Forum Index > Trip Reports > Enchanted Valley Backpack and Bear: 4/8 – 4/11/05
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frankm3
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 4:21 pm 
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This area is pretty well known for having a high bear population, and with spring upon us, Bushwhacker and I were looking forward to getting and out and seeing our first bear of the year.

The drive to the Graves Creek trailhead via Olympia/ Aberdeen/ Hoquaim took about about 3.5 – 4.0 hours.  The South Shore Quinault Road has the Quinault Lodge, the Rain Forest Resort, The world’s largest Sitka Spruce, and a couple neat little stores for a last cup of real coffee, etc. on the way out to the TH. 

We arrived at the TH Friday at about 5:00 – 5:30. and planned to stop at Pony Bridge for the night, which is the first campground at about 2.5 miles from the TH.  After hiking a short distance, a grouse flew out of the brush and walked right up to us on the trail, and began to make very obvious attempts to secure handouts from us (we didn’t feed it), which did not discourage the bird; it motored up the trail after us for quite a while.  Every time we thought we’d lost him, he’d appear from around the bend, still following us.  Later that night an elk wandered by our site while we relaxed in camp.

On Saturday, we hiked from Pony Bridge to Pyrites Creek, a distance of about 7.5 miles.  Pyrites Creek has some pretty nice sites with steel cable/ metal clip bear wires on both sides of the creek.

In general, the trail is truly breathtaking as it alternates between mossy old growth/ rain forest, river walking, and lush grassy meadow areas, it’s pretty easy to see why the area has such a high wildlife population.  The trail was used by all sorts of animals; we saw numerous signs/ tracks of bear, elk, deer, coyote, and lynx or bobcat too.  We kept our eyes open for bears on the way in, but only saw some scat and tree scrapes.  We saw several deer, and a couple large groups of elk bedded down or grazing.   There is a washed out section of trail at about 7.5 miles from TH that requires a short trip through old blowdowns and deadfall; by following the stream channel, you will rejoin the trail after a few minutes along the river’s edge.

We hiked into the Enchanted Valley on Sunday morning; which was about 3 miles or so each way from our campsite to the Ranger Station/ Chalet.  At this point in the trip, in spite of having just traveled through some of the best black bear habitat we’d ever seen, we had still not seen our first bear.  We were beginning to wonder whether or not we were there too early to see any activity; as we were entering a meadow a little less than a mile from the chalet, we had a great encounter:

The trail was rising gently and moving into open country, and just as the meadow came into view, to my left and ahead, about 25 yards away, was a HUGE black bear with his back to us and moving off a bit.  As you can see from the attached photo, he was a pretty large specimen.

We both stopped walking immediately and talked to the bear to let the bear know we were there; he turned around and looked at us, and moved about 15-20 yards off and behind a log.  We continued standing there and kept talking to the bear.  The bear moved from behind the log and began to come back in our direction slowly, moving back about half the original distance he retreated and stood there looking at us.  At this point, we really had no idea of the bear’s demeanor and/ or willingness to get along with us. 

Well, then after another minute or so of all of us standing there looking at each other, and us talking to the bear, he decided to get comfortable and sit down to watch us.  This made us relax quite a bit; we began to think that perhaps this bear might be willing to get along with us.  Then, he laid down and began taking a nap.  He napped for a few minutes and got up and began grazing.  We settled in and began taking photos, and watching the bear go about his business.  After a while, we started moving across the meadow, and continued talking to the bear to let him know where we were, staying close together as we moved along the trail.  The bear would occasionally glance over at us, and then go back to grazing. 

We walked on into the Enchanted Valley over the new steel bridge, and had lunch at the chalet, took pictures, and watched a herd of elk on a hillside across the valley.  I got tailed by a raven who circled over me as I walked from the chalet to one of the outhouses. 

On the return trip from the valley to camp, we got ready as we approached the meadow, in case our friend the bear was still there.  He had moved all of 100 yards in the 2-3 hours we were gone.  We saw the bear immediately upon entering the meadow, and we called out to him as soon as we saw him. 

This time, generally the bear barely gave us a look.  We settled in again and took some more photos, and watched him some more.  BW noticed he was now on the opposite side of the meadow from this morning, and we talked about it would be neat to check out where he had been earlier.  BW moved off a few steps, and the bear stopped grazing, and turned and stared right at us.  We noticed that the bear wasn’t real happy with us splitting up, and BW moved back over towards me.  The bear immediately returned to grazing.  Again, the bear took little notice as we moved off and returned to camp.

With Sunday night came the rain, and it was fortunate there was an ample supply of downfall and other readily available firewood so early in the season.  We made a campfire, which was a great help in staying relatively dry.  I looped my drinking cup around the string on my bear bag and when it came down in the morning, it had rained about 2” into my cup over the course of the night.  Both our tents had some kind of leakage issues; and by morning, we were ready to pack up and head out after such a wet night.  We covered the 10 miles back to the car at a reasonable clip, making it to the car by about 2:30 pm, and stopped immediately at the general store for a cup of hot chocolate. 

We met two solo hikers, and a couple backpacking together over the course of the entire weekend, all super nice folks.  We both had a great time on the trip; BW is an overall first-rate guy, a fellow bear/ wildlife enthusiast, and great spinner of campfire yarns.  Although we didn’t see a ton of bears, we agreed it’s not the quantity, but the quality of encounter that matters, and we rate our first 2005 encounter a 10! 

