
This morning we rose fairly early to pack some more and prepare for the next leg of the trip. Our packs were lighter due to the lack of packrafts, but the climbing gear and extra food added enough weight that hefting the packs on to our backs was a grim reminder of the work to come. We set out through the campground towards the trailhead, making a few wrong turns along the way, but we soon began our journey.
Compared to jungle day, this hiking was heaven. The trail was wide, well packed, and flat, and as an added bonus there wasn’t an under or over log in sight. We joked around as we walked, still slightly traumatized by our previous experience, but this was a breeze. Despite our heavy packs, we cruised down the trail stopping every hour, and quickly made it to 5 Mile Island where we sat down for a leisurely lunch of ramen and granola bars. After lunch, we continued on confidently, although the distance and weight were starting to take their toll. Eventually, probably about 7 miles in, as we were taking a water break, we saw Watkins chugging down the trail towards us at what was practically a sprint. He had gone back into Forks to restock on a couple more items, and in order to catch up he didn’t take a single break but instead just charged ahead. That’s probably the most exhausted I’ve ever seen him, and we were all very impressed at how quickly he’d caught up.
From there, we continued our trudge, and we’re delighted to reach the Olympic Guard Station, one mile from our destination. But of course, it wasn’t the easy mile we were expecting, because things like that are always harder than you expect. Instead, it just never ended. We haven’t figured out what it is, but for whatever reason that mile is like the whole hike packed into one. However, we eventually made it to Lewis Meadows and pitched camp in a beautiful spot on the river. We set up tarp city, and although it was far from our best construction, we sat down happily for dinner and relaxed after our long day. We were all very grateful that the itinerary has been switched around, because although it was straightforward for us to hike that at this point in the trip, it would have been a brutal first day.
After dinner, we did our first bear hang, and got in tents, prepared for rain, and expecting to sleep in, but not realizing what would actually happen the next day.
Day 8: Lewis Meadows
By Katie Riley
Having hiked the ten miles into Lewis Meadows the following day, we were glad when there was no early wake up call. A few members of the group were nursing new blisters or other minor pains, and as we slowly rose from our tents to investigate the day, we found that Watkins had been struck down with some kind of stomach bug and was not in good enough health to break camp and continue along our journey. This resulted in the group decision to take a rest day there at Lewis meadows, and what a beautiful place to do so. On the bank of the Hoh River we huddled under our very own tarp city within the rainforest. Although levels of uncertainty due to the illness were circulating the group, morale remained rather high as we told jokes and stories and riddles together. In consideration of the days to come on the trip, we took time out of the day to practice ascending a rope using two prussiks. We rigged a line over a hefty looking tree
branch and took turns ascending and then being lowered, all under the watch and assistance of Mr Cole. I think we all found that we would prefer to never have to use those skills in seriousness, but if the occasion arose, we were prepared. We were all glad to have this day to rest and recuperate, and most of all to stop and take in the many features of our surroundings.
Day 9: Lewis Meadows to Glacier Meadows
By Ai Ke Woods
On the 9th day of the trip we woke up ready to go to Glacier Meadows. Watkins was feeling better. We gathered up our gear and started making breakfast. After we finished eating we packed up and got ready to go. We set out from Lewis Meadows. Ben was leading for the day. His pump up speech consisted of “Guys, this first two miles will be super easy, light work; the second half will be hard as hell.” With that inspiring speech he immediately began walking. We trudged along behind. Ben was raring to go and we had to remind him to slow down but for the most part it was enjoyable. At the two mile mark we hit a stunning bridge over the intersection of the rivers. We took a break there and had some snacks. The view was stunning and there was a good breeze the river had created a large canyon through erosion. As we moved on past the river we encountered steeper and steeper terrain and became more and more tired. It was incredible how quickly the landscape would change as we continued on the trail. Eventually we reached Elk Lake where we stored food for our return trip and stopped for lunch. We continued on into even steeper terrain occasionally encountering avalanche and rock slide paths on the trail which we had to navigate. After a couple miles Cole and Watkins broke off ahead to check out a possible sketchy section ahead. We followed at a slower pace occasionally encountering over and under logs. Eventually we transition into misty clouds that are very beautiful and mysterious. We finally reached the sketchy section where the trail had fallen apart and been replaced by a steep rope ladder down a steep section. We went one at a time. Watkins was messing with Nik’s pack and told Nick to give him the potato pearls. When Nick refused Watkins yeeted Jeremiah off a cliff where he was taken hostage along with the aloha stake by Cole. In despair over this loss, we hiked on quickly reaching Glacier Meadows and set up camp. We ate well and everyone went to sleep early for the night.
