Some years ago, while decadently enjoying oysters fresh out of the sea on Georgia and Emmett Oliver’s deck overlooking the Hood Canal at Lilliwaup, Washington, a group of us began tossing aroound the wonderful Indian names of the rivers in the Olympic rain forest just across the highway from us. Hamma Hamma, Dosewallips, Duckabush, Elwha, Hoh. Dr. Advice and I thought it would be a great idea to backpack through the rain forest up one of these rivers, and be met on the far side by friends who would bring us back to Lilliwaup. It didn’t really matter that we had not done much if any backpacking, although we were great hikers and campers. How difficult could it be? When the oysters were gone, and a few more bottles of wine consumed, our plans were set. We would go back home to Fremont, gather our gear, pack up Hilda our intrepid little dachsund, and return in a couple of weeks to begin the hike. Collecting the right gear and supplies took a bit more time than we thought, so the trip was postponed until the end of August.
We arrived at the Canal in high spirits ready to be dropped off at the trailhead the next morning. Along with dry food which we would be eating during the hike, I tucked in large bunches of fresh grapes which I thought would be a good way to hydrate us along the way. Hilda was in rare form, cheerfully trotting alon g ahead of us reveling in all the strange smells and occasional scurrying of invisible varmints. We had chosen to hike the Duckabush trail which was well marked on the Geologic survey maps we had acquired. After about 5 miles, though we were shaded most of the way by the moss covered trees, it began to be hot, so we shed some of the clothing we had started with in the early morning fog. Dr. Advice sang his old Boy Scout songs, and I ate grapes until their sweetness conflicted with the unfamiliar effort I was exerting and I felt I would embarrass myself if I did not sit and remove my backpack. Dr. Advice, being of strong Danish heritage offered good advice to throw away the grapes.
We continued for another few miles that first day, until strangely, my pack gained another 16 pounds, and I made the sensible suggestion to stop for the day. Just about that time, we heard singing coming from along the trail behind us, and a large group of Boy Scouts were marching cheerily along on the way to the same bivouac we were headed for. They waved at us, Hilda sniffed and followed them for a few yards, and we decided to go a little further and set up camp by ourselves instead of sharing the space with a bunch of 12 year olds.
We found a lovely spot with a tiny stream and threw our sleeping bags on the ground and called it home for the night. Dr. Advice asked if I had seen the bear warning signs along the way, which I had not. We made coffee on our little stove, and prepared to bed down. We did not have food that the bears might be interested in, unless you considered Hilda, so I tucked her into my sleeping bag and told her to be very quiet. I hung a pair of red lace panties from a tree, thinking this might discourage any bear who was brave enough to check us out, and we slept soundly until early morning.
I don’t remember much about the second day, except being very tired, and hungry for “real” food, so we took a straw poll and decided that 20 miles was about a decent stroll into this forest. We turned around on the third day and headed back. Emmett said he was surprised we had not gone all the way, but looking back, I am sure he knew we were pretty wimpy. They picked us up at the trailhead and we all had a good laugh over my red lace panty episode.
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” Martin Buber