The Sol Duc Valley of Olympic National Park is known for its mossy rainforests, beautiful falls, and sulfurous hot springs. In addition to established trails such as Lover’s Lane, the area provides opportunities for off-trail adventures. Our group of interns sampled some of both options. While the others hiked to the Sol Duc Falls, Ranger Kelsey, Natasha, and I explored down river from the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. We started off by hiking down a service road away from the resort. The grass was a bit overgrown but it was still easy walking. Eventually, we took a right in hopes of reaching the river. From that point onwards, we were brush-bashing, or as it is more commonly called, bushwhacking. We wove through groves of trees, leaped over muddy puddles, and evaded prickly plants. Soon we reached the pebbly bank of the Sol Duc. At first, we avoided getting our feet wet which led to some tricky maneuvering over and under log jams on the river. My long legs gave me somewhat of an advantage when it came to jumping between logs but it was still quite a puzzle to figure out where to step next.
Quickly, we forgot about keeping dry and decided to go straight down the river. The water was cold but bearable and it actually felt pretty refreshing. I wore shorts and water sandals but hiking boots and pants seemed to work just as well. As we wandered down the river, we saw lots of butterflies both dead and alive. Eventually we reached a large log jam overlooking a deep azure pool teeming with large fish that could either be trout or salmon, we were not sure. We ate lunch there then ventured back into the woods to our right to find the road. Everything was a healthy shade of either green or brown with the exception of the bright red bunchberries dotting the ground. The grandeur of our surroundings caused us to slow our pace to take it all in. Kelsey attempted to execute some gymnastics on a log but ended up laying on the ground after receiving a face full of moss which promoted much laughter. We reached the road and began walking as we waited for our prearranged pick up. We came across a beautiful brown feather banded with stripes. I was sure it belonged to some large bird of prey given because it was so pretty but we asked a ranger who told us it came from some type of duck. Looking back, that explanation makes sense because the stripes likely camouflaged the bird. As we observed the feather, our ride pulled up and we hopped into the van.
Brush-bashing down the Sol Duc was an exciting adventure that made me feel more connected with the area. While I enjoy hiking on trails, there is something special about the untouched landscapes that can only be found with some bushwhacking.
If you are interested in bushwhacking in Olympic National Park there are a few things you remember. Firstly, be safe. Make sure you have the 10 essentials, especially navigation. Even if you are familiar with hiking in the area it can be easy to get turned around. Tell someone where exactly you are planning on going and set a check-in time to ensure you make it back safely. Another important thing to remember is the Leave No Trace Principles. Particularly applicable to bushwhacking is principle number two: camp and travel on durable surfaces. Avoid stepping on plant life by walking on rocks, fallen logs, or grasses (grasses are much more resilient than other plant types). Keep your group size small and avoid hiking in already impacted areas such as nearby other trails. Because rules about bushwhacking from place to place, make sure to check in at local rangers stations to learn about specific guidelines for different regions. Taking these measures minimizes our impact on the area making it possible for others to visit and have similar experiences.
– Sarah, SCA intern