Jed was a hoot. I spoke with him, I believe, three times. I had to keep calling back the Olympic Park Permit Office to change my reservations, because nothing seemed to be working out. (You are supposed to make these online…which I did…badly. So I needed help. But be warned, getting someone on the line is not easy.) Anyway, somehow, every time, I got Jed on the other end.
This was our third year doing a week long hiking trip together–not Jed and I, of course–I mean the gals I met three years ago on a Facebook hiking page. (see here) Previously we have had the privilege of doing sections of the PCT – which blessedly don’t require permits. We were going to continue our tradition by tackling Section L that takes you all the way to the Canadian Border…but y’know…Covid. Going to the border and then turning around did not seem terribly logical, so we had to come up with a different plan.
My current obsession with the PNT (I know, only one letter difference makes this confusing, but a VERY different trail than the PCT) gave me a new focus as I labored over a strategy to cram in as many miles of it in seven days as humanly possible. (My human, that is ;)) But all these miles depended on getting the right permits within the Olympic National Forest, and every plan I could muster was coming undone by a permit deficit somewhere along my route.
Jed saved me with a simple question: “Why do you have to do all the miles on the PNT?” And the simple answer was, “I don’t.” From there, Jed helped put together a much more simplified six day trip that included the best and got rid of the rest.
Later I discovered this loop has a name– “The Grand Loop.” And anything that is as truly grand as this loop should have nothing to do with “cramming.” Thank God for Jed. (Who also made sure I didn’t attempt to go from Dose Meadows to Moose Lake in one day. Ugh, will I ever learn to pay close attention to elevation gain?) As always, a detailed itinerary below if interested, but don’t leave without my trail blessing: Happy “new, improved, and less crammed” trails!!
Day 1: (Does not count in the “6 day plan” btw) A very early morning to get to my 6:30 am ferry reservation which inadvertently gave me an important lesson–a Port Townsend to Coupeville reservation is not the same as a Coupeville to Port Townsend reservation. Duh, right? So anyway, $10 reservation fee wasted, but I got on the 7:15 and was still able to secure a campsite at Deer Park on a Saturday. I used this day to enjoy the half mile Rain Shadow Loop (drive Deer Park Road till you can’t drive no more) plus do a six mile up and back going east on the PNT from the campground.
Day 2: The girls arrive! Warning: the parking situation here is dismal. Our solution was to park back to back (stacked in one spot) since we would be leaving at the same time. But be kind to yourself and others and carpool here if at all possible. This loop begins at the Three Forks Trail parking lot, which is within the Deer Park campground. (Look for signs.) We started with the 4.7 miles DOWN to the Three Forks Camp. Overall I think counter clockwise was the best way to do this loop and this was reason #1. To end with these never ending switchbacks going UP would have SUCKED.
Day 3: 8.6 miles to “North side of Graywolf Pass” which is not a really a camp, but apparently you can get a permit to stay there if you talk to someone like Jed. There is something like established spots around a lake (maybe tarn?) that you come to just before the final push up and over, but we had 5 tents (yes we are all Divas and like to have our own) so we just sort of made our own spots a little further up. Also, I almost made a HUGE mistake this day, thinking I was on the right trail when I wasn’t. (There’s a trail that goes to Cedar Lake off of the Gray Wolf River Trail I wasn’t aware of.) I won’t bother to explain my reasoning in the moment, but I am happy to say I stopped not too far in to dig out the map even though I didn’t want to. (Thank you lesson #1 BRING A MAP ) and USE IT
Day 4: 8 miles to Dose Meadows. This was the first day I was really glad to have my hiking umbrella. (And not to be my last!) A few of these miles are in direct sun, and it was HOT. So sweaty when arriving at camp that I dunked in the stream–there is a great spot behind the farthest site. This is the one day Jed kind of did me wrong by hyping up the “Thousand Acre Meadow” that is supposedly just around the bend and the only reason people go to Dose Meadows. Cool Jed, I’ll have to check that out! Information not given: It’s a thousand foot gain in that little extra mile and a bushwack besides. Thankfully we actually ran into a ranger (who asked if we had permits — so don’t try to go without getting them!) who filled us in and told us we would get a good view of it when we hit Lost Pass the next day. FYI it appeared to me that the glorious Thousand Acre Meadow is exactly like every other meadow — just bigger. I don’t really understand what the big deal is, but I sure am glad not to have pushed another thousand feet that day to try to find out!
Day 5: 3.4 miles to Upper Cameron. (Going over both Lost and Cameron Pass) This took me almost 5 hours, just to give you an idea of how punishing these “short” miles are. I shudder to think I had considered combining them with the next day to make a 10.4 day– because y’know, 3.4 is too easy! OMG, I would have DIED, because Grand Pass was the worst of all. WHY CAN’T I LEARN LESSON NUMBER #39 (A better story of not learning it is here ) Oh, and if you find my old phone (the one I used only for taking hiking pics because I wisely worried I’d drop it) on the scree field coming down from Cameron Pass where I slid down on my ass because folks on top advised me to “cut across under the snow field” even though that’s not what they did, please excuse the naked beach pics I took on my birthday hike. Fireball is to blame. But (or should I say “butt” ;)) I sure would like my phone back just the same. ( Btw, not assuming other hikers know what the fuck they are talking about was lesson #49 …yet another I’ve not fully learned.)
Day 6: 7 miles to Moose Lake. Like I just said, Grand Pass is no joke. But there is a great stream half way up, and a tarn on top, so don’t load up on pounds of water and make your life easier.
Day 7: 12 miles back to Deer Park. We talked incessantly about the upcoming miles while at Moose Lake; mostly trying to wager just how bad they were going to be, because that’s how you get after the days we had. I was, as usual, in denial about the elevation gain. “We have the difficult assent to start, but once we get up–easy 7 miles of ridge walking. No problem.” Never listen to me. I am elevation gain incompetent.
But the views? Worth it. So my friends still love me…I think. We all went to Bar N9NE for the usual beer and burger reward. A total dive, in the right kind of ways, with great food. But don’t expect homemade Ranch dressing, because it is a bar after all. (I will never live that down! ;)) I did extend this trip with a solo overnight at Flapjack Lakes on my way home, which I will write up soon.
P.S. I was just contact by another hiker that my phone has been found and he is mailing it to me! Hikers are the best. Follow me on Instagram to see more pics and silly videos. (But I will keep the naked ones to myself ;)) Link on homepage.