Regardless of the effort, the time spent on backcountry trails is worth it. The trails show the passage of thousands of pairs of boots over the years. It connects you with unknown hikers of the past. The best is hiking trails that you have visited before and have become close friends.
The Upper Dungeness valley in the Olympic National Forest is located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Some areas only receive 1/10th of the annual rainfall that the rainforest valleys of the west side of the Olympics receive. There are also fewer visitors than many areas of the Olympic National Park. (and no daily backcountry use fees, either)
On the Upper Dungeness hiking trip we were pleased to see the flowers in the high country were still in bloom. I am not positive about the “official” name of the Mountain Asters … but that is what we have always called them.
The Upper Dungeness trail in the Olympic Mountains includes a couple of shelters, one at Camp Handy at 3100 feet and Boulder Shelter up the valley at 4900 feet. Back in the early days, the shelters were built so that hikers didn’t have to carry heavy tents. Nowadays, they are maintained and restored in a joint partnership between the Forest Service and private groups. They are recommended for emergency use only … but if you use them, be prepared to share them with the mice, chipmunks and ground squirrels.
When we investigated the interior of Boulder Shelter, we discovered a cache of emergency food. The age of the cans was unclear … and it really would be a survival decision to open one. I found them vaguely frightening. I moved one of them (the large one on the left) only to have it start making noises that sounded like it had come to life. Maybe close to the truth.
Over the last 35 years I have gone on a hike into the Olympic Mountains with my friend Jeff nearly every year. It is getting harder for both of us, though… as time catches up with us. We did a shorter hike this year, both in days and mileage, but enjoyed it immensely. I cut enough weight out of my pack … the white one in the image … that I decided to take a heavier camera than my point and shoot. The image quality was well worth it.