Key: 2016-08-07:     2016-08-08:     2016-08-09:    
2016-08-10:     2016-08-11:    

Olympic NP Gray Wolf Loop

A trip up the Gray Wolf and down Cameron Creek with our friend Tyler

Begin Date:

End Date:

2016-08-07: 12.51 mi
2016-08-08: 12.39 mi
2016-08-09: 4.29 mi
2016-08-10: 10.63 mi
2016-08-11: 6.08 mi

Total: 45.91 mi

Maximum Elevation*:
6471.44ft (1973.401m)

Minimum Elevation*:
2036.88ft (621.008m)

Gallery for this adventure:
Click here

* This is derived from GPS data and can have major discrepancies due to poor GPS reception.

Trip Report:

This was my first experience with backpacking. Jason and I work together and have become pretty good friends over the years. He thought it was a good idea to take me on one of his grand adventures with Tracy. Having never done anything like this before I was a little skeptical. Was he taking me out into the woods to kill me and dispose of my body? I wasn't sure, he's a nice guy and I've known him for a few years now, so I didn’t think so.  After a couple weeks of planning and gathering the necessities, we were off.
Day 1 – Deer Park to Falls Camp:

We arrived at the Deer Park trail head in the midst of what Jason and Tracy were calling a huge pooter. For those of you who don’t know, a pooter is what the goofballs in Wyoming (Where Tracy hails from) call a small shower that will soon pass. As such, we figured we weren't in a hurry so why not try waiting it out in the truck. Jason, mostly because he's super brave and truly a badass (but also because he really had to pee), decided to get out without his rain jacket on to use the facilities. He came back soaked and a bit regretful, but god damn did he look hot as hell dripping wet like that. It's an image that I hope I never forget.

As expected, the pooter began to wane.  We jumped at the opportunity and readied the gear. Boots were on the trail a little after 11AM. With rain jackets and pack covers on we pushed through puddle after puddle noting how remarkably gray the clouds were. I should note that my pack cover was ingeniously fashioned from a large garbage bag. My partners said it was ghetto and noobish as theirs were purchased at REI for probably too much money. I think they were joking, but then again Jason can be a huge asshole and they both are without a doubt backpacking gear elitists, so you never know.

About a quarter mile down the trail we ran into yet another pooter that decided to follow us on and off for the rest of the day. It was wet. The weather forecast said it was supposed to clear up as the day went on. It didn't. I hate weathermen. Anyways, we arrived at the Three Forks Shelter a little after 1 and stopped for late lunch. That really means a bag of trail mix split between us, a stick of landjaeger and some Idahoan mash potatoes. I promise you hot instant mashed potatoes are truly divine when the Gore Tex begins to fail, which it will if you get it wet enough. Just ask Tracy and Jason about their boots. I may have had a ghetto pack cover but my new boots kept my feet dry, unlike theirs.

Three Forks to Camp Ellis along the Gray Wolf River was rather uneventful besides the rain and the wet trail. We stopped at Camp Ellis where some other hikers warned us of a rather large group at Falls Camp that had taken up the majority of the camp and we would likely need to be creative to find a spot. This was the second time we had heard that from passersby so it was a bit concerning. Nevertheless, we trudged on to Falls Camp and did indeed run into a large group of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) campers that had pretty much taken up every spot as well as a couple more that they had turned into a common area. Apparently they had been there for two days. They were all huddled under a very poorly hung tarp (Jason is also a tarp hanging elitist) in what would have been a nice campsite. What a bunch of jerks. Yeah I said it NOLS. I should have sent Jason in there to tear down your stupid tarp, or at the very least show you how to hang it in a much more effective manner. 

Thankfully, after a soggy search we found a decent place to call home for the night. All it needed was a little bit of minor leveling to work with our tent and we were good to go. Next up was dinner. Freeze Dried Mountain House meal creators, a tip of my hat in your direction. Your products are damn tasty to say the least. With our bellies full and our tent sitting perfectly on a now leveled campsite, we hopped inside, played a couple hands of cards, and went nighty night.

