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A TRAIL LESS TRAVELED

by Dave McBee

Tried to reach the top of Colonel Bob Mountain last week (the Bob, I affectionately call it, sits just east of Lake Quinault, at the southwest corner of Olympic National Park), but turned back at about 2000 feet because of the snow clogging the switchbacks. I then tried to make myself useful to a Forest Service crew doing trail maintenance on the way back down. Met Mr. Pulaski, learned some basic logging physics, but failed to master my end of the two-handed saw. A good time, nevertheless!

Crew leader seemed to be impressed that I knew of the Bob (and that I was on a first name basis with him) and suggested that I check out Fletcher Canyon. Heck, he even gave me a ride to the trailhead! Turns out the guy grew up a couple blocks from my high school, Seattle Prep.

Both Colonel Bob Trail and Fletcher Canyon are within Colonel Bob Wilderness, and both lead to Colonel Bob Mountain, from which peak a spectacular 360 degree view of half a million acres of prime southern Olympic (now largely clearcut) forest, Pacific coastline, and southern Cascade peaks is afforded. (See Backpacking by Bus: Quinault Hub.)

The Colonel Bob Trail is obscure enough: most folks heading up the Quinault South Shore Road are in such a hot hurry to reach the Enchanted Valley that they drive (or walk) right by the small green sign marking the Bob. But Fletcher Canyon is even more obscure and unnoticed, for no apparent reason.

The trail up Fletcher Canyon in well-maintained for about a mile and a half, to just shy of where it crosses the creek for the first time. Currently, you must feel your way through dense brush taller than your head, feeling for the trail with your feet, and singing at the top of your lungs to hopefully dissuade whatever is snuffling unseen just a few feet from where you thrash from eating you. But once you get past the twenty or thirty yards of sheer abject terror you reach a log crossing of gentle Fletcher Creek. Just beyond lies a single lovely campsite. Other possible campsites lurk under the big-ass trees.

Beyond the lone campsite, you must pass through another valley of the shadow of big bushes and unseen imminent death (another thirty yards of dense foliage) before the faint trail again becomes visible. It continues across a low saddle, and then gets really faint. Lots of trees down, lots of brush grown in. There is a trail there, look about for markers when (not if) you lose it. Regain the creek in less than a mile, and continue upstream. That's where I lost it, this time, but it continues up the east flank of the Bob, eventually reaching the other trails to the peak.

Check it out. Lovely creek, lots of elk sign, lots of berries, splendid views upcanyon, and nary a soul. Be careful whom you tell.


daveAuthor Dave McBee once blew up an entire inflatable boat with his mouth. Next month we plan to run the picture, unless he'd like to write the article: "Our friend the Pneumatic Tube."

 

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