Day 10: Glacier Meadows to Panic Peak
By Niklas Nilson
The morning was cold. I awoke from my sleeping bag and got out of my tent with a considerable amount of dampness due to the disposition of our tent to a large puddle. I headed over to the wooden emergency shelter and cooked our meal for the approach onto the glacier. After I finished my ration of three packets of oatmeal and packed up all of my gear in my backpack we all met in a clearing of trees for a stretching circle. The hike today would be shorter, only about three miles, but with about 3000 feet of elevation gain. We needed to make sure we were hydrated, fed, well rested, stretched and ready to go. Once we exited our dismal campsite with the misleading name of glacier Meadows, we came a clearing where the sun was shining, the snow was melting, and the wildflowers were blooming. We were almost to the base of the glacier. After the meadow we came to the bottom of a snow hill with a prominent track of where hikers had slid down. I was looking forward to sliding down once we were finished. Once we did this short 100 yard hill, we finally got our first full view of the glacier and saw where we would be camping. My first thoughts were impossible and why? It was the first time I had gotten a view of Panic Peak, where we would be camping, and it looked terrifying. It steadily rose up like a horn and then suddenly dropped off. After we took a break and had a hardy lunch of granola bars and candy, we climbed down a rock field and reached the glacier. We put on our harnesses and got into our four person rope teams. It was flat for three quarters of a mile until we got to our first large glacier hill. We hiked around a rock a took a break on a rock island where we were able to refill our water bottles and purify the water. The higher we got the less visibility we had. After hiking on a less steep slope for a while, we came to our last big hill and the steepest of the trip. We had to make sure that everyone was focused on what they were doing and even then a couple people fell but were quickly caught by their rope teams. Once we were almost level with Panic Peak we lost almost all visibility and stayed there until the clouds cleared. For a moment the clouds parted and we were able to spot the illusive glacial cow. Mr. Cole told us about this earlier on and wouldn’t tell us what it was. It is a research station positioned at the base of Panic Peak that used to be painted like a cow. Now we knew we were less than 100 yards away and so we made the push for a rock outcropping. Once we got there the visibility was still low, it was windy, and everybody was tired, but moral was high because we had made it. We took our ropes off and started to move rocks and find a place to place our tents. Noah and I found a small cove and we moved rocks so that we could set up our tent there. Once everyone had set up tents and made a filling dinner, all of us retired to our tents with thoughts of summiting a peak tomorrow and thinking that it would be a peaceful, uneventful night.
Day 11: Panic Peak to Mt. Olympus
By Chris Watkins
Day 11 began as soon as it could, with winds pounding down on tent walls all night long. Around 2:30 a.m., I became aware of neighbors outside their tent muttering and scrambling to deal with the exposure to the wind that the modest rock outcropping was offering for bivy space. I got up to see if I could help, and to check on all of the tent groups. Ben and Travis had taken the brunt of the 50mph+ gusts and a tent pole had snapped. Skillfully, and without any support, they dug out a pole splint and repaired the pole then the tent. I went around tightening guy lines in a desperate attempt to hopefully prevent more tent collapses. As I got back in my tent and started to warm up, I overheard Mia say to her tent mates that she had just thrown up and –in an incredibly joyful tone– expressed that she was feeling “much better now!” Whew.