The stats on the trip: 26.2 miles R/T to Enchanted Valley Chalet/ Ranger Station.  The elevation gain is a difference of 1,700' from the TH to chalet, but there is a good bit of added elevation lost and re-gained again as the trail drops/ climbs the small drainages adjacent to the Quinault River.




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enchanted valley bear
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bear napping near enchanted valley
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bear grazing on spring forage
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jennmonkey
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 4:43 pm 
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Wow, that bear is a beauty. Good thing he was friendly. Would love to do that hike sometime.
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wildernessed
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 5:07 pm 
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Nice shots, quite the build after a winter.

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sooperfly
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 5:11 pm 
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Nice sized critter, Frank. I like the nap shot!   up.gif
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JimK
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 5:14 pm 
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Nice report. I had not heard that the bridge had been replaced. On my last trip in I met a bear just past Pyrites Creek. He was waking down the trail right towards me. We were both surprised. On the way back, a day later, I  again met a bear in the same spot.

One of the reasons to do this trip early is to see the waterfalls coming down from the steep slopes above the valley. Was there enough snow up high to have many waterfalls?

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Hiking Northwest
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Bushwacker
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 5:32 pm 
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This was one of the most awesome and enjoyable hikes I've ever been on. It had just about everything. Weather changed as often as the terrain we were travelling thru. Sun, rain, and snow. A trail that ran thru deep, dark rain forest, to meadows just beginning to sprout spring heather and clover, to river views and huge washouts, then ended at the Chalet, surrounded by peaks, glaciers, and waterfalls. Then, of course, there was the bear! I've been lucky enough to see quite a few bears on the hikes I've been on the last few years, but this one was certainly the biggest. To stand there in the presence of this bear, knowing that by sheer size, it had to be  high in the pecking order of the valley wildlife. And this bear let us share time with it. It was amazing.

Frank and myself had a lot of laughs and some great experiences. We're already talking about a return trip.

Here are a few pics of the hike.

BW

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"Wait by the river long enough and the bodies of your enemies will float by"...Sun Tsu




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gary
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 5:33 pm 
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Thanks Frank and Bushwhacker. I was anxiously awaiting your trip report. Me and a couple of my sons are debating the same trip this coming weekend.

I want to stay out of snow, but I'm leary of difficult stream crossings (one of my sons is pretty inexperienced) and it sounds like there's gonna be a lot more rain by the weekend. I'm also curious about the waterfalls...

Glad you had a good trip.
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frankm3
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 5:37 pm 
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Thanks for all the feedback guys.

I was really impressed at his bulk for it being so early in the year.  We were speculating that it stands to reason in some regards; he was huge, and typically the largest, most dominant bears are the animals that wake up first in spring, ready to re-claim the prime feeding spots, and starting the process of adding weight and getting ready for another winter.

I will say I would love to see what this same bear looks like in the fall.  Even now, in April, he's huge, and that's without all the winter weight he lost!

Jim, there were a lot of cascades/ waterfalls on the wall behind the chalet; you are right in that the area is worth the trip alone just for the scenery.  BW should be posting some of his photos from the chalet area when he chimes in.

Most all the crossings were relatively easy, those that didn't have easy fords typically had footlogs of varying sketchiness.  I don't have a problem with that sort of thing to the extent that some others do, but it seems that with a good set of 'waterproof' boots or crossing shoes, and some hiking poles most of the fords should be no problem whatsoever.
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Newt
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 6:04 pm 
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Great report Frank and BW. Glad you both had a super time. Awesome looking bears.

Frank, I'm getting a feeling you need to change your handle here. Something that more appropriately represents a bear kinda guy. You know what I mean? BearTracker, Bearman. Sumpin, cause you got the knack. Yup.

up.gif  up.gif

Newt

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Bushwacker
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 6:07 pm 
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Lighting and weather conditions made it difficult to get good shots of the waterfalls cascading down the headwalls.
This is one of the better pics along with a shot of the new bridge.

BW

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"Wait by the river long enough and the bodies of your enemies will float by"...Sun Tsu




Valley-Waterfalls.jpg
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Enchanted-Valley-Bridge.jpg
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Andrew
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 7:00 pm 
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Nice report and great pictures.  I've yet to run into a bear while hiking, I imagine it to be exhilirating!
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jimmymac
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 7:08 pm 
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Clearly, that bear knows an appreciative audience when he sees one. I'm glad you two got such a great show. Thanks for bringing the experience on home for the rest of us.  up.gif

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"Profound serenity is the product of unfaltering Trust and heightened vulnerability."
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jenjen
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 7:57 pm 
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How cool that the bear stuck around like that!  All I ever get to see is their rumps as they run back into the woods.

Sounds like you 2 had a great trip.

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Quark
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PostTue Apr 12, 2005 8:18 pm 
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frankm3 wrote:
At this point, we really had no idea of the bear’s demeanor and/ or willingness to get along with us... he laid down and began taking a nap. ..

It's likely he felt comfortable around you  smile.gif .  You're probably a decendant of St. Francis of Assisi.

Grand Master 'Schwack's a great hiking buddy; we had fun on Copper Lake trail, too, right-o?

Nice pics, both of you.  That's some camera you got there - you can see the individual clumps of  hair on the bair.

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kleet
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PostWed Apr 13, 2005 6:56 am 
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What a great trip!  Nice TR by both of you, and great photos.

Frank, what kind of zoom does your new camera have? That fat boy looks like he's sharing your campsite in your pics, but looks like he's in the next county in one of BW's shots.

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Enchanted Valley Backpack and Bear: 4/8 – 4/11/05
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