Archive for July, 2009



from rhodribrady.worpress.com

My friend Steve just e-mailed me a link to this story, and it was too much not to share. Apparently people are paying $250 each to attend the ninth annual Fairy and Human Relations Congress. Hmm. Now if we could just get the fairies to talk to Kim Jong Il…

Here’s the link.


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Flapjack Lakes, photo by DMH

It wasn’t until mid-afternoon on the 4th that I suddenly realized it was a holiday. Camping has a way of doing that to you. But I was on my way out. Each step bringing me closer to a truck, to cell service, to stores with cold beer, and yes — to fireworks.

I almost didn’t go. Late night on Wednesday, after a full 10 hours of work, I was losing enthusiasm. Thursday morning, with an alarm going off early, I nearly decided to call it off. But what else was I going to do with a four day weekend? By the time i reached the Staircase Ranger Station (a building the size of a two car garage), I could feel a smile blooming. The ranger was kind and informative, and my walk-up reservation of a second night for me and a tent was no problem. I paid my wilderness camping fee. I paid my park entrance fee, and i was ready to go.

You see, taxes aren’t enough. Public access to public lands isn’t free. If you are going to recreate, you better have the money to back it up. Ah well, a diatribe for another day. Altogether though, it cost $24 for two nights and three days in Olympic National Park. I could easily spend that in one night at the bar.

Smelly effluent, photo by Daniel HarringtonAnd apparently the money gets put to good use. The North Fork Skokomish trail, which I followed for 4 miles before departing upward toward the high country, is a highway. Two horses could pass by each other without even touching with a flash of tail. And apparently they do. Within minutes of taking to the trail, i was dodging gooey gems of horsiness all along the trail. At least the smell drifts around enough that you usually get a warning to look down before a squishy encounter. People, of course, have to bury their shit at least 6 inches deep and 200 feet from a water’s edge. But the horses have no such restrictions in the park. No diapers needed. Hikers beware. Noble beasts, smelly effluent.

North Fork Sykomish River Trail, photo by Daniel Harrington

The North Fork Skokomish River Trail Highway winds its way along a thin strip of land between the river and the steep face that plunges down from the heights to connect high country to low. The river looks cold, and as though there is a hidden power in it. There is evidence to support this hunch, too. The sleeping river winds through a wide flat of cobbles and boulders and logjams that speak of a different beast at high water. Strong enough to carve down mountains and leave steep slopes to the side. A patient power that erodes. And, judging by the snow lingering in the heights, cold. Powerful enough to sweep old-growth logs along for the ride.

For the first little bit i was wrapped in familiarity. A trail underfoot. Old, worn boots. A faded and ripped pack filled with various implements that remind one of the true simplicity of human need. A sleeping bag. Some food. A pot and fry pan. A little stove (no fires above 3500′!). How many times? How many trails? Every turn and straight in the trail seemed to remind me vaguely of somewhere else. The Methow River. The Grande Ronde. War Creek. Steep slopes on one side, occasionally spilling slides of rocks over the trail. Side creeks carving a U in the trail. A hot breeze descending from the bare slopes left by the Beaver Fire of 1985. Familiar flowers.

After a mile or so on the park highway, the pack began to remind me of the complications of human need and decision making. This was my first overnight backpack of the season, and as such i had brought too much stuff. Camp soap? Who really needs that? Deoderant??? Was i really going to eat all that food? My legs began to remind me that every ounce counts over the course of lugging my life into the high country. And i wasn’t even to the steep part yet.

N Fork Sykomish River Trail, photo by Daniel HarringtonThe lowland forests of western Washington are cloaked in life. Heavy moss hangs from bigleaf maples. Huge trunks send branches into the heavens to shade out the lower creatures. Ferns and moss everywhere. There’s not a place where sunlight hits bare ground. Except of course for this trampled trail worn down to rock and dry dirt. But the world changes with each step upward.

At 4 miles, i reached the trail junction that would start me on a course to climb straight up into it. The halfway mark in miles, but only 500′ gained in height. 1500 more to go. A few steps onto the Flapjack Lakes Trail and there was already a marked change. The trail was a simple footpath, replete with obstacles and overgrown vegetation. Much more like it. And it was my pleasure to read a sign — “No Stock.”

I won’t bore you with the details of the climb. Of how hemlocks gave way to Doug fir and cedar, or of all the interesting flowers along the way. Or how i left the rising flutes of Swainson’s thrushes down below for the whistle-and-flute of hermit thrushes up high. There were some creek crossings, and a mistep or two. And a lot of sweat. By the time i crested the trail and found a lake in front of me i was ready for a cold beer. Now there’s something i should have brought.

Camp soap — really?

broad-leafed starflower

broad-leafed starflower

the bridge at Madeline Creek

the bridge at Madeline Creek

tiger lily

tiger lily

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