Thirty minutes later, I was keenly aware that someone was walking up to my tent. What I was not prepared for was the news that another student had gotten sick, and was unable to get outside the tent before the projectiles began! After an hour or so of cleaning and getting everyone back in their tents, I was able to temporarily enjoy the early dawn light and sucker holes through the fast moving clouds. Knowing that we were socked in and that little could be accomplished with such wind, everyone attempted to sleep as much as possible while frequently pushing the tent poles with an arm or a leg to offer additional support.
Around 11:30 a.m., the wind started to die down and visibility was slowly improving. Cole and I had been watching Mt. Olympus and waiting for any sign of improved weather throughout the morning, and around noon we finally decided to rally the team and consider a summit attempt.
11 days into our trip and the group truly was functioning as a team. We knew the routine. We knew how to budget our time and get ourselves ready regardless of the adventure of the day. At 1 p.m., two rope teams of four led out from the Panic Peak bivy and worked our way south over the Snow Dome glacier toward the apron of Mt. Olympus. Though the snow was warm, both teams moved consistently together, working our way around and over small slivers revealing the edge of a crevasse. After a steep pitch of snow, we topped off on a beautiful saddle to the east of West Peak and to the west of Five Fingers summit.
On the shaded and thin northwestern gully of Fiver Fingers, we found more supportable and firm snow to set a boot pack to the summit. Around 3p.m. we stood on top of the summit and tried to absorb the overwhelm of 360º of endless mountain ridges in every direction. To the west, you could see the Pacific Ocean past crest after crest of ridgelines. To the northwest, you could see Canada. To the east, Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier. And to the south, endless mountains and valleys with the same allure of the area where we now stood.
Though some wind persisted throughout our summit climb, upon marching back via the Crystal Pass route to camp, we found the first calm and warm moment to revel in the massive and pristine area that was our home for three days. While the majority of summit attempts require an alpine start from Glacier Meadows, we were all grateful for the additional effort and time we put in to staging our visit on Mt. Olympus from Panic Peak.
Wilderness this spectacular deserved as much of our time as possible.
Day 12: Panic Peak to Elk Lake
By Sammy MacFarlane, Class of 2014
Today, I fell into a crevasse. In fact, we all did!
My day began at 6:30am with a crisp view of Mt Olympus and the monolith of the Snow Dome glacier, both already glowing in the morning sun.
I waited to wake people until 7, listening to the climbers above us taking down their camp, and watching the clouds race each other off the mountain towards the coast.
Once the group was up it was all business. Mia, Ben, and Mr Watkins quickly packed up camp and roped up to summit Five Finger Jack while the rest of us got ready for a special activity dreamed up by Mr Cole. We set about stuffing tents, melting snow for drinking water, and packing our day packs. As soon as a small group was ready, Mr Cole set off with them, roped up in a group of five, toward one of the crevasses yawning open near the top of Snow Dome.Nate, Andrew, Aika, and I watched them grow more and more ant-like as they traversed the massive mound of smoothed snow.
Once we were packed, hydrated, and fed, we too roped up and began our trek.
We could see the five of them, tiny and grouped at the mouth of a blue crevasse at the top of one of Snow Dome’s ice falls. I led the team and stomped in a smaller strided boot pack alongside the wide strides of the first crevasses group. (Andrew and my own legs thanked me for this!).
We arrived quicker than expected (perspective is skewed in this enormous landscape) and were promptly educated in safety systems and assigned tasks.
We saw Katie peering over the edge of one of the surrounding crevasses, talking to someone we couldn’t see or hear. Everyone else was hauling on the rope. Soon, Noah’s hands, then head appeared over the lip of snow as he clambered for a grip in the slushy snow, panting and laughing.
Over the course of the next hour, we took turns sliding into the crevasse or helping to haul each other out.
I tied into the rope, now fully versed in the systems that would ensure my return to the surface world and trusting of the strength of my teammates.
