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Trip Report

Enchanted Valley via East Fork Quinault River, O'Neil Pass — Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Olympic Peninsula
Enchanted Valley Chalet, Looking North to Anderson Glacier
We hiked 51 miles over 4 days, starting at Graves Creek and ending at Staircase at Lake Cushman. Day 1 (Thursday) - 9 Miles from the parking area before the washout to one mile before O'Neil Creek Campground. Well maintained trail, great scenery, beautiful campsites. We decided to camp at a sandy riverbed just off the trail. Day 2 (Friday) - 9ish Miles from our campsite to Enchanted Valley. Before we left we stopped by the ranger station, where we were told there was a month old fire that had grown to only 0.75 acres, across the river from the Pyrites Creek Campground. Well on Thursday night, apparently the fire blew up and started torching a bunch of trees across the river from the trail. By Friday, the smoke had filled the entire valley which wasn't too much fun to hike in, or camp in. By the time we arrived in Enchanted Valley, there were a couple of planes and two helicopters flying the valley, appearing to be constantly monitoring the fire. We weren't too concerned, since it's a pretty damp climate, but it was just an inconvenience. We didn't have views of the mountains, and hiking & sleeping through thick smoke didn't help our lungs. We found a pretty sweet camp spot across the river on a little sandy island, which even had a 5 foot deep swimming hole that we did cannonballs in! Day 3 (Saturday) - 13.5 Miles from Enchanted Valley, over O'Neil Pass, to Marmot Lake. A mile out of enchanted valley we came across a large herd of elk for about 1/3rd of a mile. We saw five or six bull's and probably another 90 elk. We took this section slow, making sure to talk a lot as they were no more than 100 feet away from us, we didn't want to startle any of them. Eventually we made it out of that amazing experience, but now we were socked in with extremely thick fog / smoke the entire day. We couldn't see more than 50 feet away from us at times, so any of the views we were looking forward to unfortunately were non-existent. About half of this trail was thin (8-16 inches wide), overgrown and full of softball size loose and jagged rocks. Most of O'Neil Pass is a traverse that isn't completely level, so the left side of your body (high side) takes a beating from the uneven trail. By the end of this hike our feet were blistered and my left hip stabilizing muscles were killing me. We arrived to Marmot lake from the west side, instantly jumped into the alpine lake which was warmer than outside, boiled some water for dinner and made camp. There's a warning on the opposite side of the lake from where we entered that warns about Giardia, which I wish we would have seen when we came in via O'Neil Pass before we jumped in. Luckily none of us came down with anything, but it still stressed us out a bit. Day 4 (Sunday) - 19.1 Miles from Marmot Lake to Staircase. We woke up at 6am to find that the smoke and fog had FINALLY cleared, and we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise! There's a high point 100 feet south of Marmot Lake by the Bear Line that has a gorgeous view over the valley 1,500 feet below. We could hear some elk calls in the distance, but the sunrise and thin wispy clouds were definitely the highlight. We packed up and hit the road by 8:30am, with the initial plan being to stop at Camp Pleasant. Unfortunately the majority of this trail was much like O'Neil Pass; thin, overgrown and full of rough / jagged small rocks that moved our feet around ever so slightly in our boots, making yesterdays blisters even worse. First Divide was an amazing view at the top, and Home Sweet Home was a camp that made us jealous with it's huge open meadows at the top of a valley with 5,500 ft mountains above. By halfway down first Divide, we were so beat up that we knew if we tried to hike again the next day we might not make it, so we decided to push our bodies to the limit and just make it home to Staircase, giving us an extra day for our bodies to recover before heading back to work. This may have been the greatest and dumbest decision we've ever made while hiking, as our bodies were pushed to the limits, but it made for a great story!
View from just above Marmot Lake after cresting O'Neil Pass
Bridge about 5 miles into the hike.
Sunrise @ Marmot Lake
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