Epic Olympics – PNT Section 9

It’s hard to know where to start to describe our section through the Olympic Mountains. It was vast, dynamic, tough, rugged. We went from mountain passes to river bottoms. We saw salmon swimming in creeks and bathed in hot springs. We were in popular alpine meadows and remote, unmaintained temperate rainforests. We had some of our best views and toughest climbs. We saw hundreds of slugs and ten bears. It was my favorite section and it was physically the hardest section. It. Was. Epic.

We started from Discovery Bay, setting off from the trail angel Greg’s place in the morning. The original route of the PNT runs right through his property (the primary now goes south on hwy 101).

To the best of Greg’s knowledge Ron Strickland, the creator of the PNT, likely came to the property in the late 1970s when he was developing the trail and asked his father-in-law for hiker access. Greg still is excited to allow access rights and has even refurbished an old fish hatchery into a trail shelter for hikers. Amazing!

The first day we walk a combo of some lightly used forest roads and overgrown trail to get us to the start of the Gold Creek Trail. We watch salmon swim upstream as we make camp.

The next day we enter the Buckhorn Wilderness, crest our first pass of the Olympics, and end the day just outside the national park boundary.

Day three begins with a climb and a ridge walk before descending to the Dosewallips River. The views are awesome from the pass. Clear blue sky in every direction!

Another day–surprise, surprise—a stunning pass with crystal clear views and gorgeous trail. After the pass we descend to the Elwha River and spend the rest of the day walking along it. It’s beautiful trail, the river is turquoise blue, and the mossy trees occasionally open to big, grassy campsites. I even find an unopened Clif Bar at the Elkhorn ranger station! Thanks, random hiker!

Day five takes us around a closed road and up to the Olympic hot springs. It’s a weird, post-apocalyptic vibe walking the old road. The signage looks new and the solar-powered audio displays still work. The hot springs are a great midafternoon soak spot. Reluctantly we leave to climb 3,000 feet to Appleton Pass. The camp spot is totally worth it and we are treated to a great sunset.

Day six. Seven Lakes Basin day. The views are insane. Alpine lakes, Mount Olympus, and many frantically foraging bears. Also many other hikers. We even meet a 2008 PNT hiker! The weather is the same as the last five days—clear blue skies in every direction. We end the day by entering the unmaintained Bogachiel River Valley. It’s a quiet contrast from the Seven Lakes Basin.

Day seven. We’ve been warned by other hikers and the rangers that the Bogachiel can be an epic slog over wet rocks, blowdowns, overgrown trail, and “holes with god knows what living in them” (official quote from a park ranger). None of those reports are wrong but they are wildly overblown. We love walking down the remote valley and navigating over the fallen trees and through the bushes.

The trail ends at a trailhead and a it’s a few mile walk to the Bogachiel State Park. The park has bike/hike in sites and (most importantly) the local pizza joint delivers pizza TO YOUR SITE. A perfect end to a week cutting straight through the Olympics.

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