Olympic Mountains Adventure
Aug. 5-8, 1993
Muncaster Basin © Ken James McLeod
In the wee hours of dawn, we (Mark Boyle, Glen Lee, and I) parked our vehicle at the Graves Creek Trailhead and headed up the East Fork of the Quinault River, a beautiful deep-emerald colored stream yet a rugged one. Our heavy packs swayed from side to side as we hiked the trail onward up the East Fork Valley to Pyrites Creek, where our off-trail adventure began. Shortly before Pyrites Creek, and 9 miles up, we witnessed a magnificant event . . . a huge bull elk (6x6 at least) herded his harem of cows and forded the river to parts unknown. It was now near lunch time, so we rested and partook in consuming some needed energy for the climb ahead . . .
The way was steep and relentless up the left side of Pyrites. On the right side was a way trail, but according to all reports, it was unmaintained and full of downfalls so we opted for a climb opposite of it. And indeed, that's what it was, a climb! Besides, we had set our sites on a remote lake at around 5,000' elevation on the left side of the creek for our first nights camp. Near dusk and exhausted after our 4,000' climb, we eventually topped out at the lake which was situated in a cleft of surrounding cliffs, with a grand view of the mountains and the East Fork valley below. It had the same deep-emerald color as the East Fork. We made camp, each pitching their tent on a knoll above the lake and made a hasty dinner consisting of boiled noodles and canned chicken (what else) and a "hotshot" of booze just before a beautiful sunset arrived. And sleep never felt so good that night...
Unnamed (Pyrites Rugged Bastard) High Lake © Ken James McLeod
In the morning after breakfast, we headed up the ridge above to the left, crested it, and continued to traverse to the right with a great view of Mt. Olympus as well as the Burke Range, then dropped into a basin at the head of Rustler Creek. Here, several small lakes were found surrounded in polished granite and mostly still frozen over. None had any trees around them, and it seemed we were on the moon. Across this barren land we trekked to the next crest, and then beyond to another divide, where we witnessed our first view of Muncaster Basin situated below 5,910 foot Muncaster Mountain. The view: a lovely heathered basin with a lake in its center at about 5,600' (we called Elk Hollow) with elk tracks running everywhere. We then descended into the basin where another camp was made for two nights, and continued to explore the basin. We had hoped to see some bears, but only saw some bear sign, as the berries weren't ripe yet which is usually what brings them out to forage about the high land.
Upon our retreat from Muncaster, we opted for a different challenge of a route yet undetermined. We crested the ridge to our left above Fire Creek and proceeded over the hump, picking our way steeply down a spine or rib, using huckelberry bushes as a belay, down the entire mountain side above the East Fork. At one point, we witnessed a large herd of elk (near 50) cooling themselves from the summer heat resting on a large snow patch in a cirque below. The wildness of scene was something to behold!
Ravaged from our descent, scatched and
torn to shreads, with Glen taking a fall down over some logs, we eventually
made our way down to the East Fork just below O'Neil Creek and commenced our
long trek back down to the Graves Creek parking lot, where we had some cool
sodas resting in the creek to wet our thusty throats. Dinner was had in
Aberdeen . . salad, steak and a beer! Upon arriving home, the clock read
midnight . . .
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