Forum Index > Trip Reports > Harlow Bushwhack - ONP - July 5-8, 2007
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javman
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 12:16 am 
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This one is kinda long.

A little background first I suppose… I’ve been planning this trip for quite a while now. I don’t remember when I first decided it was a place I needed to visit. There’s something about looking a map and seeing a couple blue dots far from any trails and surrounded by steep ridges that grabs my attention. These two lakes sit halfway between the South Fork Hoh and the Queets, and drain into Harlow Creek. I’ve heard people call them “Harlow Lakes”, and that’s how I refer to them now, despite the fact that they’re nameless on every map. I daydream about these places while I’m chained to my desk at work – wondering what it looks like right there that instant. Are there big fluffy clouds flying above the calm reflections, or is the rain pounding sideways with the wind slapping waves on the shore. I decided several months ago that this was the year to knock this one of my list.

I studied all the possible routes until the map was engrained in my head. I spent hours in Google Earth looking at details – shadows in the trees that hide impassable cliffs – stuff like that. I talked to “ski” (another nwhiker) and picked his brain – he knows quite a bit of history around the Queets. (Thanks!) A few weeks ago, a little leery of doing this one on my own, I convinced a buddy of mine, Ryan, that he needed to go too. He’s the only friend I have who still follows me into the unknown wink.gif He’s got the endurance to push through the nasty undergrowth of the western Olys and come out smiling on the other side dripping a little blood and sweat. So I was glad when his wife said he could go!

Fast forward to day one, July 5, 2007. The best route I could sketch out began on a gated DNR road. With our packs strapped to our back, and my camera bag on my chest, feeling a little bit too heavy, we got on our bikes and pedaled around the gate, hoping we’d come back alive wink.gif My dad has been using my old bike for a year, so I figured it would work just fine. Mistake. A mile and a half up the road, switching gears, the chain flew off and destroyed the derailleur and some spokes. Not how I wanted to start things off. After some profanities, we stashed our bikes down the bank and marked the spot for our return, and walked five more miles of dusty road, dripping sweat by noon.

We stumbled up the ridge to the park boundary, and followed the top of the ridge up a ways, to avoid dropping into a creek. We began our 1800 foot descent -- the route was good, better than I expected, and we only had a couple small cliffs to deal with. Getting close to the valley, we dropped down into a side-stream gorge for some water -- it was a scorchin day! A waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest beauty made me get out the tripod and waste some time. Soon the ground was flat, and we stumbled into a large meadow next to Harlow Creek.

We decided to camp here. In the satellite images, it looked like there was a waterfall a ways downstream that I wanted to check out, so we dropped our packs and bushwhacked on. Ry decided to catch a frog… as long as he didn’t eat it or anything, that was fine with me haha. We left the little guy behind and soon the sound of whitewater echoed in our ears. The route ahead didn’t look good, so we backtracked, crossed the creek and continued down the other side. I was expecting something like a twenty foot waterfall… This was more like a sixty foot drop, and with the surrounding cliffs and vegetation, it was impossible to get a clear shot. We went back up to a smaller ~10 foot falls and jumped in the pool below – talk about cold! Hiking back upstream, the creek seemed so calm, and we were soon back to camp. After the sun set, we could hear the piercing sound of a cow elk calling as it made it’s way around us. It probably hadn’t seen any smelly humans before.

Friday morning, we awoke to more blue skies, and it already felt warm. We donned our packs and started upstream. I wanted to go about a mile and a half up the creek before starting up towards the lakes. Soon the banks started to get steeper and I figured we’d better cut into the woods. A well-used elk trail presented itself from nowhere, and up we went. Both the topo quads and satellite images made this portion of the creek look like a mild grade, so I wasn’t expecting much. A little ways up, I heard the crashing sound of water again, and said “There must be a waterfall over there. Let’s go see!” Good excuse to drop our packs. Cresting a knoll, I see a cool looking ten foot spill, so I run back to get my tripod. “Holy smokes!” – more like a ten foot spill on top of a fifty footer. Sweet way to start the morning. Hiking up a little further, the sound intensified again – “Must be another waterfall!!” to which Ryan says “Aren’t we trying to get to a lake?” Hah. There’s always time to check out waterfalls wink.gif This one wasn’t very photogenic, but still big enough that I’d think it would show up on a map somewhere. After the third waterfall, I finally agreed to stop taking photos and get to the freakin lake. The brush was getting nasty at this point. Huckleberries and blueberries and devils club and all that fun stuff. But we only had to backtrack once.

