The Skyline Trail — 1993
Day One — August 1
In the summer of a thousand showers, we wanted to hike the Skyline trail, which runs up along the ridge between the rainforests of the Queets and the Quinault. The five day forecast said “dry”. The first section of trail is from the North Fork Quinault road to Three Lakes.
The weather is great, we enjoy the woods on the first short section of trail. Then it starts getting steep. The route turns into one long endless series of switches: the classic Olympic climb to the high country.
At Three Lakes we set up camp amid the bugs and the frogs. The frogs had been rumored to be thick … we didn’t find them to be much heavier populated than normal, but the bugs were. We set up camp near the far end of the meadow area around Three Lakes.
The only other people camped in the area were two young men who appeared to be grad students doing some kind of research project. They walked around the meadow with the type of net you might carry for catching frogs.
Day Two — August 2
We started the hike along the ridge to Three Prune camp: no real climbing but still lots of bugs. It was a nice ridge top hike, unlike what we had done the day before. Shortly after leaving our camp at Three Lakes, we stopped to adjust packs. A young couple hiked by in the opposite direction. They were the only people we saw all day.
We hiked as far as Three Prune Camp because we weren’t sure that there was a suitable place to camp between there and Kimta Basin and we didn’t want to get stuck somewhere with no water.
The meadows of the area are really excellent. After setting up camp, we got some time to lay in the sun and recover from the hard work of the day before.
One of the major legs of the Skyline is where it traverses along the side of Kimta Peak. We could tell that it was going to be real warm the following day, traversing a SW facing slope about the middle of the afternoon. It seemed that the best idea was to get as early start as possible and hope to get across the face early in the day, before the heat.
Day Three — August 3
Up at 4 o’clock in the dark. We climbed out of the tent and found the temperature to be quite pleasant in shirt sleeves and the bugs diminished, but still around. Very strange, and a sign that the weather was going to be scorching in the valleys down below.
The first section starts out moderately up hill. After a while we get a view down the Queets valley. The sky is blue and we think we can see the ocean. The trail runs for a while on one side of the crest and then on the other for a while.
Once we got close to Kimta Peak, we crossed the top end of South Fork Kimta basin. Several times the trail went through some areas of rocky high country where the way was marked by cairns. It was certainly a lot different hiking than on the valley floors. The day got hot quickly.
It took us a lot longer to hike this section of trail than we had estimated. Part of what took so long to cover this section was the frequent stops for water. It was, it turned out, the hottest day of summer. Our plan for staying off the hottest part of the face went for naught.
During the mid afternoon, we hiked through the silver forest remnant of a forest fire on the southwest face of the southeast ridge of Kimta. Very little shade and scorching sun; another endless series of switches, climbing over a thousand vertical feet.
When we got to the ridge and crossed into Promise Creek basin, we camped on the lower edge of the upper basin, next to a small snow melt stream, and found in the middle of a basin of rock and snow: more mosquitoes.
Day Four — August 4
The morning was cool and the rock and snow in the upper basin of Promise Creek was interesting to hike through. Shortly after leaving camp, we passed by some wonderful examples of glacial striations on some of the bedrock. I flashed back on my early days in Geology classes, and asked Jeff to pose as a Geology professor. He pointed to the striations with his ice axe and went: “Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah”. It was just as I had remembered it.
There were many ravines that the trail dropped into and then climbed back out. Some of the climbs back out were very steep: short, but memorable.
It was 10:30 when we crossed Hee Haw pass and started the traverse to Lake Beauty. This section that was hot and dry with the slightest of trails. We finally got down to Seattle Creek, which we found to be a nice little stream.
Once we left the immediate vicinity of the creek, however, there were so many flies that we kept on hiking well after we wanted to stop. By the time we got to Low Divide, it was 8:15.
Day Five — August 5
We enjoyed a day of hiking without heavy packs and took the trail up to Martins Lakes and Martins Park — a hike whose trailhead is right at Low Divide.
Martin’s park is extremely beautiful: one of the finest high alpine valleys that either Jeff or I have ever seen. Immense boulders dotting the green grass and wild flower carpet. A quick and easy ford of the creek leads to the trail to the upper cirque and the transition from the grassy valley floor to barren glacial outwash.
The trail climbs the side of the ridge and onto the plateau which holds the two Martins Lakes.
The second was splendid swimming.
On the return through the lower park land, we spotted a bear, who immediately headed into the trees and away from us.
Day Six — August 6
We left the camp on our hike out with a moderately late start, about 8:30. We knew we were not going to be hiking all the way out to the truck.
We had lunch at the easy ford of the North Fork at 16 Mile. We laughed a lot about the ford. The Park Service had provided a rope, which I’m sure would be very helpful in high water. It was not nearly as useful this day, except for providing a little mirth.
We camped at Elip Creek down by the river. We visited with some other hikers, gave them some advice about the trail up Elip, and laughed at their story of camping the night before in a trailer park next to the Manson family.
Day Seven — August 7
Final day out to the trailhead: a nice valley hike, with many nice old bridges across the streams draining the side valleys.
As we near the trailhead, we see an increasing number of people. We talk to a small group of teenagers who claim they are going to hike over to the Elwha, up the Bailey Range and across Mt. Olympus. They look like they are packed heavy enough to stay a night or two.
We are delighted from having spent a sunny week in the rainforest and on the ridge with nothing but bugs to complain about. A magnificent hike: the best.
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