A date with Colonel Bob (Olympic Pen) - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
High on the Mountain Top
 
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Default A date with Colonel Bob (Olympic Pen)

A slightly late and kinda brief TR from a trip last week, into the Colonel Bob wilderness area. "Never heard of it" you say? Well, it's a somewhat obscure little wilderness area on the south flank of the Quinault Valley on the southwestern Olympic Peninsula. It is also a long time resident of my "ranked" list-somewhere in the 150-range, I believe (I know, I know, better see a shrink for that small OCD problem...).

I headed down Sunday night, stopping in Aberdeen for the night and channeling the spirit of Kurt Cobain prior to heading into the woods. Beautiful weather for these parts! The Colonel Bob trailhead was deserted, and I soon found myself hiking into the heart of the greatest Douglas Fir forest on Earth (5 of the 10 largest known occur in this area). The forest was well beyond my expectations, including a few giants:



Things rapidly deteriorated as I headed up the trail, soon encountering the start of the blowdowns. The first was painful and could be bypassed with a little time off-trail, but the second big one went on forever and had bluffs above, canyon below. After one particularly fun hour where I traveled 100m horizontally, I retreated in despair (took 55 minutes for that same distance in reverse, knowing that my first overnighter of the year was done. Shots of a small portion of the chaos:



Back to the ranger station (closed), and the big sign noting the impassability of many of the area trails. Hmmm, need an alternate...

Ultimately, I settled on the south side access, known as the upper Pete's Creek Trail. Higher start, with areas of potentially active avalanche slopes. I decided to evaluate things as I encountered them, vainly hoping for possible winter routes. To make things interesting, much of the road in to the trailhead consisted of two narrow ruts in the deep snow. I eventually made the trailhead, attempted to turn around and promptly buried my Jeep in the snowfield. An extended stretch of digging that has since morphed into a case of full-blown sciatica was required to extricate the vehicle (almost had another Walbran scenario there, Mick...) I bravely turned and fled, camping a short distance away in a bare patch under some trees.

As it turned out, the trail was a good second choice, with snow remaining generally quite good up to the rather ominous Gibson Slide. Lots of avy debris down into the mature forest on the edge of the slide provided a reminder, but I managed to find a fairly safe route around (I'll never say totally) and quickly made my way up to Moonshine Flats, a common campsite for the route. Colonel Bob was not far away, but in the warmth of noon, a near-continuous cascade of rock and ice was falling from the slopes of both Colonel Bob peak, and Mt. Gibson. Not good! I opted to stop at the (still-scenic) flats, enjoying views down Fletcher Canyon and into the Olympic interior.

A couple of shots of Mt. Gibson, the slide-maker:



The flats, and Fletcher Canyon:



More flats, and the ridge near Colonel Bob:



And a few big hemlocks near the foot of the slide:



The descent went quickly. In the end, a very pleasant trip to an overlooked area, even though the summit remained elusive.

Oh but the desert is glorious now
With marching clouds in the blue sky
And cool winds blowing.
The smell of sage is sweet in my nostrils
And the luring trail leads onwards
-Everett Ruess
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 01:02 PM
vic
 
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yes it is an overlooked area. I have hiked over there a lot through many trails and have missed that part. Thanks for pics and story.
I'll check it out sometime.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 06:58 PM
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Another classic moment brought to you by the makers of TMC's Excellent Adventures ... []

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quote:Originally posted by Too Many Canyons
To make things interesting, much of the road in to the trailhead consisted of two narrow ruts in the deep snow. I eventually made the trailhead, attempted to turn around and promptly buried my Jeep in the snowfield. An extended stretch of digging that has since morphed into a case of full-blown sciatica was required to extricate the vehicle (almost had another Walbran scenario there, Mick...) I bravely turned and fled, camping a short distance away in a bare patch under some trees.

