backpack: North Fork Skokomish River
The theme of this year’s backpacking trips so far is rain. I just got back from a three night trip at the North Fork Skokomish River in the Olympic Peninsula where it rained off and on for several days.
I actually love the way the rain makes the forest look, brightening the green colors and adding lushness to the scene. If you have the gear to deal with the rain, it’s not a downer at all.
In February 2020, I day hiked in this area while staying at a cabin with friends on the Hood Canal. We were scouting campsites for this backpacking trip, and only made it to Spike Camp at that time due to snow levels. For this trip, we spent three nights at Spike Camp and did day hikes from there.
Day 1 – hike in to Spike Camp
4 miles, 800 ft gain (+ 2.4 miles looking for sunset color)
The hike in was fairly easy… it’s just 4 miles without a lot of elevation gain. It was hot and muggy, and the mosquitoes found me but no one else (not uncommon!). The weather got cooler every day on this trip and the mosquitoes didn’t hang around.
We didn’t know how many campsites there were at Spike Camp, and with eight people and two permits, we were hoping we would have enough room for all of our tents. No one else was there when we arrived, so we had our pick of the four sites that we found. None have much by way of flat spots for tents, so it was a challenge but we all fit into two sites. On the first night, the other two sites filled up, but for the rest of the our trip we were the only ones at Spike Camp.
Water access is via a creek about 100 yards past the camp.
Day 2 – day hike
3.6 miles, 265 ft gain
On the second day, my friends went up to Flapjack Lakes (which still had some snow), but I had a swollen ankle so I did an easier day hike along the river to Donahue Creek and back. The high bridge over Madeline Creek was a highlight that I planned to go back to the next day for more exploration.
Back at camp, I setup a tarp so we could cook out of the rain that we were expecting and then took pics around camp.
Day 3 – day hike
5.4 miles, 550 ft gain
I hiked back to Madeline Creek and two of us spent several hours taking photos. We took both horse ford trails to the creek, then explored off trail and bushwacked to reach the river for more photos.
Continuing on the river trail, Donahue Creek has a bridge without rails that I didn’t want to cross. I always prefer to walk through the water versus teetering on logs and testing my fate, but the water was moving too fast and deep so I had to get over my apprehensions about it and get across with the help of my friend. This is a skill that I need to practice more! Before my eye surgery last year, my peripheral vision was what I call “wonky” and made me feel unstable whenever I was above the ground. Now my brain just needs to learn how to do it. 😉
After crossing Donahue Creek, we continued on the river trail to check out Big Log Camp and the next half mile of trail. The second bridge past Big Log is over a narrow rock canyon and is a scenic highlight of this trip.
Back at camp, we had one last campfire with a plan to be ready to hike out the next morning at 7am in order to (hopefully) beat the heavy rain in the forecast.
Day 4 – hike out to trailhead
4 miles, 800 ft loss
On the hike out, we crossed the suspension bridge so we could hike out on the super scenic Staircase Rapids trail. It did rain, but not the big downpour that we were expecting. I will definitely go back here for more backpacking trips!
Permits are required for all backcountry campsites in the Olympic National Park. There are bear wires at Spike Camp, but since there were 8 of us, we all brought bear canisters. There is also a new privy at this camp location. Oh, and the road is MUCH BETTER than it was last year. They were grading it while we were there.