This section includes all of the Olympic Mountains and the eastern part of Jefferson County from Port Townsend to the foothills of the Olympics.
Here is the link to the PNT Maps for this section: PNT Section 9 Strip Maps
Monday, Aug 21: Permit Pick-up and Bogachiel Car Camp
On this day, we drove our cars to where we would start and end the trail. We drove both our cars to the Port Angeles National Park Visitor Center and got our permit for our planned hike. It was busy in the center, but the Wilderness Information Center rangers were very helpful. We originally had planned the following campsites: Boulder Lake, Rocky Creek on the Sol Duc River Trail, Canyon Camp on the Deer Lake Trail above Sol Duc Hot Springs, Hyak Shelter on the Bogachiel River, and Bogachiel Camp near the Bogachiel Ranger Station. We applied for our permit on-line and got back a reply a few days before we were to go. Instead of Rocky Creek, they moved us to Sol Duc Park. That was better! They also moved us to Canyon Camp #1, which was worse! We decided to skip Canyon Camp and go straight to the Bogachiel and get to Twenty-One Mile Shelter. It was a good plan. Then, Elaine and I both drove our cars all the way to Bogachiel State Park to car camp there for the first night of our trip.
We were going to park our car at the state park for the 5 nights we were going to be gone but the state ranger said it would cost us $10 per night. Instead, we decided to park at the National Forest Trailhead for the Bogachiel River. We already had our pass for parking there.
Tuesday, August 22: Storm King RS to Boulder Lake – 12.5 Miles
From our car camp at Bogachiel State Park, we dropped the Highlander at the Bogachiel Trailhead 5 miles from the state park. The Undie Road has been washed out and Clallam and Jefferson Counties have constructed a by pass up over a hill to access the upper parts of the road where people have their homes. We had also decided we would not do this road walk on this trip, but save it for when we would complete the coast part of the PNT. After dropping the Highlander, we took the Prius back to Storm King Ranger Station on Lake Crescent. After just last visit to front country restrooms, we set out on the Barnes Creek trail at 7:45am.
The trail goes up a good trail along the creek until it starts to turn away and climb steep switchbacks on the Aurora Divide Trail. After gaining 4500′, we came to the crest of the Divide and the intersection with the Aurora Ridge Trail.
The sign gives info for distances to and from: Lake Crescent, Aurora Creek, SoleDuck Rd., Happy Lake, Boulder Lake, Boulder Lake Trailhead, and Boulder Creek Camp.
The weather was warm but not too much. As we hiked along the divide toward our camp at Boulder Lake, we enjoyed a gently graded trail that had great views to the west – our future direction.
We continued south until it was time for snack at an opening which provided an excellent vista, both east and west.
I was a bit disconcerting as we reached the end of the divide. The trail continued to descend below the level of Boulder Lake. We were ready to reach our destination – hot and tired after 12 miles and all that elevation gain.
Finally, after exactly 8 hours, we reached Boulder Lake to set up camp. We were all by ourselves. We had seen no one since the trail runner we met on the lower Barnes Creek trail. All we had seen were birds and squirrels. Many people ask about bears. We’ve seen them many times but feel in no way threatened by them. As soon as a bear is aware of our presence, it finds the quickest way to get away from us. We keep a clean camp and store food responsibly. The Olympic National Park requires the use of bear-resistance containers in this area. We purchased a Bear Vault that held almost all our food. It’s an added weight but a necessary addition to our gear. Even if we didn’t have a Bear Vault, we’d still feel safe with storing our food by hanging it in a tree. We fear mice, deer, and raccoons more that bears in camp. I’ve had pack straps and boots chewed extensively by the smaller critters – even to the point of destruction! We’ve woken up in the night to observe deer chewing the straps on our hiking poles. They make a slimy, shredded mess! So now we store our poles in our tent, too.
Boulder Lake sits at 4350′ on the Boulder Creek side of Aurora Divide and Crystal Ridge. While we set up camp, a couple young guys showed up unexpectedly and started whooping about reaching the lake. Seemed they had no packs. They dove and splashed in the lake for a short while and then completely disappeared back down the trail leaving us alone in the serenity of the lake again.
We cooked a quick freeze-dried meal and turned in as the sun disappeared from the peak. Tomorrow we were heading for Sol Duc Park, 12 miles away over Appleton Pass. It was a good and successful first day of this trip.
Wednesday, August 23: Boulder Lake to Sol Duc Park – 11.8 Miles
Our goal for this day was to finally to get on the PNT at the intersection of the Boulder Lake Trail and the Appleton Pass Trail. After that, we would head for our next camp at Sol Duc Park. We were up at 6am to have a quick oatmeal breakfast with ONLY ONE cup of coffee. (Our trips typically have been based on TWO cups of coffee before even getting out of the tent!) We found that the 1 cup rule really helps us get more miles in during a day.
We hit the trail at 7:45 and made the 2.8 miles to the intersection in 90 minutes arriving at 9:15. From here, we headed west up the drainage of Boulder Creek. We followed a we trodden path gently upward until it crossed Boulder Creek to the south. There, the trail starts climbing pretty steeply. We came across another ‘senior’ couple coming down from the pass where they stayed for a couple nights. They were very knowledgeable about the Olympics and the many trails. They had a lot of questions for us and were very interesting to talk with for about 15 minutes. They wished us a good trip and we headed up the rocky switchbacks. Farther up we came out into many bushy areas that are often swept by avalanches in the winter time.
Making the 4.6 miles in 2 1/2 hours, we enjoyed a break in the warm sun around noon. We found no one here. There is a lake nearby, Oyster Lake, where we have camped before, so there may have been people there, but we didn’t check it out. We had more miles to do.
