In typical fashion, we left the Cispus later than expected and then had to spend some extra time resolving some car troubles and buying our food for the river, resulting in a 2 am arrival in the Elwha take out parking lot. To our surprise, there was another kayaking vehicle there, loaded with boats but with no signs of paddlers. In the morning, there was still no sign of the other paddlers, so Tom headed down to the ranger station to grab a permit while I oversaw a large and marginally successful gear drying operation. Eventually Tom returned with a permit and the paddlers came out of their campsite in the bushes to reveal themselves, and it was the Kiwis. Turned out their original trip vehicle had died so they had replaced it with a sweet minivan. Jordy and Ari were down to join us but Barney and Chris had to abort due to a medical issue. So, after a lazy morning of packing the 4 of us headed up the trail and into the lush Olympic forest. Fortunately, the hike isn't too steep or long so Tom and I took our sweet time, rolling up the trail slowly to find the Kiwis had already sussed out a sweet riverside campsite.
TJ early in the hike surrounded by lush ferns. Photo: JJ.
JJ cruising through the moss and huge trees. Photo: TJ.
River side camping along the Elwha River. Photo: TJ.
After a lazy morning, we headed down into the verdant crack in the earth that is the Grand Canyon of the Elwha. The walls quickly closed in and the portaging, and sometimes scouting, options disappeared. Fortunately, low water levels (700ish) and the current configuration of a formerly unscoutable rapid named nightmare made things pretty manageable. Naturally, paddling with kiwis had us blazing down through the canyon of electric blue water quickly and soon enough we were eating lunch in the open section below the Grand Canyon.
Ari Walker leaning into Eskimo Pie. Photo: TJ.
TJ heading into the easy part on Nightmare. Photo: JJ.
JJ and Jordy Searle enjoying the canyon downstream of Nightmare. Photo: TJ.
Ari rolling into a stout one in Rico Canyon. Photo: TJ.
TJ as we enter into the bathtub ring of the old reservoir. Photo: JJ.
JJ looking further into the bathtub ring. Photo: TJ.
TJ getting ready to hike up the hill. Photo: JJ.
After a rest day in Forks to allow a rain storm to pass through and hopefully bring levels up a little, we headed down the peninsula to the Quinault region of the park with our eyes fixed on the North Fork of the Quinault. Reputed to be even steeper and more locked into a slot canyon we were both excited and nervous to get the hike over with and drop into another slot canyon.
Again, hiking in the Olympic National Park did not disappoint with fern gully style scenery and an abundance of lush ferns and greenery everywhere. This time the hike was significantly longer although no steeper. We dropped our camping gear at the base of the steep whitewater and carried our boats up for a few more miles before retreating back to camp. Only one thing was concerning, the river had lost a significant amount of water due to the various tributaries that came in below the canyon, and looked a little on the scratchy side (750 cfs on the gauge). Oh well, when you've just carried your boats more than 10 miles up a river, there's nothing to do but paddle back down.
North Fork Quinault Valley resident. Photo: TJ.
And the next morning, that's exactly what we did. After carrying our boats upstream a little further to find an easy spot to get down to the river, we quickly geared up and headed downstream. The minimal flow was abusive, but as the river gorged up and the flow channelized things came together nicely. The canyon was spectacular and the water was incredibly clear and beautiful. The rapids were good and manageable, and as they kept coming, we stayed on our toes looking for the glowing wall, which supposedly was the crux must run rapid. The low flow made things a little rocky but allowed for some scouting that might not have been possible at higher flows. After running plenty of somewhat scary but not too bad rapids, the canyon started to open up and suddenly we were back at our campsite. Apparently the glowing wall had changed and was no longer the blind and mandatory 12 footer it once was. Regardless, the canyon was magical and definitely worth the effort to get up there. After grabbing our camping gear, we headed downstream, appreciative of tributaries adding extra flow just in time to keep the paddle out from being too frustrating.
JJ below what I think is the former glowing wall rapid. Photo: TJ.
This canyon is beautiful! Photo:JJ.
JJ staring down into more commitment. Photo: TJ.
Here's a link to TJ's sweet video from the trip: https://vimeo.com/127317256
JJ boofing out of the sieved out rapid. Photo: TJ.
The Olympics were spectacular, but water had run out, so it was time to head north for the cascades!