Just a few days here is enough to replenish one’s mind, body and soul. Overlooking the Elwha River, its glacial waters on their way to Lake Crescent, I am again taken aback by such pristine beauty.
Yesterday I started the five mile hike to the trail head around 4:30PM, much later than anticipated. I had nearly 12 miles left that day and it was already dusk by the time I reached the first camp near the Lillian River. I decided to keep going calculating I could reach Elk Horn before midnight. I had never backpacked on my own at night before or in such wilderness. As soon as I left camp, I had to start a climb uphill and saw a bear on my left. He saw me as well and left but I was terrified. There was talk of bear unrest throughout the valley and here I was on the trail at night by myself, significantly increasing the odds of startling a bear. I must have been moving at my fastest pace yet. The sun had gone down a little after nine and all light was fading. I was descending and could see another climb. I actually picked up pace determined to get to camp as soon as I could. Then it happened. I looked to my right out to the sky in a canopy clearing. Endless pines graced the mountains, some nearly 10,000 feet high. The half moon was chiseled into the dark blue sky spreading its wings as the backdrop for the light blue of the Elwha running down below. I had not seen or heard anyone else on trail. It was just me here in this wilderness. The river sounded so much like a mountain lion growling that during my first hour or two I jumped at the sound. I savored the moment, the sky, the green, the rushing river down below. It was overwhelming to know I had made it this far and that a place like this existed, so wild and remote. The valley of Olympic National Park is one I see myself returning to.