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Ski
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PostFri May 16, 2014 2:46 am 
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Sams River Trail 05-14-14

USGS 12040500 Gaging Station 3890 CFS @ 08:00 PDT 05-14-14
Central Park 76F @ 10:35 PDT 05-14-14
Amanda Park 93 F @ 11:45 PDT 05-14-14
USGS 7.5 topo: Salmon River East
USGS 7.5 topo: Matheny Ridge
Custom Correct: Queets Valley

I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate my birthday in one of my favorite places, but unfortunately the Queets is still a little too deep for me to wade right now. I thought I'd try some place nearby- somewhere I hadn't been before. Sams is about as close to the Queets as you can get.

Sams River is a tributary of the Queets. Its mouth is right at the end of the Queets River Road, at the Queets trailhead. Sams River was named for two Quinault Indians, Harry and Sam Sams, not for some guy named Sam, and it is Sams River, not in the possessive form. [1]

According to Robert L. Wood's Olympic Mountain Trail Guide, the Sams River Trail has been abandoned for decades. The first 4 miles were within the National Park, and the remaining 7 miles on National Forest lands, most of which were either logged or burned. After poring over the maps and reading Wood's description I thought I'd see if I could get up to what he refers to as the "First Canyon" at about 3 miles.

I started at the Sams River Loop Trail trailhead. There were two other vehicles at the trailhead when I arrived. Unfortunately there were no permits in the box again, and my name isn't Joe Hiker.

queets_trailhead_registration_kiosk_051514
queets_trailhead_registration_kiosk_051514

From the trailhead at the end of the road, I followed the Sams River Loop Trail to the point where it starts to break away from the river and head west. At that point, the trail is only a few yards from the edge of the bank. Walking on the Sams River Loop Trail in a clockwise direction, the fork in the trail is easily missed. Going counter-clockwise, there is a clear trail tread which branches off the loop trail as one is approaching the river.
This image was taken at the easternmost point of the Sams Loop Trail looking east-northeast. The Sams River Trail is the tread that branches off to the right in this image:


In less than a couple hundred yards, there's a little hump at the bottom end of a ridge spur. Go straight up and over on a steep elk trail, and come down to find two old rotten logs providing a crossing point over the first drainage; a mucky, meandering little draw.

Bear east, staying parallel to the river, up on the bench in the maples, about 50 yards from the edge of the bank. Pretty soon you'll come upon a boundary marker and a benchmark.


Considering the trail has been abandoned for some time, I was surprised to find it fairly easy to find most of the way. Look for cut logs along the way for the next mile. There are a few blowdowns and snags in the way, but nothing insurmountable, and nothing that is going to take you very far away from the trail.


Just before you get to the second stream (which drains into the Sams from the south) there's a big spruce somebody cut a step into. The cut
doesn't really appear to be that old.


When I got to the second stream, the 15" diameter moss-covered log spanning the creek looked a little sketchy to me, so I put on my Tevas and waded.

On the other side of the second stream there was a nice gravel bar that looked like it might make a good campsite. I stopped and took a couple photos and let my feet dry before I put my boots back on.


Planning on going farther up, I backtracked down to the stream and went up the bank. That was probably my biggest mistake of the day. I scaled a 20-foot almost-vertical bank of wet mud at the top of which was a blowdown I literally had to crawl under after sliding my pack under it. When you get to the second stream, you want to go to the right of the spur, not to the left.


Gaining the top of the bench again, I headed east and tried to connect with trail again. After a lot of crashing over under around and through, I got into an area of NFS lands which had been logged about 25-30 years ago. The terrain got ugly. Understory growth was virtually non-existent, but trying to walk over all that rotten slash was pretty difficult. When I got into the marshy area I decided that I was not having fun.
I spotted an opening through the trees to the north, and worked that way until I reached the edge of the bank.
I was a little surprised at how high above the river I'd gotten. I was now well back away from and probably about 120-150 feet above the river, but at least I could better see the lay of the land below me.

I believe this is Pelton to the northeast:


Kloochman Rock looked like it was right across the river:


I went south and east again, hoping to connect with some kind of trail. I eventually found lots of flag tape and orange reflectors nailed to trees. These images were taken somewhere just north of the terminus of the 2810-044 road:


I spotted another opening to the north and worked my way over to the edge of the bank again, this time getting a better view of the river.


