2/23/14 The last day, I picked a trail in the Quinault Rain Forest and found some epic single track. I also ended-up in heavy rain and snow that made for an unexpected, but unquestionably awesome, adventure.
1 A misty, rainy morning on Lake Quinault. I had no idea what trail to take, so I tried asking around at the motel and also the cafe where I ate breakfast. I got a couple suggestions and decided on the Fletcher Canyon trail, sounded nice and not too long a drive to the trailhead.
2 Merriman Falls along the road past the Southeast corner of the lake.
3 Bunch Falls a little farther down the road. Green and gorgeous.
4 The falls draining into Quinault River on the other side of the road.
5 Looking up the Quinault River.
6 Made it to the trailhead. I had actually contemplated doing the Pony Bridge trail, but the road leaving the lake quickly turned into an unmaintained, potholed mess. I was not too keen on pressing my luck in my little rental car, so I decided to stick with the Fletcher Canyon plan. I'm only the 5th party this year, my kind of trail! And interestingly, the only solo party.
7 Heading up the trail. It's very similar to the Hoh Rain Forest except with much less traffic and much less maintained.
8 Epic singletrack through the temperate rainforest.
9 Entering the Colonel Bob Wilderness.
10 Already starting to hit snow patches.
11 Looking down at the stream with patches of snow amongst the cascades.
12 The snow is getting heavier on the trail, and I seem to have picked-up a pawed friend. Earlier on there were boot prints, presumably from the person on the trail the day before. The paw prints started around the same time as the boot prints, so I assumed they were accompanying the hiker. But after a while, the boot tracks stopped, and the paws kept going. Must be either a coyote or a fox.
13 The epic singletrack is starting to get slick with increasing snow cover. And my camera is starting to fog-up with condensation from the increasingly heavy rain.
14 At this point, the trail is starting to dissapear, but the paw prints that I've been following keep on going. Even when there's no perceptible trail at all, the prints seem to follow it perfectly, always leading me back to visible trail. Since I have no particular destination for the day, I'm having fun just following the tracks.
15 And the tracks continue, even through areas of treefall, heavy snow, and across creeks. The only explanation I can think of is that the fox is so used to following the trail when it's dry, that it can instinctively follow it even when it's covered.
16 Climbing up through the snowy rainforest.
17 On top of the ridge and into a creek bed with heavy snow. Yet the paw path continues...
18 A beautiful creek, fairly wide, and flowing fast. With no apparent easy way across.
19 A snow covered log seems to be the only way across. That can't possibly be an intentional part of the trail? There is at least 5 or 6 inches of snow stacked-up on top with no foot prints, so I am very skeptical.
20 It's hard to see in the picture, but sure enough the damn paw prints go straight across the log. That fox hasn't led me astray this whole time, so I decide to take the chance. But the temperature is in the low 30s, and I don't like the idea of falling into the freezing cold creek.
21 After a very slow and cautious trip, I made it to the other side.
22 In the meadowy area on the other side, now at higher elevation, the snow is getting deep. I'm post-holing up to my knees in places.
23 Climbing up out of the meadow area into thinner snow.
24 At this point, I have lost even my pawed friend. Little orange tree ties are the only indications of the trail. It's clear the trail at this point is not maintained even when dry.
25 The "trail". I am starting to get close to my turnaround time and progress is really slow at this point. I'm in my non-waterproof trail running shoes, and my feet are getting cold!
26 I definitely did not expect to have my only snow trek of the year be in a rainforest, but it was definitely fun! Time to call it a day and head back down.
27 Back to the log crossing. You can see my deep tracks from the first trip across. At this point, my camera is almost entirely waterlogged.
28 Further dowh the trail, and the snow has reverted to a heavy rain. This trail is so much nicer than the Hoh Rain Forest, and I haven't seen a single human the entire hike!
29 Brushing past wet ferns almost the whole way down. Trails don't get much better than this.
30 Some tall, tall trees.
31 Not sure what type of trees these are, but it's a cool looking grove.
32 Off the trail and time to hit a few tourist spots around the lake before heading back to full civilization. The tallest trees in the world outside of California live around Lake Quinault. Here is the tallest Spruce Tree at 191' tall.
33 A couple kids give you a good sense of the size of this tree. It is pouring down rain at this point.
34 Now heading around to the North side of the lake to see the world's tallest Red Cedar tree. A nice (but touristy) path leads up to the tree.
35 The world's tallest Red Cedar tree at 174' tall, though a portion of the top appears to have been lost to lighting strike.
36 The base of the tree.
37 And inside the hollowed-out base. And with that, the end of my adventures at Lake Quinault. I head back to the motel where I attempt to use the room's hair dryer to dry my soggy clothes and shoes. I don't have much luck, and end-up having to stuff my totally saturated and stinky gear into my suitcase. I then make the 3 hour drive back to the airport in a torrential downpour and fly back home. From hiking in heavy snow in a Washington rainforest to sitting in warm Los Angeles a few hours later, very surreal!