|Dosewallips River Backpacking|
Spring arrived in Western Washington and the Crew headed out for a weekend of backpacking in the Olympics for another pre-Phimont shakedown. Since it's still pretty early in the season and with fresh snow reported only a week earlier at 2,500 feet, we decided to hike up the Dosewallips River Valley and stay below 2,000 feet elevation. Be warned, however, that there's a new washout on Dosewallips Road at Case Creek, over a mile short of the 2003 washout which is the end of the driveable gravel road. This new washout can be navigated only by 4x4 vehicles with high axle clearance.
There's a cut-out trail available for hikers to climb the ridge and bypass the old washout. It's steep, with switchbacks, but quick. Within minutes, you'll be on the west side of the washout and back on level ground. Sign in at the NPS kiosk and then it's only a mile stroll to Elkhorn Campground, alongside the river and in deep, old-growth, moss-covered beauty. There are many, many flat and hardened campsites with fire rings, but several of the old picnic tables have begun to collapse. This was a vehicle-ready campground until 2003 but is no longer maintained. The "bear boxes" are gone, so you'll need to hoist your foods and odorous items. There are no bear wires, but we found many strong branches reaching out to get our bear bags sufficiently out from the tree and off the ground. We spotted no wildlife while we were there...not even a bird. Both of the pit toilet buildings are now permanently closed, with their doors fastened shut, so you'll need to practice your LNT skills out in the forest beyond. Elkhorn is on US Forest Service land. While the Dosewallips River is glacier-fed, you still need to treat your water. A filter pump is best, since there's just enough sediment to be annoying if you only try to boil it. Filtering is arguably still the best method to guard against protozoa.
After a hot breakfast, we broke camp, cleaned the area, and started up the trail to the Dosewallips Ranger Station and campground, about 3.5 miles distant and another 1,000 feet in elevation. The old single lane dirt road has been slowly reclaimed by nature and in years to come may become impassable due to rockslides, tree falls, and other erosion. On the route up, we scrambled across 4 rock slides (one major new one since last year), a new and worsening washout at a creek, two bridges still intact, and many, many fallen trees. The Lake Constance Trailhead branches off to the north, but is in poor shape due to last year's forest fire and a winter's erosion. After you reach the Olympic National Park boundary (the sign is all but gone, but the snow gate is still there), look for the magnificent photo opportunity on your left at the Dosewallips Falls. You're now only 1.2 miles from the shuttered Ranger Station and the campground.
The "Dosey" campground is like Elkhorn, originally built to accept vehicles but is now overgrown and looks like an episode of "Life After People". It's a mix of old growth and open meadow. There are several large, working bear boxes, large enough to put 3 or 4 whole packs in them if you wish. The single remaining pit toilet is open, with an old shower curtain for a door. The heavy timber tables are clear of moss and usable. The continous rush of the river alongside the campground will lull you to a deep sleep. There's a steady, cold wind accompanying the flow of water down from the glaciers, so make sure you have extra layers of clothing to don. With the high mountain walls on either side, the sun disappeared early and didn't show up again until mid-morning the next day. There's lots of downed wood and dried flotsam along the river banks for great, friendly, warming campfires. We had a family of deer visiting us, but they kept their distance.
It's a quick jaunt down the trail and back to the cars the next morning. We took our time to rest and hydrate and still only needed about 90 minutes before we were on our way. Don't forget to stop at the Quilcene General Store for an ice cream cone or a frappacino on the way home!