Forum Index > Trip Reports > Thirteen miles up the Queets River trail, Sep. 4-7, 2020
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Double_E
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PostFri Oct 09, 2020 3:51 pm 
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I decided it was finally time to check the upper Queets off my list. (I'd hiked about 5 miles in once several years ago, and wanted to go back and do the rest.) And wow did Erika and I pick a great weekend for it, weather-wise. Highs in the high 70s to mid 80s; it got kinda hot now and then, but then the breezes would pick up again and cool things down to a perfect level.

We drove out there and camped a night at the Queets campground, which was lovely, as I'd heard it would be. Forgot to take pics of it.

The first day, we forded the river (no big deal of course given the time of year; about knee deep). And then hiked about 6.5 miles and set up camp on this site we found on a tiny bluff/terrace above the river.  We were tempted to do the side trip to the big Doug fir, but decided to press on to camp and see it on the way out.


First night's campsite:


The second day we hiked another ~4 miles to Bob Creek and camped. The main camp there is about a half mile past (what we thought was) Bob Creek. Brush and logs on this section weren't nearly as bad as I'd read about... there were some, sure, but meh, I've had worse. We also spent some time clearing a few of the smaller logs, and also machete-ing salmonberry here and there. My 14" pruning saw works fairly well as a machete, at least for salmonberry and certain other things.  And the rigid plastic sheath straps very well to a trekking pole, BTW!   biggrin.gif


River near the Bob Creek camp (nice swimming hole, shown on left in pano pic).


On the third day, Erika opted to chill at camp, while I tried to hike the last 5-ish miles of the Queets "trail" to the Pelton Creek Shelter.

Reports I'd read said the trail gets very hard to follow past Bob Creek, especially due to the 2015 Paradise Fire. Yup, indeed. For the first say 1.5 miles it meanders a couple times between gravel floodplain/bottomlands and low river terrace.  In many sections the trail simply consists of nothing but pink flagging about 50 to 100 yards apart, with the faintest little bit of  beat-down vegetation (in the areas that had vegetation) between them. 

As other reports have said, do not attempt this section without good navigation skills plus map/compass and ideally GPS. And remember to actually use them too! (I had all of the above but was trying to wing it w/o them, so still got a little semi-lost a couple times, LOL.)


About 1.5 miles past Bob Creek, (so like 12 miles in) the "trail" seems to go onto mid-river gravel bars in the floodplain, since the former trail seems to go up higher terrace/hillslope, which is in the burn zone. So I hiked up the gravel bar / floodplain for about a mile, then had lunch and a swim and decided I'd gone far enough. Decided that pushing on the end of the "trail" would be more trouble that it's worth. Like a few others out there, I'm on this silly mission to hike all the trail miles of ONP (about 88% done now BTW).  But for this last section of the Queets I decided to say screw it, and to wait till when (and if) some major trail work effort happens to restore that section; because until then it's not even really "trail".  I don't mind off-trail travel in the alpine zone, but for river floodplains, yeah, no thanks.

Camping note re the upper Queets. The park website says that "Camping past Bob Creek is not recommended due to many dead standing trees."  Huh??  No, that's silly; don't let that stop you planning a trip with camping up there; plenty of safe camping options to be had in those 2.5 miles I did. 

Actually even the main Bob Creek campsite is fairly close to the burn zone; just uphill of it are a bunch of tall burned/dead trees.  But there were enough huge, living, healthy maples and alders above the campsite that gave me more than enough peace of mind that a falling dead tree wouldn't be a danger to us, so we camped there.   

There are other camp options near Bob Creek that are 100% safe from the burnt tree zone, but are in gravel bar type areas.


Pelton Peak and Kimta Peak, respectively, (I think?), from my turn-around spot about 13 miles in.


On our last day, we hiked out, and did the side trail/bushwhack to the record large Doug fir tree. 

As a previous TR had said:
Walk to Coal Creek (at 2.5 miles from trailhead.) You'll know it's Coal Creek by the huge log that spans the creek and is used as a footbridge.
Turn around and go back down the trail about 200 feet. you'll find a huge spruce that's been blown over. Climb up on top of the spruce, follow it to its end. When you get to the end and spot some cut logs, take a sharp left and find the trail to the big tree.

Yup, that pretty much worked, thanks Ski.  The trail is very overgrown though; I spent some time cutting brush but there's still a bunch of work that could be done to make this trail better.

About half way down the trail/bushwack is, on the ground, the "Record Douglas Fir" sign that used to be on the main trail pointing to the side trail; wonder why it was moved away from the main trail??


Saw a total of 12 humans the entire entire time:
* Nine hiking along the within the first say 6 miles of trail up from the trailhead.
* Two hanging out in the river fishing the river, a couple hundred yards downstream of our first night's camp.
* About 5 miles in, near Spruce Bottom we saw -- get this -- someone kayaking! I guess the river's gradient is low enough, and the river flow low enough, that they were able to paddle all that way up it?!?  Heckyeah.  I want to come back and try that some time.  up.gif

Non-human critter sightings:
* Bunch of grouse
* A few snakes, birds, squirrels, of course.
* Saw lots and LOTS of elk/deer/bear poop, but never saw the actual critters they fell out of.
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Hesman
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PostFri Oct 09, 2020 4:04 pm 
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Nice!

Ran into someone earlier in the week who had never heard of anyone with the goal of hiking all the trails in the Olympics. I said I had heard of a few people out there with the same plan as I.

