Forum Index > Trip Reports > Necklace Valley / Valhalla Peak 09-23-27-2020
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SouthernHiker
SouthernHiker



Joined: 28 Mar 2021
Posts: 1 | TRs
Location: Seattle
SouthernHiker
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SouthernHiker
PostTue Apr 06, 2021 11:32 pm 
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Greetings fellow PNW adventurers!  As my username implies, I am not a native to the region.  While growing up I spent a bunch of time in the outdoors while going through Scouts.  This all occurred in the southeastern region of the US.  I moved to Seattle several years ago and my friends invited me on a "kinda tough but not that bad" hike of Mount Si and I was hooked.  This was my first hike in WA and on any actual mountain outside of Appalachia.  Fresh from the southeast my body was in poor shape for hiking (think couch to trail) but I was determined to climb the damn mountain that never seemed to end once halfway up it and it was amazing and well worth the effort.  We hiked into a snowstorm and I got to learn how useful micro spikes can be (and what they are for that matter). 

Fast forward to the end of the 2020 season and I've been doing a ton of hiking and equipping and research and all the fun stuff that comes with the hobby and I start sharing my experiences with an old buddy that used to be big into hiking when we were younger.  Just sharing my images had him digging out and dusting off his old gear and beginning the fun and expensive process of updating it and the man booked a flight to Seattle for an alpine wilderness adventure from September 23 - 27.  I was aware this was fast approaching the end of the season but figured we'd most likely at least make it out 50/50 rain and sun.  Many of you may not recall because rain is a frequent thing here but during that week we had a particularly fun batch of steady, never ending, hard rain.  Rain such that I had not dealt with since leaving the South.  Nevertheless my pal had come a long way and the forecast looked grim but I figured these things change drastically every 24 hours so lets hope for the best, perhaps it would transition to the pleasant light rain we all love.

09/23/2020
We begin at the East Fork Foss/Necklace Valley trail head shortly after 9AM to a mostly empty parking lot and a steady rain.  The plan was simple.  We had five nights and six days to make it from this trailhead to Tank Lakes and into the West Fork Foss area to hike out and back to the car.  I had a rough route sketched out and leading up to my friend arriving we had warm sunny days.  I assumed we would spend a a night or two exploring around Tank and then bumping down to Big Heart/Otter and on out.  I had a season of WA hiking on my legs and I would say my buddy maintains above average shape but resides in a very flat part of the world.  I figured it would be a good workout for me and a way to gas him and see sights two Southern boys can't even begin to imagine.
The opening was a nice and easy rolling stroll.  On the way in we passed the owners of the other vehicles in the lot headed out in a hurry.  I noted to my friend we were the only people hiking in so at least it won’t be crowded!  The trail is overgrown with low vegetation in many places and with all the rain everything was soaked and bowed over.  This was the day I learned why people use rain pants.  We both quickly learned our rain systems were wholly inadequate for the conditions we found ourselves.  On the way in we passed some really fascinating fungi and only later learned this fella is edible and apparently pretty tasty and was as big as my head:


This was the closest thing to a view we got on the way in:

By the time we reached the point where the elevation begins we were soaked and ready to be in the valley.  We ended up burning about 40 minutes wandering around the downed log that ends in a talus field attempting to find the trail heading up.  Eventually a fella on his way out appeared seemingly from nowhere and once he was within conversation distance I asked kindly where in the hell he had just come from because were were trying to get there!  He pointed out the trail on the other side of another downed log that I had noted but not investigated thoroughly enough earlier upon our arrival and attempt to locate the trail.  Shortly after we got to watch as his buddy descended and they hiked out as we forged ahead.  I would consider the altitude part of this hike a pretty decent workout in good conditions and it was much more...challenging after it had been raining for over 24 hours.  At this point the only dry things were in our packs so we slogged through the steady stream that was the trail up to Jade lake.  Despite being in the best hiking shape I had ever been in I was demolished.  Daylight was fading fast, we were much higher up and now we had the pleasure of strong gusts of cold, wet, wind.  From my far ago studies of hypothermia it suddenly dawned on me that if we did not take steps to improve our situation things could begin getting bad and potentially very bad very quickly.  From prior research I knew there was a shelter just into the valley that I figured with good weather we could have snacked at or maybe crashed for an early bed and rise to Tank the next day or use in case we had bad weather (how apropos).  We eventually hit that sweet moment where you enter the valley and gusts of wind snatched any sweetness away for me as we tried to hurry our way across the rocks next to Jade lake.  We slogged deeper into the valley until the roof of the shelter came into view and with a burst of adrenaline, we booked it into the shelter and immediately got into our dry clothes and into our quilts to warm up.  Eventually we made a small dinner and exhausted, passed out with dreams of dryer days (video included for ambiance).


09/24/2020
Our view the next morning.

We slept in with our consciousnesses coming and going with the intensity of the rain.  We decided to call it a zero day right there and we hung out visiting, eating a ton of food and imbibing spirits we brought up with us.  We discovered the blueberries were quite literally everywhere and we soon began enhancing every meal with them.  I would get bored and go fill my cook pot with berries and snack on them while hanging out and taking naps.  It was fun reading all the inscriptions around the shelter during periods to stretch the legs.  It rained the entirety of the day and night.