Noah was my communicator, in charge of talking to me (and throwing snowballs at me) from the edge where he was anchored. He walked with me to he blue mouth. Then I got on my belly and slowly, then all at once, fell in.
I was stopped abruptly by the rope at my waist and gradually lowered down. The snow sloughed off the ice as I descended and I was gliding over thick and hard ice walls, totally void of grip and impenetrable to force.
The layers transitioned from pearly white to chilly blue. The chasm spread out away from me, around corners where I caught glimpses of feather-thin snow bridges and sparkling icicles.
I stood 30 feet down on a shifty snow shelf where the rope’s safety know held me and looked up at the rift of sky, now pale blue in contrast to the crystal blues of the wall around me.
I felt wonder at this new world that steadily soothes the fear I’d had for crevasses. I realized that this formation was not out to get me or the students I hiked with. It was the result of this huge process, the thousands of tons of glacial ice, moving along and within the contours of the rock.
When my bit of time was up, the group began to haul me out. I let myself my carried up (I had no gril to stem my legs out), scooting along the ice like a sleepy seal. When I emerged into the sun, I welcomed the awesome alpine view, knowing a bit more about the labyrinthine world below.
Sammy Mac signing off.
Day 13: Elk Lake to 5 Mile Island
By Mia Giallorenzi
I woke up this morning to the sun filtering through the trees, preparing myself for the 15 mile hike we had planned for the day. As Nate walked through the kitchen area, I asked how he slept, and was surprised when he answered “awful.” “How come?” I asked, apprehensive, and he responded “I was up for hours throwing up”. Now the 15 mile day was looking even worse, but I still headed up to my tent to pack up. Sammy was outside, and when I asked her how she slept she too said that she’d been up throwing up. Now I was really worried. Watkins was already on top of it though, and he announced to the group that we would shoot for 5 mile island instead today, cutting it down to about 10 miles. Before we left, we boiled and washed all cooking utensils in hopes of purifying them to stop the spread of whatever this was that was making us sick. We then lightened the packs of the sick people slightly to make the hike a little less painful for them, and spread the gear between all of us, and then began our journey down the trail. It was soon evident however, that even 10 miles might be a stretch. Andrew was feeling sick, and worsening by the minute, and we stopped for frequent breaks to try to keep the sickness at bay. Eventually, Watkins ended up taking Andrews backpack and strapping it to the outside of his own, and we divyed out the gear amongst ourselves. In the end, we only made it as far as Olympic Guard Station, about 6 miles, before we decided to stop for the night. Nate, Sammy, and Andrew promptly laid down in the grass among the wildflowers and didn’t move until the next morning, and the rest of us cooked dinner out on the gravel bar by the river and tried to relax. We were all exhausted. Although this wasn’t the day with the most mileage, I’d say it was definitely one of the toughest days of the trip. But even as some of our numbers were falling to sickness, and the rest were carrying more weight than we had begun with, we all buckled down and focused on getting everyone out. We were in this as a team, and if that meant strapping something else to your already too heavy pack, then so be it. And even though it was exhausting, we still stayed cheerful and positive, talking and joking the whole way down the trail. We could do this.