It was 2.3 miles down to the intersection with the Sol Duc Trail. Then we took a left and headed up the Sol Duc River Trail toward Sol Duc Park. Evidently, yesterday took quite a bit out of me since I was really going slow. We managed to travel the very scenic trail as it climbed through lower Sol Duc Park until it came to the designated camping area. We got set up in a very cozy site where Mike cooked as usual as we were entertained by a small waterfall right next to our campsite.
Thursday, August 24: Sol Duc Park to Twenty-One Mile Shelter – 13.8 Miles
Clouds and mist greeted us this morning. We were hoping to get some wonderful views from the High Divide Trail but it didn’t look like this was going to happen.
Here we are at Heart Lake, which is really shaped like a Valentine heart. It was quiet and pleasant at 8:00 in the morning. There were several people camped up here but they were not on the trail yet.
Our route took us up through tundra-like meadows to the High Divide Trail. We’ve been along here before but it was kind of special since there was no one else on the trail – until we got to Bogachiel Peak – and here we made a slight mistake.
There were a couple men sitting at a trail intersection on the east end of Bogachiel Peak. We chatted with them for a few minutes. They were coming up from Hoh Lake and heading toward the High Divide. We were coming down. We departed, wishing them a pleasant day and continued on. After 10 minutes or so, we rounded a corner, and there was a lake…a lake I’d never seen before. Uh-oh. Something wasn’t right. We checked our GPS mapping software and saw that we were on the Hoh Lake Trail. We turned around and went back to that intersection where we visited with the other hikers. Even though we’d been here before, we took a wrong branch at the trail intersection. We determined that the guys we talked to were sitting right in front of the trail signs. So we took the right trail and continued on.
This part contours a bit and then drops through meadows toward The Potholes and Deer Lake. We stopped at Deer Lake for lunch and saw just a few people walking past. The day was getting more sunny but there was a cool breeze too.
After lunch, we went back to find the Mink Lake Trail that would take us over to the Bogachiel Trail. The rocky trail climbs through woods and then contours north over a divide into the Bogachiel drainage. A father and daughter came down the trail with minimal gear. They were on a day hike from Sol Duc Hot Springs to Mink Lake to Deer Lake and back to Sol Duc. They seemed to be having a nice time. They were surprised by how the trail they had been on seemed to cling to the hillside with steep slopes above and below.
As we crossed the divide, we could see west for a long, long way. The trail was very good but not as precipitous as the father-daughter duo suggested. The route stayed pretty close to the ridgeline heading for the Low Divide. We wondered if this was the antithesis to the High Divide and that this area had been originally explored from the west. We completed this 3.6 miles from Deer Lake and came upon the Bogachiel Trail junction.
This part of our journey was quite special and pleasant. We could see both north and south across country we’d never seen. The trail proceeded up and down gently until we finally came to the end to the divide, and we started to switchback down toward the north fork of the Bogachiel River. We were questioning where we were as we expected to be close to camp soon. Eventually, we came upon the site of Twenty-one Mile Shelter. There was a good campsite here but the shelter was no longer standing. Here is a pair of photos that show how it changed between 1998 and 1999.
We stayed here even though most of the remains of the cabin had been burned or taken away. It was much more cleaned up than the right image depicts. It was a pleasant camp with no one else around. We don’t think too many people actually come this way.
Friday, August 25: Twenty-one Mile Shelter to Bogachiel Trailhead – 19 miles.
Camp was packed up and ready to go by 7:30. Coffee and breakfast were pretty quick and our routine was becoming efficient.
Bogachiel Camp was our next intended stop but as we walked Elaine says, “Have you considered going all the way out today?”
I said, “Yep, but that’s like 20 miles or so.”
Elaine responded, “But eventually we have to do that much anyway, right? We might as well see if we can do it, OK?”
I agreed. It was mostly gently down and the day was just pleasantly warm and breezy. Perfect for doing a bunch of miles. A beautiful stop was on the North Fork Bogachiel bridge. I was amazed as to how pristine this river and its surroundings were. Absolutely clear water and rugged, sculpted exposed rock river banks made a big impression and reminded me that we need to make sure this stays unaffected by human presence.
And then we continued farther to find the meadow where Hyak Shelter stands. Also, in very good condition. It seems the higher the shelters are, the more they are affected by the bad weather and heavy snows breaking them down.
We had moved from the south bank to the north bank and quickly came to Fifteen Mile Shelter that was in much better condition.
On we went, and came to Flapjack Camp. We found some trail maintenance gear but no personnel along the trail. We did find this strange image on a piece of shelf fungus though on the sign indicating Flapjack Camp.
After a bite of lunch with lots of bugs, we tramped down the trail to find the trail crew working on the stock section of trail across the river and some sections on our side too. One of the guys gave us directions as to where to get some good water from the river.
There were signs for Bogachiel Ranger Station and camp, but we couldn’t actually locate them. It was to our benefit, then, that we would not stop here to make camp.
Continuing on with increasingly sore shoulders and feet, it was fast hiking as the terrain was quite flat and gentle. We reached the trailhead at just 6pm far ahead of schedule. We were happy to be out and ready to celebrate our longest, farthest day on the PNT so far.
Glad that the Highlander was there, intact, and started. We took off for Storm King RS to pick up the Prius. After that, we drove the 40 minutes to Port Angeles where we had some eyes and stomachs ready for beer and pizza at Gordy’s Pizza and Pasta.
They are always a good bet for this and we enjoyed our feast immensely. It also got us nicely prepared for our drive home to Port Ludlow and clean-up time.
It was a great trip to places we’d never been and trails we’d never walked.