Day 2 - Falls Camp to Dose Meadows:

Breakfast burritos! God damn Mountain House I love you, but could you do something about the weather? I'm talking about that annoying can’t make up it's mind if it's going to rain or not rain. It was hard for us poor hikers, We would put our rain jacket on and it would stop, but as soon we took them back off the clouds would open up on us. We settled on just leaving them on as obviously rain jackets without rain is far better than no rain jackets and rain. I will say it was better than yesterday's tag along pooter. On the positive side of things, I Tyler Cruze, conquered my first pass on foot. The mighty Gray Wolf Pass is now under my belt. It's probably one of the hardest passes ever, I think. In all honesty, it was a great feeling of accomplishment especially for me as I have skinny bird legs. When I looked back down from where we had come, I realized it’s truly amazing how far your feet can actually take you. 

We had another quick lunch on top of pass even though it was very dreary and we were pretty much in the clouds at this point. I also had the pleasure of learning all about wild flowers and marmots as well from Tracy and Jason. Maybe they should be the ones teaching the NOLS campers. At least they would teach how not to use every last campsite available in an area. Oh hey, let's talk about trail songs. What a joy. I can’t remember if it was today or yesterday that I was introduced to them. You know what, on second thought I don't want spoil it because it really is something you need to experience on your own, but just know many were sung and they really do help make the miles feel a bit shorter.

Continuing on from Gray Wolf Pass we made our way to Dose Meadows, passing Bear Camp along the way. We didn't see any bears, likely due to the Grizzly Bear underwear had on. For reals, we had Grizzly Bear underwear and yes it was as awesome as it sounds ( I can say that Sasquatch clearly was the last person to use the toilet there, and he completely destroyed it...literally. Poor privy didn't stand a chance. The weather was also taking a turn for the better and things actually began drying out a bit, even though there was still a lot of cloud cover. Anyways, after more trail banter, many more trail songs, and I’m sure a couple of noob jokes thrown in for good measure, we arrived at Dose Meadows. With that there was more screwing around at camp, setting up the tent, eating freeze dried goodness, taking some pictures and pumping water. It was a long day and certainly a good one, but time for bed.
Day 3. Dose Meadows to Cameron Basin:

The weather this morning was similar to how we had left it the day before, but it did appear to be clouding up as we ate our breakfast. It was standard oatmeal today, though with jazzed it up a bit with some blue huckleberries we found near our camp. Lucky us though, while we were eating, the cutest doe you ever did see showed quite in interest in what we were up to. It was such a magical moment, being that close to nature...and then it made it's way straight to where I had just peed. My heart sank. I felt so used. I was such a fool thinking that deer actually liked us. Deer don't care about people. They only come around for our deliciously salty urine. Just like Bear Grylis, he likes pee too.

So off we went. Two passes were between us our next campsite at Cameron Basin. First up was Lost Pass. Whoever named it wasn't as lost as the name implies because they made the trail go straight to it. 2500ft of vertical gain in about 0.9 miles. We did have relatively fresh legs at the start, but it didn't take long before they were burning. In trying to take my mind off the grind I did find that “pass” is really easy to rhyme with kicking my “ass” which helped to form some good trail songs later on.

Now I need to explain, Tracy has a thing for showing off by doing handstands anywhere it looks cool. She was this super star gymnast like 10 years ago and takes great pride in her ability to do them with impecable form. I guess that makes me a natural as I most certainly had the best handstand on Lost Pass. I even had to hold it for like 5 minutes while Jason fiddled with the camera. Tracy also is placing heeps of blame on the photographer (Again Jason), but let's be honest here, Jason took both pictures and mine is perfect. Look at the pics and judge for yourself. On a side note, Jason is terrible at handstands, but I'll cut him some slack due to his Grizzly Bear like stature. It's just not conducive to handstading and he has no business attempting them at all.

Second pass for the day would be our trip's high point called Cameron Pass. It sits at 6459ft above sea level. It might as well have been 16459ft according to our navigator since he apparently has no idea how to read elevation on a map. “It should be pretty flat between Lost Pass and Cameron Pass” he told us with the utmost confidence . He was wrong. Now it wasn’t as brutal as Lost Pass but again it was a grind, albeit a rewarding one despite most of the distant peaks being obscured by clouds.

Coming down Cameron Pass to the basin felt a little sketchy for me. It was essentially a giant skree field that offered little in the way of footing with a few lingering snow fields scattered around. Jason and Tracy were talking about ass sliding down one of those snowfields along the way to speed things up but I thought that was crazy talk. It looked more like broken limbs to me. I am a bit of a fraidy cat for reals though. Glacading (It's actually spelled “glissading” but I don't know how to look up the proper spelling of words) is what they called it.

