“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
It has never been hard for me to follow Mike’s lead in life. To go where he goes. To stay where he stays. I really would follow him anywhere. And his people were my people long before the two of us became one.
But, of all the places I follow him, it is into the wild that is my most favorite. Mikey has been wanting to do the Enchanted Valley for some time now, as has his older brother, TJ. T introduced Mike to the wonders of the wild and set us up on our very first backpacking adventure together 12 years ago. And we’ve been running off to the woods together on our anniversary ever since. So it seemed fitting to bring him along on this pack. And even more fitting that he brought along his oldest son, Sabin, who was an itty bitty ring bearer in our wedding; falling asleep at our feet as we promised our love and lives to one another.
The Enchanted Valley sits nestled in the heart of the Olympics and although the dirt path that leads you to the magic it offers is lengthy, it is never overly strenuous. You can break up the 13.5 mile stretch by camping along one of the many creeks that ramble through and beside it. But, we chose to devour it all in one bite. Towards the end, we often thought we had perhaps bitten off more than we could chew. But, we did the only thing you can do when hiking, we just kept on walking – thankful, in the end, that our possibly overly ambitious appetites gave us three nights to wander around this magical valley.
Our anniversary trips have earned the rights to a day or two off of work, so we got to start this grand adventure on a Thursday morning. Despite the midweek jump start the parking lot was packed and a big group of over 20 backpackers was setting off just before we hit the trail.
Fortunately we passed most of them by the time we got to Pony Bridge, a mere 2.5 miles down the trail. The creek that flows beneath these boards is beautiful. It weaves its way through a box canyon compromised of massive rock formations coated in lush rainforest moss and is laced with pristine pools of water that beckon to those passing by. For some, it is a rightful destination in itself.
But, we still had 11 miles to go – so we pushed ahead.
The next 11 miles lumber across numerous creek beds.
And roll all along the way beneath and beside marvelous old growth evergreens.
Weaving its way along, this way..
Entertaining those who endure its length with ancient artifacts.
I had permits to stay the night at Pyrites Creek, just 3.5 miles outside of the Valley. But, we had already decided we’d rather push on and get the most out of the Valley.
It’s funny how much different 3.5 miles feels after hiking 10 miles.
This trail was an enchantress. Her grade is affable and she allures you with her beauty all along the way. But as she gently pulls you up and down the dirt path, again and again and again, for miles and miles and miles – even the hardiest of hikers will feel their packs becoming more and more burdensome and each of their steps a bit more arduous than the last.
Just as we were beginning to feel all the feels a gateway crossed the path and we were greeted by a wondrous winged sentinel.
And then escorted into the verdant valley beyond.
The Enchanted Valley and her notorious, charming Chalet.
This valley is known not only for it’s beauty and abundant wildlife, but also for the crowds that gather here – despite the miles that separate it from the outside world. I meandered past the Chalet a bit and found a nice little spot off the beaten path where we could possibly hide from the crowds. But, when we arrived in the valley around it really wasn’t overflowing with humans and the boys were just ready to be done. So we made camp right in the belly of the beast, next to the Chalet.
With the the sun shining bright, the boys sauntered down to the river to ice their weary feet.
And I found a nice little spot next to a dragon of sorts and kicked up mine.
We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out.
Nestled beneath the wondrous walls that enveloped us.
As the evening drew near Mikey began to set up shop for a night pic, hoping the clouds that were rolling in with the crowds would not steal away the magic of this place.
But the longer we stayed in the valley, we realized its allure was cast from a spell that could not be broken.
By morning, we found ourselves surrounded by a plethora of nebulas and neighbors alike.
By this time, even that remote little hideaway I’d found down the way was occupied.
So we just settled in and resigned ourselves to the fact that this was a place of vast beauty unfamiliar to solitude.
We took the misty morning slow, always on the lookout for wild wonders.
And then one just sauntered right on up to us.
And then passed through camp.
Once all of our dreams came true:) we decided to venture off down the path just a bit.
It wove itself gently through the tall trees.
And continued to entertain us along the way.
After a couple of peaceful miles we veered off to the left towards the river.
And made a breviloquent stop at the somewhat unimpressive “Worlds Largest Hemlock”. I suppose when one has ambled through a forest lush in colossal old growth you expect a bit more from such a title:)
We snacked beside the Quinault with Anderson Pass off in the distance.
And then we followed its largely dried up bed most of the way…
Then Mikey and I crossed the river and went on a little bear hunt.
We never did see our furry friend again, but we never really stopped looking for him.
Early the next morning we set off for higher ground.
