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.