Nice trip Dude! [^]
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 07:50 PM
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More discussion necessary
Interesting destination, hope the back recovers soon
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 07:53 PM
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Cool! Thanks for more info on this area..nice TR
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 08:03 PM
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These kind of bad bushwacking trips can be discouraging and need a pristine reward. They can be a love hate relationship! Still you had a fine adventure and if your like me you'll be back. Well perhaps not if this place was 150th on your list! Nice trees and glad you got into the subalpine after your initial adventure.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 09:09 PM
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Too bad about the first choice impass! Looks like an angry child threw his lincoln logs everywhere! Nice pictures! Hope the back heals, ok. Exploring solo always has that extra precaution.
Rehab on my knee seems to be about 50 % Can't wait! Man, I've been driving my family bats (and my bosses) with cabin fever. I even got written up at work for my bluesie attitude. Usually, I am the source of "entertainment" for the crew.
Your pictures Cheer me up and make me want to take a drive up north and get out in the snow for some soft walking about. We'll see...Gotta throw it past upper management...wife...hehe You always get to these amazing places for us to see. Thanks!
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 01-28-2008, 09:30 PM
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No slot canyons in Col. Bob?
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 01-29-2008, 08:13 AM Thread Starter
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EAK: I didn't think there were any bad bushwacking adventures![]. Actually, if a hike is put on the list, it means that I want to do it really badly. There just happen to be ~280 canyons/hikes/climbs that I want to do badly enough to put them on a big list.

Dru: West Fork of the Humptulips (now that's a good name!), and Howe Creek, and Ziegler Creek, and...well, one I drove over, one I hiked next to, and one is a PNW group project in the area. Canyons are where ya find'em.

Spunky: Geez, you make it sound like I'm a magnet for these things

RM: The sciatica is an interesting thing. It's the first condition I've come across that actually feels better when I hike. I've tried to explain this to my boss and told him that medical hiking leave is necessary, but I don't think he's buying it.

Mick: Actually, you remember the trip I did out to the Valhallas a couple of years ago...
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 02-01-2008, 11:56 AM
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TMC, it's only an obscure wilderness if you live on the other side of the border

Col. Bob is sort of the signature hike of a Grays Harbor-based club of hikers/climbers called the Olympians. One of its longtime members, an acquaintance, will make his 200th hike to the top of Bob this spring or summer, and a friend is urging me to go along -- it would be my first hike to the top, from which I understand are superb views (on a clear day) out west to the big blue and north into the interior of the Olympics, including a good look at Mount Olympus' south face and the associated Valhallas. Which is to say, you outta go back and try again!
Peace,
Greg

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post #11 of (permalink) Old 02-01-2008, 12:13 PM Thread Starter
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gj: I'd love to go out and have another go, once the main trail is cleared (it will be quite the operation to do so). The only problem is that if I head into that area again, another even more desired hike (Queets River Trail) will probably pull me in. Hey, it's probably the greatest sitka stand on Earth! While I know the road into the latter area is presently unworkable, I have attempted a back way in, timing it rather well as it coincided with, or was within a week or two of, the storm that blew the bridge along the regular access road. But that's another story...
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 02-01-2008, 12:28 PM
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No worries about the Queets, which I have hiked and is indeed a grand adventure. ONP is set to push a new route into and reopen the Queets Road by late March, so you can go the standard way once the river is low enough to ford. Another to put on your must-do list is Enchanted Valley along the East Fork Quinault, absolutely rampant with elk, bear, other critters and waterfalls, but that might be awhile since the approach Graves Creek Road got washed out in several places during the December storms. Don't want to overwhelm you with ideas, but another epic hike in that area is the Skyline Trail, one of the wildest in ONP.

By the way, the Pete's Creek Trail is the preferred route to Col. Bob, by most hikers anyway.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 02-01-2008, 12:59 PM Thread Starter
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Actually, I rather like the north side access, but then I'm a big tree afficianado, and that trail has few . I had heard that NPS was planning on re-routing the washout, but didn't have a timeline on it. Besides, my back route gave me (most) winters and springs as visitation times as well. And hey, nothing better than a little wet side off-trail to keep sanity from setting in!

Enchanted Valley was one of the first hikes I ever did in the Olympics. I did it as a March trip and had warm, dry conditions and the entire valley bottom to myself. There was a herd of Elk milling around the old chalet and I spent the better part of a day just lying on the grass watching them, and the avalanches roaring down the cliffs. One of those trips that sticks in my memory!

I haven't done Skyline, but I'd certainly like to. The Duckabush route into La Crosse basin is another one that I wish I had more time for, as well.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 02-01-2008, 08:23 PM
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Great report Chris, impressive tree pictures.
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