Anyways onto Cameron Basin. We arrived at about 3Pm debating if we wanted to push on to lower Cameron since we wrere more or less inside a cloud and couldn't see any of the nearby peaks. The two passes did take their toll, so we called it good, which turned out to be a great decision for a number of reasons.

After setting up camp and hanging some of the wetter items to dry, we passed the time with some boulder bocce and taking photographs. We were pretty disappointed however as we knew the views from here would be amazing if only clouds would yield to show us the peaks they were so effectively hiding. We had just about given up after dinner when out of nowehere, the clouds began to dissapate. It was awe insiring and it couldn't have been more perfectly timed. Just as the sun was setting, we were treated with an almost cloudless sky. 30 minutes earlier we couldn't see anything and now the jagged teeth of the Olympic mountains were in full view. It was beautiful. This is what backpacking is really all about. No light pollution, no cell phones, no internet, or other distractions, just nature in it's purest form and some good friends to share it with. I had really been enjoying things up until now, but I think at this point I was hooked. Now off to bed on my crappy sleeping pad (Don't listen to Jason and his sleeping pad recommendations) with the moon and stars shining overhead.

Day 4 - Cameron Basin to Three Forks:

This was another long day, in fact it may have been our longest. The trail was absolutely miserable for the first half of the day which helped even more to validate our choice to stay in Cameron Basin the night before. It was an endless mix of over grown meadows and confusing creek crossings while not being able to really see where you are stepping and it made hiking more of a chore than anything. We even encountered a decent size washout and had to make some steps down and back up the other side, or Jason did rather. Good job Jason!

I am also pretty sure we ran across the Aron Ralston on the trail. You know, the guy from 127 hours that had to cut his own arm off. Jason and Tracy weren’t convinced, especially Tracy, but I know it was him.

After what felt like a very long way we finally dropped back down into the heavily wooded and with that the trail became much more managable. Around noon, we took our lunch next to the very cold but extremely refreshing Cameron Creek. Jason and I took the opportunity to wash away our stink in the frigid waters while Tracy opted to continue smelling like a cross between a barnyard animal and hippie. After three and a half days of not showering it was much needed, for all of us, even Tracy. You know the saying, you can lead a stinky hiker to a creek, but you can't make them bath.

We continued on to Three Forks to stay the night before out finale the next morning. Tracy did some fly fishing simply due to the face that she had carried the rods all this way. She claims she caught two fish but everyone knows you can't ever trust those fisherman types. I didn’t see anything and there convenienly weren't any pics. After that, Tracy finally joined us pleasant smelling folk with a quick and again much needed bath up Grand Creek (It meets Cameron Creek along with the Gray Wolf river at Three Forks, hence the name Three Forks). After dinner, we climbed in our sleeping bags one last time and dozed off to sleep.

Day 5 - Three Forks back to Deer Park:

We woke up early to what was looking like an amazing day. An empty blue sky and sunlight just painting the tops of the nearby peaks. We packed up quickly, limiting ourselves just a single cup of coffee and a poptart each . Having a 3200ft climb in front of us we really wanted to get moving before the sunwas beating down. The hike was uneventful, and while it wasn't easy, we all agreed it wasn't nearly as grueling as we had anticipated. As we approached treeline, or at least the closest thing the Olympics have to it, the valleys and their accompanying peaks that we had hike through were in in full view. We couldn't see them on the way down so it was a nice surprise. There were truly gorgeous views all around. Now if only my flip flops were waiting for me in the truck like Tracy and Jason's were. Damn it, I'm such a noob!
We left Dear Park headed to Port Angeles to find some breakfast. I caught myself in the middle of the meal consumed by my phone which I hadn’t missed once in the previous five days.

The Following is unedited and truly appreciated by both Tracy and Jason:
On my way home I sat in a line of traffic because the Hood Canal Bridge was opening. Looking in my rear view mirror the lady behind me was consumed by whatever she was looking at on her phone. The people in front had stepped out of their car to smoke and do whatever they were doing on their phone. Neither Jason nor Tracy had told me that the hardest part of backpacking was realizing it was over. I was actually sad. The disconnection from our connected society was exactly what I needed. Consumed by cell phones, tablets, computers, TV, and internet this was a break that I absolutely needed. It reminded me of being a kid before tech took over. Building forts and playing in the woods. This really is what life needs to be more about. I completely understand the passion that Jason and Tracy have for backpacking and the outdoors. If you ever get the opportunity to go with them take full advantage of it and don’t forget your flip flops.
The mountains are calling and I must go. –John Muir