When 5 is 7 and 7 is 10

The husband and I have a bad habit of mismanaging mileage when hiking.  He blames it on me.  I accept some blame (I’m always up for checking out what’s just around the bend, over that hill, down that valley), but he is also a willing participant and, therefore, not an innocent victim.  Our hike last weekend was no exception when 10 miles turned into 13. Eh, what can I say?  It was mighty pretty out there

Slight digression:  we’ve decided we need to actually learn how to use some of the loot we lug out onto the trail.  A couple of Christmas’ ago “Santa” put a fire starter (flint and striker) in my stocking.  I regarded it with skepticism.  I mean, I’ve watched my fair share of Naked and Afraid and those people never seem to be able to start a fire without hours (or days) of effort.  So, this last Christmas, when the other “Santa” was shopping for stocking stuffers for the husband “he” picked up a package of waterproof matches for me.  Without telling first “Santa”.  Late last week I picked up the flint and striker, looked at it thoughtfully and thought, “What the heck…give it a try.”  I grabbed some dryer lint and went out on the patio.  Strike…strike…spark…fa-whoom!  Dryer lint was ablaze.  Wow.  Good thing I didn’t try it in the house, which was my initial inclination.  There’d be a scorch mark on the family room floor.  Now I need to see if I can get a full fire going.

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Another essential we’ve not mastered?  The compass.  Might be helpful to know how to use a compass, right?  And you thought we were real hikers.  😉  Real hikers we are…just a little weak on some skills.  While on this hike the husband had the compass out a number of times.  Swiveling in circles he would announce, “I can find North…I just can’t figure out how to find my bearing.”  Well, hey, he’s got one up on me.  To me North is whichever way I’m facing.  Care to go on a hike with us?

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And, a new toy that we finally tried out this weekend was a water filtration system.  Because, face it, if you’re hiking for most of the day and it’s summer you’re either going to have to pack a bunch of water or find a source.  Lucky for us, we live in the Pacific Northwest and do not lack for water.  Unless we are hiking in the blast zone at Mount St. Helens.  In which case we strap on 5 gallon containers (I jest, though it’s not far from the truth).  Obviously the filtration system worked because our hike was days ago and neither of us suffered from gastrointestinal issues.  I do not plan on packing as much water this summer as I have in the past and will rely, in part, on the water available out in Mother Nature.

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Where did I leave off?  Oh, that’s right!  We actually did go hiking!  Destination?  Duckabush.  Duckabush is a low-land hike on the Olympic Peninsula.  It’s actually National Forest vs. National Park, though you do hit National Park at around the 7-mile mark (we’ve not been in that far).

We arrived at the trailhead around 9 am on Sunday morning after an hour and forty-five minute drive.  It was a gorgeous morning for a drive, and an even better one for a hike.  There were already a dozen or so cars at the trailhead, though we suspected a fair number of them were overnighters.  We set off in shorts and short-sleeves under blue skies.

Duckabush trail starts out going down.  Then levels out.  Then goes up in a series of switchbacks.  Levels out for a very short period of time.  Then up another set of switchbacks.  Then a drop to the river.  To what we thought was 5 mile camp but can’t be 5 mile camp because it’s over 6 miles in.  We’ve done this before at Duckabush.  Sometime we’re going to have to actually pay attention and truly look for 5 mile camp when we arrive at the 5th mile (and proceed past it, only to grumble about it later).

The total gain is about 2400 feet.  There are a few things about this trail that are unique.  One, you can hear the rush of the river for most of the hike, but except for a few tantalizing glimpses, see it very little.

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Second, the trail takes you through a large burn area.  We last hiked this trail in…I think it was 2013 or 2014.  There was a lot more standing in the burn area then than today.

In September 2011 the Big Hump fire was started by an abandoned campfire and burned over 1000 acres.  Duckabush trail was closed for months in the aftermath and was reopened thanks to the efforts of Washington Trail Association (WTA), which continues to manage the trail today.