Thinking we were about where we needed to climb, we crossed the creek and started up. These ridges get steep fast. It’s hard to explain to someone -- and harder to photograph -- just how nasty some of these places are. After gaining 400 feet or so, I see a cliff up ahead to the left… then a cliff up ahead to the right. A gully in between looks passable from below so we continue up. More profanities from me. Ryan says “we can make it up that” – that’s why I talked him into going – I woulda turned around right there had I been alone! biggrin.gif Finally after what seemed like ten minutes of hesitating, I decided I could do it if I didn’t have my pack on. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t any rock climbing or anything, but rotten rock covered with a couple inches of moss isn’t my idea of a good time. I tied our thin little cord to the camera bag on my back, and climbed up about thirty feet, to where I could haul up our packs. I marked this as “NASTY GULCH” on my GPS, and I’ll never go that way again (haha -- IF I ever go again) I was praying we didn’t get cliffed out above and have to backtrack down this route. Someone up in the Valhallas was listening. The angle subsided and the freakin brush got thicker than snot again. Soon we crested a rise and I could see sparkles glistening on the lower lake in front of us.

After the traditional dive in the lake to rid ourselves of sweat and dirt, and a good snack, we felt somewhat beat. “Should we camp here, and just hike up to the bigger lake?”  “Nah, let’s camp at the bigger lake” More profanities from me. I guess you could say I’m the navigator and he’s the motivator, so we’re a good team. I didn’t think the brush could get any thicker, but as we entered the sub-alpine, it did. Over our heads in places. The skeeters zoned in on us at every rest break, and cobwebs glistened in the corner of my eyes, but we were close. Up a few hundred feet and over a few humps, the lake was waiting. We hit the lake at a perfect spot to camp, as evidenced by a couple bungee cords somebody left there years ago. The shallows seemed to drop off into blackness. How long had it been since a voice broke the silence here, I’ll probably never know. But we’d made it. Ryan went over to the outfall to filter some water, and came running back to tell me there was another sweet waterfall over there. I almost didn’t care, but stumbled down anyways! As the sun set, eight ounces of whiskey never tasted better – the bugs wanted some but we didn’t share.

Saturday morning, the sun was beating down before we knew it. At around 9:30, feeling like a train had run us over, we awoke. My original plan called for an ascent of a peak above the lake, but there was no way I had the energy for that. Then Ryan starts in with his motivation. More profanities from me. A rocky crag stands guard about a thousand feet above the lake. It looked easy to get to. Yeah right. After scwhackin our way around the lake, we started to climb. It got steeper and steeper and a cliff band appeared in front of us. We scrambled up a short section of exposed rotten rock. At the top Ryan says “I just realized for the first time in my life that I’m afraid of heights.” Yeah, it was good stuff. We gained the ridge, kicked our way up some snow, and broke out on the other side with grand views of the southwest side of the Olys, and I got the photo looking down on the lake that I’d wanted.

We sat there for a while, looking back at the way we’d come. We could see the old logging road way out in the distance, with the deep valley of Harlow Creek between us. At about one o’clock, Ryan says “I think we should go all the way out today.” What the ?? But the thought of a bed and a Sunday to recover before going back to work on Monday sounded good to me. Could we do it? I knew we’d have to get back to the road before dark. So we soaked in the last of the views and took off. Ryan didn’t want to descend the same way we went up, so we went a worse way down. Sketchy stuff. I don’t know how those berry bushes have such strong roots, but I’m thankful for that. We packed up camp and started crashing down, avoiding the “nasty gulch” this time biggrin.gif

Back at the creek, our route seemed worse than before. A windstorm or some other disturbance had knocked down about 50 trees in a quarter mile. We crawled over and under, jumped across some. Ten minutes later, I look down, and the GPS I’d clipped to my camera bag was gone. Oh great. Not that I needed it for nav, but it was four hundred bucks! (and it helps…) GREAT! We backtracked, not even sure if we were going back through the maze the exact same way. Oxalis and ferns covered the ground. After twenty minutes, we were standing there looking around hopelessly. “Screw it, let’s go” I turned around, and there it was, five feet from me. I was speechless, but that renewed my energy. At 6:30pm, we left the creek and headed straight up. We had a couple hours to take our whooped bodies 1800 feet up to the top of the ridge before we even got to the road. Somehow we did it. We crawled the last little bit and collapsed when we got to the road at 10. The sunset was fading fast.

I think at that point, we both wanted to pass out, but the truck was only seven miles down the road. Walking down the road with our headlights to guide us, Ryan says “Don’t plan another trip like this for at least two years” biggrin.gif We got back to the bikes and spent a good twenty minutes banging away on mine, so that it could coast. Had to duct tape the chain to the frame. The last half mile, cruising downhill into the darkness was such a good feeling. At the truck at 1:30 a.m. Sunday ... Back at the cabin on the Hoh at 2:30, with a nice hot shower to sting all the cuts, scrapes and bruises, and a cold mountain dew, and then sleep.