I pulled the map out again. Wood said the farthest I'd get without climbing up canyon walls was about three miles. It felt like I'd already gone four or five. The Custom Correct map shows old clearcut areas on the ground I was walking on, and a couple more to the east of me.
The gravel bar where I'd stopped earlier was starting to look much better.
So after working my way around in a big circle I went back down to the gravel bar immediately upstream from the second stream, covering a net
distance of maybe all of two miles in no less than three hours and fifteen minutes.

Found a fairly flat spot in the shade of some willows and set up my tent. I left the fly off because it was so warm, and I was hoping to see the full moon. At 7:00 pm it was still in the high 70's. I started preparing dinner.


The stove started acting up, so I had something to keep me busy after dinner: disassembling and oiling the pump cup. Nothing quite like the
necessity of recurrent field repairs to instill faith and confidence in your customers.

The sun dropped below the horizon about quarter after eight. The sky was clear overhead, but hazy to the west.

Thursday morning I got up about 9:30 am and it was already hot and the sky was getting hazy. Made some oatmeal and watched the sky get
thicker and thicker.
These two images were taken at the mouth of the second stream (visible in the lower left foreground in the first image). The first image is looking west-northwest, the second image is looking northeast:


Packed up and left camp about noon and headed back down. The way out was much easier. I ran into a couple more boundary marker signs I didn't notice on the way in. These NPS and NFS markers face opposite directions. In the third shot the NPS sign is in the foreground, the NFS sign is behind it.


Got back down to the trailhead in pretty good time, and saw somebody across the river with a boat. Walked down and watched a party of
three cross the Queets in kayaks. Gail, Steve, and Dick had two boats between them, and had just come down from Pelton. Gail said the trail
was navigable all the way up but there was a big blowdown between Paradise and Pelton.


Drove up to Queets to the Trading Post. Two young women were out in front at a table serving lunch. They were raising money to send one of
their girls to summer camp, so I opted for the barbecued chicken and mac salad. I took my plate out to one of the picnic tables across the
parking lot and remembered I needed a napkin. I walked back over to their table, but they didn't have any napkins. I turned around and saw
that a huge crow was helping himself to my mac salad! I hollered at him and he left me a little bit.


Left Queets about half past two and went up to Kalaloch. Got a latte, but they don't pump gas any more at Kalaloch. Talked to Alec, the manager, and they don't sell cigarettes anymore either. They can't compete with the no-tax Queets Trading Post, so buy your gas and cigarettes at Queets. He noted their highest profit item is the latte machine.

Went down to Ashenbrenner [2] for another lunch and talked briefly to another greedy crow, but he didn't get my lunch this time.


Had to make the obligatory stop to check out the Spruce Burls. I just can't drive by without taking another look and walking the fun-house trail they cut through the grove.


Went down to the beach for a little bit and watched the front work its way in.


All in all, a good couple days out in the middle of nowhere.


[1] (Gods and Goblins - A Field Guide to Place Names of Olympic National Park 1984 Smitty Parratt)

[2] spelling of "Ashenbrenner" corrected in text. caption on photo is incorrect. 083114 bk

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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kite
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PostFri May 16, 2014 7:55 am 
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Sweet TR
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Ski
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PostFri May 16, 2014 1:07 pm 
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thank you. I've ammended some of the text to try to make clear the locations in some of the images. 05/16/14 @ 13:06 PDT.

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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HumpnoocheeGirl
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PostFri May 16, 2014 1:48 pm 
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It's always nice to read your reports smile.gif

Happy Birthday Ski  birthday.gif

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Ski
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PostSat May 17, 2014 12:43 am 
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thank you thank you! smile.gif

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Ancient Ambler
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PostSat May 17, 2014 8:55 am 
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Ski wrote:
All in all, a good couple days out in the middle of nowhere.


Very enjoyable TR and photos, Ski.  Looks like you came up with an admirable birthday present for yourself.  Thanks for sharing with us.
And Happy Birthday!
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Phil
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PostSat May 17, 2014 11:07 pm 
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Good stuff!
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