Photo from @olympicforest
My mom, my niece Diane, my oldest daughter Karen and my son Mark and I went backpacking in the Olympics, but we couldn’t get my dad to go with us. He said he didn’t want to go hiking in the rain forest – he doesn’t like rain.
We hiked up the North Fork of the Quinault River and then took a left to leave the river and head up toward 3 Lakes and Skyline Ridge.
We didn’t get too far before it started to rain. But we went far enough to get tired and hungry. My mom was about 70 at the time, so I had to carry a few extra things in my pack in order to lighten her pack.
We found enough of a clearing to make camp. We had two tents – one for my mom and my niece, and one for me and my daughter, 10, and son, 7. We cooked some supper, trying to keep the rain out of the meal, and crawled into our sleeping bags kind of wet and miserable.
The next morning, it wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t very far above freezing, and there were some dark, ominous clouds.
We cooked a good breakfast, did our best to keep our spirits up, shouldered our packs despite a few sore muscles, and started up the trail. “Up” being the operative word. It went up and up, and seemed to be getting steeper.
We were doing OK until it started raining again, harder than the day before. We kept slogging upward, and I was thinking that as soon as we topped out on the ridge, we would make camp and try to dry out our clothes and warm up. The only trouble was that as we gained elevation, the rain started turning to snow. Wet snow at first, of course. My mom started shivering, and I started getting concerned that she would soon get hypothermia.* We needed to make camp, and soon, and we needed to build a fire. But the trail was climbing steeply through thick forest, and there just weren’t any level spots to pitch a tent.
Eventually I realized that the situation was getting serious. We were running out of options. Diane and I talked it over and we decided to get the tents up whether it was level or not. So we did the best we could with the terrain we had. In order to find two spots that were even close to some semblance of level, the two tents had to be located about 100 yards apart. But we got them up, and I told my mom to get under cover, take off all her wet clothes, put dry clothes on, and get into her sleeping bag. Then we did the same with the two kids.
Then Diane helped me (I was sure glad she came along) stretch a tarp between two trees to block enough of the rain so we could get a fire started. I was able to gather some squaw wood that was much dryer than any wood on the ground. (Squaw wood is what we call the dead, lower branches of evergreen trees.)
When we had a good blaze going, I cooked up a hot meal and that warmed everybody up. Then we gathered the wet clothes and started drying things out over the fire.
If you’ve ever done that, you know the aftermath is that your clothes will smell so strongly of woodsmoke that every head will turn if you walk into a restaurant on the way home.
It was a long night, because we had been forced to get into our tents early, for protection from the weather. The next morning, everybody wanted to hike back down to the car. Their sense of adventure had been, well, dampened. Their ardor had been cooled. On top of that, my mom twisted her knee on the way back down. I had to make a sort of crutch for her. So all in all, it was not the most successful hike we’ve taken. But they all were good sports – we had survived to hike another day.
When we got home, Dad said “Well, what did you expect? Why do you think they call it the RAIN forest?”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Read here about hypothermia
Washington Trails Association website