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Pitch dripping from a scorched tree.
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Life after burn.  Northern Starflower against a burnt trunk.

Remember kids…only you can prevent forest fires.  Well, I mean, you can’t prevent them if they are the result of a lightning strike.  But, you can be smart enough not to leave a fire unattended.  Or toss a cigarette out a car window.  You get the idea.  General rule of thumb?  Don’t be stupid.

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Fallen trees in the burn area.

However, it’s remarkable how resilient that nature is.  Both in and out of the burn zone there were masses of pacific starflower, northern starflower.  I was too late for the trillium, but saw a couple of patches of bunchberry, some early red columbine, a few wild rhododendron, queen cup…I do so love the Pacific Northwest.

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We had hoofed it up the first series of switchbacks and were winding our way up the second, approaching Little Hump, when we ran across three male hikers coming down the trail huddled with two female hikers going up.  They were all stopped in the middle of the trail and I heard my least favorite word on the trail:  bear.  The guys were sharing the video they had taken just on the other side of Big Hump of a bear.  That they had stood and watched for about 30 minutes.  Really?!  Call me crazy, but I’m not going to stand there and watch a bear for that long.  Because maybe it’s all casual initially, but maybe then it gets tired of you watching it and decides to run down the trail and chew on your head.  Dramatic?  It sounds dramatic until a bear chews on your head. Bearanoia.  That’s what I suffer from.

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View from one of the Humps…Little or Big..not sure which.

The girls squealed apprehensively as they watched the video.  I looked down at the small dog accompanying them and thought, “Bear bait.”  That was not nice of me.  We chatted a bit to get a better idea of where the bear was (heading into the woods away from the trail when last seen).  I appeared cool and calm, but butterflies fluttered within.  However, we hadn’t even made it to Little Hump (approximately 4 miles in).  We didn’t want to turn around.  The husband looked at me.  I looked at him.  We shrugged and announced that we were going on.  The guys were pleased.  The girls asked if they could hike with us.  We agreed.  I made the husband lead.

I am happy to report that we did not see a bear, nor had any of the hikers that we ran into coming out as we continued in.  We left the girls at Little Hump as they were pulling out the collapsible dog water dish and doing this and that.

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We dropped over the other side of the ridge…obviously passing 5 mile camp at some point…and continued on to a gorgeous little camp that sits right on the river’s edge.  The Duckabush was raging and frigid.  Pulling up a rock, we unpacked lunch and ate while drinking in the view.  I successfully filled our water bottles (after some trial-and-error “How does this filter work” moments), took some photos and, after a leisurely break we turned and headed back the way we came.

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A couple three hours later we returned to the car.  12.93 miles, according to Map My Hike, which triple-confirmed that we had not turned around at 5 mile camp.  It was very late in the afternoon when we pointed the truck back to Hood Canal.  We quenched our trail thirst and hunger at the Eagle Creek Saloon with Coors Light and big, juicy burgers, then wound our way home.  While we’re no longer in Costa Rica, I’m going to borrow the phrase to describe the day….pura vida.

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4 thoughts on “When 5 is 7 and 7 is 10

  1. Eh, just hang a bear whistle from your pack strap, you’ll be fine. They hate loud noise. I love reading your PNW trip reports.

    Have you ever done Staircase Rapids? I’m thinking about finally getting out for a hike this weekend and have chosen that one.

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    1. Nevermind that question. I think I’ve been there. Silly. WTA doesn’t really say anything about it, so I didn’t recognize it’s just the trail from the campground where I stayed last summer. Gotta find another. I’ve done Duckabush a couple times too. Suggestions? ONP or F.

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      1. Yes, it is that main trail. Goes up along the river on one side, then you can cross over and come back down up along the ridge line. Have you done Lower Fork Skokomish River? It’s a lowland beauty.

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    2. Have bear whistles been scientifically proven to work? Because I envision blowing a bear whistle and having that bear trot to my side like an obedient dog. Yes, have hiked Staircase many times. It’s well-traveled, but a beauty.

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