Earlier this week I finished hiking the Lower Big Quilcene trail. I just need to convince the boss to let me take a week off over the next several summers so that I can hike the last few longer trails I have yet to tackle: the Bogachiel, the rest of the Hoh, the Hoh Lake trail, the Skyline, the Queets (I had planned on doing it the summer of the Paradise Fire) and a couple of sections of the coast. I have a few other shorter trails that I have yet to hike that I would be able to accomplish on a weekend.

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Ski
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PostFri Oct 09, 2020 4:46 pm 
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up.gif

Double_E wrote:
The main camp there is about a half mile past (what we thought was) Bob Creek.

Let me try to clarify this one:
Long ago there was a "Bob Creek Shelter", which was far back away from the river and upstream from Bob Creek, which is (for the uninitiated) virtually impossible to identify with any certainty.
There are several trip reports in which I've tried to describe it (as it occurs to the hiker moving up-trail) but as the creek tends to wander somewhat through that flat it may well be in a completely different place than last time I saw it.
Later maps showed a "Bob Creek Camp", marked on those maps in the general vicinity of where the old "Bob Creek Shelter" was located, but it was not where you've got your tent pitched there in the photo.
The site you camped at (upstream somewhat from Bob Creek) has been a pretty popular site for years. I ripped out an attempt at "furniture" and "shelter" there years ago and tossed it into the river - somebody had spent a lot of time with a saw and large (8-inch) nails doing some construction work. Nice to see that it looks like it hasn't been hammered.

RE: That last stretch (between Paradise and Pelton):

I received a message from Ernie on 09/24/19 @ 10:12 PDT, in which he informed me that he had cleared the trail up to 15.5 miles - just shy of where the Pelton Creek Shelter used to be.

As you noted, most of the trail between Bob and Pelton was obliterated in the 2015 Paradise Fire. (see photos by Gary Patton in one of my TR's here)
The section of trail that traversed up alongside the ridge several hundred feet and then zig-zagged back down was completely obliterated (according to both Gary and Ernie), which necessitated re-routing something of a "way trail" down along the gravel bars.
If my memory serves me correctly, Sam told me he just went right up the middle - wading most of the way.

The last two miles of the "trail" have been virtually non-existent for over 20 years. You just wander up through those maple flats, staying parallel to the river. Now and then you'll spot a cut log laying in the grass (if you're really looking closely - most of them are so rotten or covered with moss they're almost invisible.)

I got an email a couple weeks back about the "Big Fir Trail" from Sam, who found that sign you've posted above. Originally it was on the "main trail". Due to blowdowns, the "main trail" has moved considerably over the last 25 years.

I got another email from a retired Park staffer just after that, who informed me that a futile attempt had been made to find the tree, resulting in the person arriving back at the campground well after dark.
You did well being able to find it at all. up.gif

Love the photo taken just below Spruce Bottom. I noticed the water was intensely blue when we floated the river on the 9th.

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meck
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PostSat Oct 10, 2020 7:00 am 
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Very cool Double_E!  I really enjoyed those photos, that river valley sure does feel wild.  Were you able to snag any photos of the "burnt" maples rebranching out near the Pelton Creek Camp area near the river?

You, me, and Hesman should meet up sometime to go visit some of the remaining trails/spurs/forgotten sections that all three of us have left to do (I don't mind repeating trails either).

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PostSat Oct 10, 2020 8:38 am 
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meck wrote:
You, me, and Hesman should meet up sometime to go visit some of the remaining trails/spurs/forgotten sections that all three of us have left to do (I don't mind repeating

I like that idea. Perhaps we can work something out in the next few months or so.

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You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. - Abraham Lincoln
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Double_E
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PostMon Oct 12, 2020 11:34 pm 
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Thanks, all.
Ski wrote:
((lots of great stuff including:))
Love the photo taken just below Spruce Bottom. I noticed the water was intensely blue when we floated the river on the 9th.

Thanks for all the info! Yeah it seems like you've explored the Queets lots of times huh?!  up.gif up.gif
So you paddled it on Sep. 9th huh? Kayak or canoe?  Did you paddle upstream from the main trailhead then? At any rate, very cool.
meck wrote:
Were you able to snag any photos of the "burnt" maples rebranching out near the Pelton Creek Camp area near the river?

Not sure I know where you meant re. the burnt maples thing?  I never made it to Pelton Creek area; only about 2.5 miles past Bob Creek.
Hesman wrote:
meck wrote:
You, me, and Hesman should meet up sometime to go visit some of the remaining trails/spurs/forgotten sections that all three of us have left to do (I don't mind repeating

I like that idea. Perhaps we can work something out in the next few months or so.

That would be very cool!  biggrin.gif  Give a holler if either/both of you want to start planning a trip for next spring or summer. up.gif  Some of the more remote ones I still haven't done are the ~10 miles from Elwha River to Dose Meadows; and Skyline Ridge; and then the upper Bogachiel past Flapjack.
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 2:44 am 
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Double_E wrote:
"...seems like you've explored the Queets lots of times..."

Yes. More than I could ever count. Every week for a few years, but that was quite a while back.
We just took a nice leisurely ride down the river - nothing too challenging, as I'm old and slow now and I have to leave that "adventure" stuff for you younger guys. wink.gif
I'll get some trip reports posted as soon as I can get all the photos sorted out. I shot 508 photos the last time up there, so it's kind of a daunting task.

If you are seriously looking at exploring the area by water, search "boaterbrett" here, and then check out packrafting.org. wink.gif

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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