I figure it was somewhere around 25 miles roundtrip and close to 6k vertical, including the road. Just a little bushwhackin fun in the Olys.
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Tazz
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 4:27 am 
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Good report Javman.  up.gif  You have some nice images in there too! Got to love a good bushwhack biggrin.gif

ps if ya ever want a bushwhack partner let me know...I LOVE to bushwhack! agree.gif  up.gif
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Phil
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 4:41 am 
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Awesome, best TR I've seen in a while: remote location, off-trail, great pics, you got it all.  Good work!
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Magellan
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 5:54 am 
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Wow, cascade hardmen got nothing on you two!  Thanks for the report from the far side of the moon.  Even if I never get there, it's nice to know someone did.  Stunning images, also!! up.gif rockband.gif
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javman
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 10:11 am 
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Thanks Tazz, Magellan, Phil & Shack smile.gif

Tazz - I might have to take you up on that offer someday. I've got a couple other schwacks planned this summer, and not too many friends who like to crawl through the brush.

Magellan - There's plenty of cascade hardmen that could kick my a**! Especially the way I'm feeling right now wink.gif A little beat up to say the least.

Shack - It's always challenging, but the beauty makes it worth the effort. (#1) The high peak in the first shot is actually Pelton (5301') viewed from the west. It's on my list too, but probably not this year. I took a couple of the Vals, but Woden (I think it's Woden) blocks the view of the glacier there. The second shot is Olympus. (#2) Yahoo Lake is on C3100. We went up C3000 - which mostly follows the ridgetop between the Sollecks and Clearwater. The DNR map (updated in 07) does not show the gate on C3000, but it's there. Closed to motorized vehicles for "Elk Habitat Management", but they've had the chainsaws up there recently thinning. I think they send the crews up from the corrections center.
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Phil
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 12:08 pm 
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javman wrote:
Tazz - I might have to take you up on that offer someday. I've got a couple other schwacks planned this summer, and not too many friends who like to crawl through the brush.

if it involves the Olys and bush-schwacking, count me in with Tazz..... looks like you could have a regular crew!
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ScottM
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 7:35 pm 
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NICE!!! up.gif  up.gif
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Tazz
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PostTue Jul 10, 2007 7:42 pm 
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Phil wrote:
javman wrote:
Tazz - I might have to take you up on that offer someday. I've got a couple other schwacks planned this summer, and not too many friends who like to crawl through the brush.

if it involves the Olys and bush-schwacking, count me in with Tazz..... looks like you could have a regular crew!

I have one condition though we must summit something not just a lake.... tongue.gif  winksmile.gif
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mtngrl
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PostWed Jul 11, 2007 6:44 am 
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Nice TR. Sounds like a great adventure, beautiful pictures too!
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JustJoe
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PostWed Jul 11, 2007 6:22 pm 
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Outstanding trip!  To me a trip like that is what exploration of our Olympics is all about.  Congratulations on attaining your goal.

Long live the bushwack!
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GoBlueHiker
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PostFri Aug 03, 2007 6:04 am 
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Fantastic!  It's always good to see a good bushwacking TR from the Queets. smile.gif  I've definitely gotta get back there sometime soon.

I laughed at the GPS story... I just got back from 16 days in SE Alaska, and my GPS got washed away when I accidentally left it on the beach and (after fighting back an hour to go get it) it'd been washed away by the tide!  Unfortunately, I never did find it again. frown.gif But c'est la vie, 'tis a good thing I'm decent with a map & compass, 'cause I had to go the remaining 12 days of the trek without it.

I love the photos.  Man do I miss the Olys.  The Rockies here don't do justice to the word "forest."  Folks here love their mountains, but just don't understand what a bunch of 4-6,000' peaks have to offer (they don't know what they're missing).

Anyhoo, I just wanted to let ya' know I appreciated reading it!

- Mike

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*** http://www.rainforesttreks.com ***
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javman
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PostSat Aug 04, 2007 11:03 am 
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Hey thanks Mike! You've probably eyed those lakes on the map before too? This trip already seems like it was a year ago. I've already forgotten most of the pain. I've gotta go back someday to get some better photos of the waterfalls smile.gif

Glad you made it home safe from Alaska. I'll be checking your site on a regular basis until you post your report wink.gif
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GoBlueHiker
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PostTue Aug 07, 2007 3:56 am 
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The Alaska TR could be a little while, although I'll send you a PM if you wanna look at the photos. up.gif

- Mike

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Harlow Bushwhack - ONP - July 5-8, 2007
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