09/25/2020
After some berry good breakfast we discussed our plans.  I figured while wet it would still be technically possible for us to complete our original plan however I figured it would not be a very enjoyable or safe trip.  The last weather reports I saw for pretty much the entire region forecast days of rain everywhere.  I recalled there was one oddity in that some areas of the peninsula would maybe have some ok weather at this point and hoped the forecast had improved while we had been in the valley.  He just wanted to salvage some of his hiking trip so deferred to my judgement.  We began our hike out and while stopping to refill our bottles at Jade I noticed in the mud the fresh prints of a mountain lion headed into the valley.  Unfortunately for this portion there weren't many photos taken as it was as a chore to take it out from its dry place each time something neat came across and was time consuming.  My rationale at the time was the sooner we made it to the car the sooner I'd be sipping on some coffee on the side of the road in Sultan.

Goodbye you wet valley!

We began our descent and discovered what were fast streams on the way up had now swollen quite a bit after an additional 48 hours of non-stop rain.  After some fun crossings we made it back to the gentle rolling that seemed to have extended itself an extra mile up until the car.  Eventually made it back to Seattle, allowed everything to dry, and had a big dinner.  Checked the weather and nothing had changed and it was more rain everywhere except an area around the northern part of the peninsula that could at best see mostly cloudy skies.  I looked at trails in the area and settled on Valhalla peak near Harrison lake.  Went to bed and woke up early the next morning and got underway.

09/26/2021
We left Seattle with dark clouds that slowly dissipated as we got closer and closer to the trailhead.  We eventually made it to the Tunnel Creek/Big Quilcene trailhead to a mostly empty parking lot around 10:30AM.  Invigorated by being outside and not rained on we hoisted our packs and set off.  Peninsula hikes are always enjoyable and this one did not disappoint.  Deep valleys wrapped in ferns and moss covered firs steeply ascending around you and the silence they imbue is marvelous and good for the soul.  Made it up to Harrison lake and the weather seemed to not be able to make up its mind on what it wanted to do but our luck held out and we reached Valhalla peak around 3PM.


Had some food and enjoyed watching some beautiful cloud movements then headed back down to an area where there was pretty much an established campsite.  After heading to bed I got up to use the bathroom and the sky had cleared and the stars were magnificent.  I could watch the planes coming and going from Seattle and it was an excellent final evening before having to return to the normal life routine.

09/27/2021
The weather is perfect.  It has warmed pleasantly and not a cloud is to be found anywhere.  Our moods reflect the weather and I begin droning on about how THIS is the weather he was supposed to have for his trip and how it was all summer up to his arrival.  We end up grabbing some food and bevs at a brewery in Gig Harbor then return to the city for more feasting and celebrating a trip well ended.  We vow to tackle Necklace Valley again and I promise to not make any excursions back to it until he has returned and we have a chance to do it together.

I am hoping to get some advice (admonishment may also be merited) and suggestions for an early season 7 night adventure for this May 26 through June 1.  I had intended for us to try our hands at Necklace Valley again and never could find much information regarding snow/safety around that time of the year aside from “snow until midsummer”.  Taking into account our combined lack of experience in: hiking in deep snow, recognizing the dangerous snow from the safe snow, identifying potential avalanches, when NOT to use a snow bridge, or using an ice axe (and don’t own any) would y’all recommend attempting Necklace Valley to Tank to Big Heart/Otter and on out of the West Fork trail through Memorial day weekend?  Alternate suggestions would be most welcome!

Thanks,
SouthernHiker
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Sculpin
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PostWed Apr 07, 2021 8:27 am 
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SouthernHiker wrote:
advice (admonishment may also be merited) and suggestions for an early season 7 night adventure for this May 26 through June 1.

Based upon you experience level...no chance.  You will lose the trail before you make it out of Necklace Valley, and be forced to retreat in deep, sloppy snow.

Long story short:  there are no good 7-day hikes around Memorial Day.

1.  It is too hot by then out in the shrub steppe.
2.  The high country is buried in snow until July in a typical year, and this year has a big snow pack.
3.  If you are in a place that is comfortable on June 1 in Washington state, you are in deep woods.

The only place I would recommend for that time of year is the coast, but it is hard to make it 7 days.  The lowest tides occur that time of year, find yourself some tide pools.   agree.gif .

--------------
Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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neek
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PostWed Apr 07, 2021 8:44 am 
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I agree you should avoid the central cascades, but there are plenty options east of the crest (pasayten, chelan-sawtooth, teanaway) esp. since you are not covering much ground per day.  Just don't get lost, and do get a little more snow experience first.
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Nancyann
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Location: Sultan Basin
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PostWed Apr 07, 2021 10:08 am 
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Thanks for the trip report, a fun read! I agree with Sculpin and neek for the most part. As neek said, there are going to be some areas on the east slope of the Cascades accessible by that time, but watch out for ticks!
Have you considered trying something further south, like Northern California for that early in the season?
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Necklace Valley / Valhalla Peak 09-23-27-2020
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