Updated: Nov 30, 2021
If you have not been hiking in Olympic National Park, you absolutely need to make plans to do it.... immediately! It is one of THE best places in Washington to camp, hike, back-pack, beach-comb, go boating, fishing, and rock climbing.
The park encompasses nearly a million acres of old-growth and new growth, that preserves unique ecosystems, mountains, rivers, and beautiful landscapes. For my trip, the weather was perfect, the sights and sounds of undisturbed forest were so refreshing I couldn't' help but be in awe of it all.
Undisturbed ecosystems are raw and beautiful, but also kind of scary for me because of the possibility of unsuspected events; landslides, wild animals, and any number of things I would never see or experience at a place like, say...Discovery Park back in Seattle.
It was dark when we pulled into the dirt and graveled parking area of Olympic National Park. Even though our two cars had driven for miles alone to arrive at this location, I wasn't all that surprised to see several vehicles parked at various angles in the parking area. After all, it was Labor Day weekend. As I parked my sedan and took a look around, I casually counted the vehicles - 16, all Subaru's and SUV's. I briefly wondered where those people were and if we would see them while we were camping. Obviously, I had no idea how big this national park actually was. I had backpacked before, but never with a tent and supplies for three nights. This was a first for me, but I knew was in good hands.
There were four of us. The couple who invited me and their 14 year old son. They were experienced backpackers and were well prepared. In fact, two nights before the hike they suggested (required) I come over to their house for what they called a "shakedown". A shakedown is where everyone goes through a checklist of items to make sure they have all the gear and supplies needed for the trip. Of course, I brought way too much stuff, and much of it was the wrong stuff. After my shakedown, I understood why they suggested I do it two days prior to the hike because they knew I would need a day to go purchase the right supplies and gear.
From the trailhead, we hiked about 2 miles to our first campsite. The sun had already gone down so we needed our head-lamps to see where we were going. We spent one night at the "base camp" and started the hike to our destination early the next morning. We mostly followed the river the entire way. Several miles into the hike we passed by several crowded campsites that my hiker friends said were for the "non-serious" hikers. To be honest, any of those campsites would have been just fine by me. Camping around more people made more sense to me after I saw the signs indicating cougars and bears might be in the area. I may not have been able to outrun a bear or cougar, but I figured there was at least one person in those campsites I could have outrun. Back then, I was weighing in at 260 pounds, so actually I wasn't completely confident I could outrun anyone!
The idea for this trip all started about three weeks earlier at work when I fell into a conversation with a co-worker who said she, her husband, and son were going backpacking over Labor Day weekend. When she invited me to come along, I thought, why not, I had never been hiking in the Olympics. Still I was a little nervous because I didn't really know the co-worker all that well, and I'd not camped overnight in the wilderness since I was young. I was just as surprised as they were that I actually went through with it.
The area we were hiking to was called Dosewallips River Trail or something like that. My co-worker, Lisa, and her husband Josh were such great guides. It was like a hiking 101 class for dummies. I really appreciated their willingness to share their knowledge of backpacking and camping. Some portions of the hike were very difficult for me as I was way out of shape. I recall at least two occasions when Lisa caught hold of me when I slipped and certainly would have actually fallen to my death! We hiked to an elevation of around 19,000 feet (I think) so some of the switchbacks we traversed while on the trail were dangerous for someone as tired as I was at times.
And it would be absolutely criminal of me not to mention Lisa and Josh's 14-year-old son Sam. I was so impressed with this young man during the whole trip. He carried a pack that was heavier than mine, and never once did he complain or ask to rest. Rarely have I met such a mature, respectful, knowledgeable, and good-spirited kid. This young man was so tireless I started calling him Super-Sam. I told Josh and Lisa that if I ever go on another hike with them, I wouldn't go unless Sam would be there as well. The trip was perfect, the weather was perfect, the scenery was amazing - and I lost 10 lbs! For a city boy like me, Dosewallips is the camping trip by which I will measure all other camping trips. And I will be forever grateful to Josh, Lisa, and Super-Sam for being such great guides and friends on the best camping trip I've had to date.