Jeff and I have never before hiked together. We decide to hike up the Elwha River in the Olympics as far up the valley as where the Goldie River comes in, then crossing the Elwha and following the Goldie. At that point we would leave the trail, cross the Goldie, climb up the ridge, and (using mystical powers) locate a cache of frying pans and miscellaneous goods that the Press Party left behind in April 1890.
We get to the trailhead at Whiskey Bend late morning. It is a mild, sunny day; excellent hiking weather. We are planning to take our time, just looking at the valley and imagining what it was like 100 years before.
The first mile or so of trail goes fairly quick. We hike down the spur trail to Goblin’s Gate and sit watching the water roar through the rocks. We fill our bottles, enjoy the break and try to see goblins. Following the river, hiking through the area that is known as Geyser Valley, we visit Humes’ ranch and Michael’s cabin.
We spend time along the trail above Michael’s cabin, looking for the blazes that we have read are on the trees along this part of the trail. We don’t find any.
We get to the Lillian River at 6 o’clock. It is a forest camp, with no view out of the local surrounding. A nice little stream for water, though and we are the only ones there.
We rise and hit the trail without hurry. We are enjoying ourselves, the weather is great, and the bugs are minimal. On the section of trail that runs high on the sidehill above the canyon (Grand Canyon of the Elwha), we meet a couple of park biologists: they are doing fish counts. We run into lots of strawberries along the trail: we get slowed down.
We arrive at Elkhorn in the sun and spend some time walking the meadow and examining the shelters and the deserted guard station. We walk out to the river and watch the Elwha.
We camp at Reiman’s Cabin, just below the building site, near the river. A nice vista down the Elwha, and just a few short steps from the ford of the Elwha, that leads to the Goldie side of the river. There’s a lot of water in the river, which kills our hopes of an easy crossing. We have a nice relaxing time of setting up camp, get lots of firewood from the local blow down, and I catch two good sized fish (11 1/2″) in the eddy line just where the river bends.
We decide to head up the trail and see if there is another, easier crossing farther up stream. Maybe we can approach the Goldie from that direction, with day packs, and if we have to cross the river at the ford here, at least do it from the sand bar side, instead of the river bank side, and do it last thing at the end of the hike, rather than at the beginning.
We get to Chateau Camp, a big open bend of the river that has a nice view of the opposite hillside, and find a downed tree that provides a bridge across the majority of the river. The other side of the river is a strange place with low ground cover foliage and wide areas of nothing but stunted strawberry. Lots of game trails criss-cross the area, and plenty of game sign.
It is easy to follow the river down to near where the Goldie comes in. Once near the confluence, the brush becomes thicker, as the valley narrows. The Goldie itself is a fair sized stream, but we are able cross with a little bit of boulder hopping. Once on the other side, the land opens up again and we climb up to the Dodger Point trail, which we follow back to the ford … across many blowdowns. No trail maintenance here. We cross the Elwha at the ford. Crotch deep water, very cold.
Somewhere along the way, I strained my knee. It doesn’t bother me a lot, just an awkward ache.
The next day I decide to stay off my now quite aching knee, and stay close to camp. Jeff crosses the river, hikes up the Dodger Point trail, and returns at dusk.
We hike up to the Hayes River Ranger Station and explore that area.We spend an enjoyable day, seeing many great looking campsites that we wished we had time to camp in. While hiking back, we startle a large animal eating berries. It crashes off through the bushes, making lots of noise, very close. We never see what it was, but we figure it to be a bear.
At Elkhorn Guard Station we make note of our crossing the ford and comment that it was thigh deep on a tall hiker. We meet a ranger on the trail, who comments on our comments, and confirms that we were the first to cross the river this season.