Permit #4 is in the books. Since I’ve got my special “local pass,” I’ve done Bogachiel, Oil City to Third Beach, Enchanted Valley, and now Royal Basin – all in the Olympic National Park. Plus I have four more classic trips booked before the end of the season. (All for $45! Getting my money’s worth!) Fingers crossed they all pan out.
Many of these miles are on the PNT…many are not, including this trip’s miles. I grabbed this permit simply because I could, and because I figured it must be beautiful if it was so popular. (I think it was the last spot available, and I secured it months ago.)
We pulled up to the parking area after nine miles of some pretty serious potholes and I foolishly drove past the only parking spot thinking maybe it wasn’t big enough. The car behind me did not hesitate to squeeze in. F***. Okay, keep going and see what we can find.
The actual HUGE parking area (room for 75 cars?) is past the first non actual parking area (20 cars, maybe?) and it was full as well. Holy moly, it’s only 9 am!…but it was a Saturday. Thankfully Julie had the brilliant idea to back in at the far end, essentially creating a new row. (Don’t worry, we were careful not to block anyone in. Very nice vault toilet in this lot, btw.)
When I snagged this permit, I was a little disappointed. At just under four miles in, the “creek” spots seemed inferior to the what I was sure would be spectacular camping at Royal Lake or Upper Basin. Plus not having the option of hiking up the 8 miles one day and out the 8 miles the next day meant a whole lot of hiking on day one. But something is better than nothing, so we were going to have to make it work.
We expected serious crowds after seeing that parking lot, but to our delight we saw only a handful of other hikers. I suppose the majority of people were crossing the bridge at the one mile mark to go across the Dungeness and into the Buckhorn Wilderness where trails aplenty await. (Including PNT miles…next time!)
We found our lovely creek spot to be far from inferior – besides seclusion (good for the ukulele concert to come) the water only steps away, plus there were NO BUGS! The one thing we could have done without were the obvious pee puddles right next to the fire ring. Is it so hard to point it toward the bushes, guys?
But now it was time to tackle the rest of the increasingly upward miles – though now thankfully without our heavy packs. I like to think I could have done it with those 35 pounds on my back without crying, but the f-bomb count that last half mile to the lake (with maybe a pound in my little day pack) suggests there would have been serious tears if not for our blessed “inferior” creek spot.
Though having to return to our camp meant dealing with a bit of a worry if we could do the steep seven-tenths of a mile past Royal Lake (bug infested and not where we wanted to hang out) to the upper “lake” (tarn actually–also mosquito infested) and back the five miles before dark. But no risk, no reward, right?
The F bombs at the end were the good kind…the “are you f-ing kidding me?” kind. After a “happy birthday!” shout to the lucky party peeps across the lake, we quickly took a few pics and turned right around. One thing to always remember is down is way faster than up. Literally I think it took half the time, so it wasn’t an issue. Was it worth the push and the f-bombs and the bug bites and the wet feet and going over the scary log bridges twice? The pictures show the obvious answer. Happy f-bomb trails! (Condensed hiking itinerary below if interested.)
Day 1: 3.5 miles to Royal Creek camp (there are many spread out over a mile or so) plus the 10 miles to upper basin and back for a total of 13.5 miles.
Day 2: An easy stroll out of just 3.5 miles. I have to say as much as I LOVED those views the day before, this hike out might have been my favorite part. Going slow while enjoying the stream views and moss and quiet – it was sublime. And an easy day meant lots of time to spend in Port Townsend, which was also glorious. (Thank God we had a reservation on the ferry. We might have been setting camp on the beach if we didn’t! ;))
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If you read this story, Hillary (our beach photographer) thank you for the awesome pictures!