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Trip Report

Enchanted Valley via East Fork Quinault River

Olympic Peninsula

Trip Report By

Hiked Jul 17, 2019

Type of Hike

Multi-night backpack

Trail Conditions

Trail in good condition

Road

Road suitable for all vehicles

Bugs

Bugs were an annoyance

Snow

Snow free

My beautiful son Diego was born a July 17th and died a July 22nd at 35 years of age. My beautiful daughter thought that a multi-night backpacking trip for those 6 days/5 nights would be an awesome way to make a tribute to his life, while nature helping us with the healing process.

Day 1 - Wed Jul 17th: After a beautiful family breakfast, and an emotional birthday cake, off we went. Our plans were to camp the first night at the wonderful Middle Fork Campground and the following days to base-camp at or near Snoqualmie Lake to have easy day trips to the adjacent lakes. It poured on us on the 17th (as our campsite neighbor said: "I have camped all my life and I have never seen rain like this... digging trenches at 10pm... not fun"). In the meantime, we slept in our rig. :) - Food: Dinner - Omeals Pasta Fagioli (Excellent).

Day 2 - Thu Jul 18th: Reports said that after the prior night's deluge everything was very slippery, muddy,  etc. Being our hiking experience in the PNW equal to zero and needing a relatively easy backpacking trip, we decided that Snoqualmie region on those slippery conditions and a 30+ lbs backpack was not for us, so we radically shifted to one of our initial options when planning the trip: Enchanted Valley. Yes, on the very west side of the state and a long drive with a lot of traffic from where we were. We stopped at Cabelas to buy an Olympic National Park map, and a new plan was there for us. Due to time of arrival we had to stay at Quinault Lake in one of the campgrounds (40-min drive to the trailhead), being lucky getting the last of a five-site campground at Gatton Creek. We set up our tent, had our dinner at the lake shores, and a wonderful night. Food: Breakfast: Crystal eggs and freeze dried peppers/tomato/onions - Lunch/Dinner: Backpackers Pantry Cuban Coconut, Rice, Black Bean (me) and  AlpineAireFoods Santa Fe Beans and Rice (daughter)(Regular).

Day 3 - Fri Jul 19th: Excited (and scared - myself - due to Craig Romano's note of this being "bear abundant area") we hit the trail. We went easy. The goal of our trip was to enjoy nature and the journey, to reflect on Diego's life and our lives now without him. The goal was not to beat a determined pace, or get to a determined point or at a determined time. Going mostly uphill and with eyes wide opened to the new experience we arrived to Pony Bridge and decided to camp there. There were tons of bugs, but our natural repellent was amazingly good (REPEL Plant-based lemon-eucalyptus): No bites, and we are both those who always get huge hives.... The campsites were empty. We walked around to scout the area, went down to the creek, found a place for our bear canister, determined our "bathroom zone", enjoyed our surroundings and happily claimed our first night in the forest. Temperature went down to chilly 39F. Food: Breakfast: Oatmeal on Quinault Lake - Lunch/Dinner: leftovers from day before.

Day 4 - Sat Jul 20th: We got up very early, pee time, bear canister rescue (a success), warm coffee and back to the tent to enjoy from cozy inside the beautiful views of the trees and the sun peaking in between the branches. About 9 am we started moving, went down some boulders to the creek to fill our 3-liter camel pack to filter it (see video)... We were so lazy that we decided not to have a good breakfast but a granola bar (mistake!!!). The trail to O'neil (planned next stop) was 4.2 miles. The trip was easy to moderate but sometimes the backpack weight made it seem difficult! We stopped when and where we wanted. We absorbed all the beauty there was to absorb. Daughter wanted so much to see a bear. I did not. After 4 hours we arrived to O'Neil Creek Camp, and were literally happy campers. I even said, "a propos of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, I feel like Neil Armstrong!!!" A lot of mosquitos and flies too, but not as much as in Pony Bridge. Again, our repellent 100% effective. Privy available, but trust me: you'd prefer nature!!! Set up our camp and put our bathing suits on to lay down by the river as if there was no tomorrow...Food: Breakfast: Nada - Lunch/Dinner: Macaroni & Cheese (Mountain House - Excellent) - Dessert: Mango Sticky Rice (Backpackers Pantry Ok).

Day 5 - Sun Jul 21st: Another beautiful awakening. Coffee, oatmeal, prepared our very light day-hike backpacks and marched towards Enchanted Valley (6.5 miles from O'Neil Creek Camp). It was a sunny and warm day. We had an amazing time, saw a lot of scats (later we knew was deer's), the views were fabulous, the meadows ample and beautiful, the creeks along our way inviting us to soak our feet and heads into the cold water and we accepted the invitation every time: Noname Creek, Lamata Creek, Pyrites Creek and then, Enchanted Valley (the bridge to Enchanted Valley really UNNERVING!!!). The hike took us about four hours and change. The valley was pretty much EMPTY!!! All ours on a Sunday afternoon. A couple of campers told us that the day before there was no spot to camp and now everybody has left. Talked to the ranger for a while, took a picture with him and the chalet in the background, and went to the river bed to do what we do best: to soak ourselves into the sunshine (and the freezing river)... Daughter entertained herself building a teepee while I watched her with all my love. We had a good meal, and a better dessert. After a few hours it was time to head back. On our way back a couple of groups told us we would have the time of our lives as there was a herd of elks... Well, we barely saw the butts of about 5. They moved fast!!! Our way back took us one less hour than the trip to the valley. After 13 good miles and being our last night it was farewell bonfire time. Daughter built her first bonfire and if the teepee was good, she went above and beyond with the fire. In front of the fire we cried, as we cried many times during our journey. Son, daughter and I were an unity and we feel so incomplete. This trip was very healing and we somehow found what we were looking for. Though we were very tired, we went to the river bed and lay on it to admire the amazing amount of beautiful stars. When we looked up, I said "Diego is there", and as I was mentioning his name, a shooting star flew by, like if it was him. I will never forget such a moment. We stayed there almost till mid-night. It was a hard day for us, because a year ago it was the last day he was alive. Food: Breakfast: Oatmeal - Lunch: Three Sisters Stew (Backpackers Pantry Excellent) - Dessert: Dark Chocolate Cheesecake (Delicious) - Dinner: Himalaya Lentils Rice (AlpineAireFoods: Good)

Day 6 - Jul 22nd: The first anniversary. The heavy weight. The unbearable pain... but our souls were lighter. Lighter than the whole year. The whole backpacking trip had made its miracle. It had lifted our spirits, not sure if temporarily, but now we know where to find the solace we need. Our journey back to our car (6.7 miles) was easier. We stopped a lot, to clean and carve a walking stick, to eat, to rest at a river bed as daughter felt dizzy, to reassemble her backpack, to pick me up after a fall...with all that, we did good. When we saw a beautiful pool that a couple of hikers have shown us on our way up, we knew we were close. Minutes later, there it was: Pony Bridge. Only 2.5 miles left. We stopped to admire the color of the waters of the East Fork Quinault River. Read some names carved in the wooden bridge... and paused to carve Diego's initials.  The rest of the journey back to our car was easy, easy. When we saw the parking lot we ran towards the car... we have made it.

A terrible tragedy took us there, but our souls, lighter than before, were thankful for the journey. From there we went to the Memorial in Olympia to place flowers by his name, his beautiful name engraved on those walls for the eternity. Rest in peace, our beloved Diego.

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