Anderson Pass had called to us the day before as we munched along the riverbed and we decided to answer.
TJ decided to hang back at camp so it was just Sabin and Mikey and I on this walk about. And just past the grand hemlock turn-off, Mikey spotted another bear across the way.
Moseying his way up the vast walls of the river valley.
As we pushed on, promising golden rays began to seep through the cracks of the timbers towering above us.
Cascading falls of water broke up the trail now and again.
And then, at just under four miles the trail split. Off to the right a staircase lead adventurers up towards O’neill Pass.
But we crossed a little creek bed and continued on towards Anderson.
Clouds sat heavy in her arms, but we were hopeful that as we climbed closer they too would move on.
Looking back towards the valley, from which we came, it looked as if a veil of vapor was lingering there as well.
After a little wrangle with a ramble of switchbacks that wove in and out of the trees, the sky opened up as we greeted Anderson Pass.
The pass was vibrant and so delightfully adorned in a wild tapestry of blueberries. Established campsites were scattered around in the trees and I secretly wished we had toted heavier packs and could slumber there.
But, it wasn’t too long before I was once again grateful for the lack of weight upon our backs as we climbed up towards Anderson Glacier.
It was a bit of a grind, but the bounty of berries and spectacular scenery kept us going all along the way.
And the end result was breathtaking.
We followed the trail above the unnamed lake glistening with the glacier’s melt, hoping to peer down into the valley from which we came.
But, it was hiding behind beneath an alabaster canopy of clouds.
We lingered here for quite a while, willing the veil of white wisps to move along. But, instead of dissipating they closed in, and continued to shroud our views.
Soon we had to climb down to the lake to see it.
Clouds continued to roll in as we made our way.
And even without the warmth of the sun to take away the icey ache of the frigid water, this guy took a dip.
After seeing his uncle brave the glacial pool…
Sabe tip-toed in a bit as well:)
After a while, it was evident that our blue skies had come and gone for good. So we headed back down.
And wouldn’t you know it, just as we were weaving our way back into the valley…
Our furry friend made another appearance.
Those cloudy skies that had robbed us of our views were soon a thing of the past as the boys delighted in the wild wonders that greeted us below.
After a few days of calling this place our home we noticed it had a distinct ebb and flow. Mid-day it would sit all still and tranquil. And then as noon transcended to ‘after’ it would begin to wax as humans steadily filtered in, filling it to its brim. Night would fall and then by mid-morning they would slowly filter out once again and it would wane its way back to serenity and peacefulness once again. If only for a bit. TJ spent the day relaxing back at camp in the calm before this storm:)
And although he enjoyed the temporal solitude, he was happy to have us back.
Our bear pal had ventured in to camp again while we were gone, much to TJ’s delight. But, the boys couldn’t get enough of him and never really stopped peering across the river hoping he would grace us with his presence again.
The cloud cover soon became a wet blanket above us and we very thankful for our handy-dandy Kelty cover.
We spent the rest of the evening sheltered from the storm enjoying each other’s company.
At some point, this wonderful human paid us a visit. He asked us for our permit and made sure we had bear canisters. And then he lingered for a bit, chatting with us and beaming that brilliant smile of his before he headed off into the wet abiss to make his rounds. Soon after, night fell and we crawled into our temporary shanties for one last sleep.
Morning greeted us with more clouds, but lucky for us, they had stopped dripping.
Once again, we had a long road ahead of us, so we promptly joined the morning exodus and helped empty out the valley of its human visitors, leaving those who lingered to enjoy its wane.
As we crossed the high foot bridge we were prepared for a long haul out.
But as we made our way, we realized how gradually the path had lead us up into the valley and savored the gradual meander back down.
There was one hearty climb after Pony Bridge and then it was smooth sailing back to the car.
On the way home we stopped at the
8th Street Ale House, in Hoquiam. The food was delicious and the gal running the place was amazing. It was a grand finale to grandeur adventure.
Every journey is full of ups and downs. Whether it’s one of love and life or it’s adventuring in the woods, there is something to be gleaned through it all. The struggle makes us stronger and the good times make us grateful. As we walk this way together – I am so thankful for it all.
Day 1 Trail Head to Enchanted Valley ~ 13.5 miles
Day 2 Our little meander to proclaimed “The World’s Largest Hemlock” ~ 4.2 miles round trip
Day 3 Enchanted Valley on up to Anderson Pass and Glacier ~ 13 miles round trip
Day 4 Enchanted Valley to Trail Head ~ 13.5 miles
Total Miles ~ 44.2 miles