Day 14: 5 Mile Island to Hoh River Valley Trailhead; Heart O’ the Hills Campground
By Katie Riley
To wake up in a field of yellow flowers and grass rather than a snowfield made us feel very lucky, however we soon learned that yet another member of the group had suffered the stomach bug last night. Several members of the group had also slept outside their tents to be out on the gravel bar by the river where we had enjoyed the previous evening. The night was extremely mild and we all welcomed it after the intensity of camping on a glacier a few nights previously. Today we planned to finish our hike back out into the frontcountry, a full 9.7 or so miles. We had everyone hiking by about 9 that morning, and the pace was fairly fast. As we wound our way back to the trailhead, the trail began to widen and flatten, and after about five miles we began to encounter more and more people that did not belong to our group. The number of dayhikers was strange to see, and it began our slow transition back into regular society as we tried our best to interact without showing the levels of fatigue we were beginning to feel. Despite the fatigue, however, we hiked at the same quick pace, determined to reach the goal. The last mile marker we saw read 0.9 miles to visitor center, and it seemed to work like a shot of adrenaline, a few people were even taking it at a jog, flukes and pickets jangling behind them. To break our wilderness bubble and come back into the parking lot at the trailhead was extremely bittersweet. We were able to look at the trek we had just undertaken in the past tense, and we could appreciate the magnitude of it from the exterior.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Our group remained enthusiastic as we unpacked and repacked into our van, and headed to a restaurant cooked meal. After a few more hours in the van, we reached a campsite and reflected on our trip around a fire, after which we all slept outside beneath the trees, partially due to a reluctance to unpack and set up tents, but also to be as involved and close with the beautiful forest that had been our home for the last several days before we left it for Salt Lake the next day.
Day 15: Hurricane Ridge
By Chris Watkins
One of the most exciting elements of the Waterford Outdoor Program is the opportunity for students to participate in a leadership capacity, offering their skill, ideas and enthusiasm to class curriculum, as well as accept the responsibility to lead out as trip leaders on multi-day trips.
In the summer of 2015, during the MS Outdoor Desert Solitude trip in Moab, numerous rising Class XII students shared their budding outdoor interests while revealing gratitude and exhilaration for nature experiences. Mia Giallorenzi shared stories of her family adventures traveling to Alaska and Europe, and traveling across glaciers. Ben Newhall shared his newfound interest in sea kayaking and water sports, while Travis Damon continued sharing tidbits of a family backpacking trip he had done at a young age in Washington.
Based off of these interests, and a desire to push veteran Outdoor students to continue to develop their mountaineering toolbox, the first trip objective for the summer 2018 trip was to determine an area where the group could consider an on-glacier element. Given that Utah does not have a glacier (its only strike), it was clear any student trip leaders would need to determine a destination that would allow for multiple recreation elements: on-glacier mountaineering, backpacking and packrafting.
The students mentioned above, as well as many other consistent members of the Outdoor community, met monthly and even weekly in Fall of 2017 to narrow down a geographic location that could meet all the trip objectives. Eventually, the group zeroed in on Olympic National Park, a stunning area with a rugged interior, yet so diverse and complex that a coastal backpacking and packrafting segment was possible as well.
Confirming many of the trips logistics proved to be challenging and time-consuming given a group of our size. However, after a call to Andrew Cole, former US Dean and Outdoor Program Director, it became clear that his experience as a backcountry ranger in the park –combined with his enthusiasm for the itinerary– would be the boon necessary to make a this trip happen. Hiring Sammy MacFarlane, Class of 2014, as a co-leader was another home run for the instructor team, as Sam graduated Lewis & Clark in May, and has already co-led three Outdoor Summer Term trips.
To say that this group was special on course is an understatement. Although all participants were required to complete a physical conditioning log for the month of May to prepare for the trip, the reality is that the trip was very physically and mentally demanding, compounded by the fact that route-finding and the rugged coastal and mountain environments were unrelenting. Add in a bout of illness that dropped 8 of 12 people at various times, it would have been easy to go to the dark side and allow the suffering and complaining to come to the forefront of the experience. Remarkably, even on the hardest day (see Day 4), students were busting jokes and were completely lost in the adventure, freedom and space of the unknown. This group’s ability to exhibit empathy and support was truly one of the most impressive components of our time in Washington. Thank you to every parent and student -as well as the Waterford School- for supporting truly life-changing experiences such as this.
Left to right: Andrew Cole, Andrew Felsted, Travis Damon, Ai Ke Woods, Niklas Nilson, Noah Conner, Katie Riley, Ben Newhall, Mia Giallorenzi, Sam MacFarlane, Chris Watkins, Nate Battistone
The full trip photo gallery can be found here.