Burning Down the Bogachiel

Over the years Rick and I had been steadily ticking off the trails on the Olympic Peninsula one by one.  Generally, main trails follow the various major rivers into the heart of the Olympics and branch off into side trails. One of the major rivers we had our eye on for some time was the Bogachiel.  There always seemed to be a washout along the Bogachiel River trail that made the Park Service close the trail down, but finally there was a spell when it was repaired for the time being so I decided it was time to check it off the list.  I believe this was around 1990.

We drove several hours from Olympia to the trail head to find it was pouring down rain…not the usual Northwest drizzle-rain, but full-on, get-you-sopping-ass-wet-even-with-raingear on raining. This should not come as a surprise as the Bogachiel is in the heartland of the rainforest and averages 14 feet of rain per year. The name Bogachiel comes from the Quileute tribe, which loosely translates to “gets muddy after rain.”

As a comparison, Forks, the place everyone thinks of as the wettest place in Washington, averages 10 feet per year. This region averages over 200 rainy days per year, which is why it was chosen as the dark, gloomy place where vampires live in the Twilight books and movies. Rick and I were seldom intimidated by weather and saddled up our packs, fortified with the thought of plenty of whiskey even if we were tent–bound the entire weekend.

Even though it was wet, chilly fall weather, I opted to hike only in shorts and t-shirt to minimize the amount of clothing that got wet and keep my rain gear from getting  saturated.  Yeah, it only makes sense if you’re a well seasoned wet weather camper.  I can’t remember if Rick followed suit or put his raingear on.  In any case, off we went down the trail and it was a muddy, flooded mess.

They say misery loves company, so Rick and I plowed on up the river trail, cursing the rain, sipping whiskey and laughing about how stupid we were to be out in that monsoon. Our “waterproof” boots were soon filled with water and spurting little geysers with every step. Every minor trickle along the trail was now rushing with water, which made every stream crossing, and there were many, a moss covered slippery mess.

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We had gone about 6 squishy miles in, just past the Indian Pass trail junction, when we came across the Indian Creek Guard Station cabin.  It was closed-up for the winter and was now being threatened by the raging Bogachiel River, which had changed course.

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The cabin had originally been about 40 feet from the riverbank, but when we arrived on the scene the river had undercut the front porch to the point where we had to grab a pillar and swing ourselves around over the river to get under the covered porch.

Still pouring down rain, we debated whether park rangers would be upset if we used the cabin for a shelter but with another sip of whiskey decided that this was the perfect perch to make camp and not have to deal with a soggy tent and the chance of even seeing a ranger was remote during the off-season. We swung around onto the porch with our packs still on and enjoyed the feeling of not getting pummeled by the rain.

We stripped off our soggy clothes and changed into some dry clothing. Unpacking our gear and setting up our camp for the weekend was suddenly much less glum than we had been anticipating.  There was even a small wall on the porch to keep us from rolling off into the wildly thrashing rapids beneath us.

Bogachiel Print 1

I got the MSR white gas stove put together and fired it up so we could dry our boots out a bit.  We pulled the liners out and propped them and the boots strategically around the stove and commenced trying to dry them out.

We continued sipping whiskey, joking around, telling tales, snacking on trail food and congratulating ourselves on the lucky fortune of finding the shelter porch.  It came time to cook dinner so Rick re-fueled the bottle for the stove and pumped it up to re-prime it. We tied up a space blanket on one side of the porch to function as a windscreen to help keep the stove lit. He fired the stove back up and put water on to boil.

A few minutes later I looked around to see the entire cooking area on fire!  Rick had somehow cross-threaded the fuel bottle and the pressure in the bottle had been spewing white gas all over the porch, including my boots and liners!

We hopped into fireman mode and quickly had the blaze extinguished by lowering a cook pot down into the river below us with some cord. I held my scorched and melted boot liners up and showed Rick the damage he had done. He shrugged and giggled and handed me the bottle of whiskey with a look like, have a drink, what else can I do about it?

I fixed the stove and continued cooking dinner.  It was getting darker so we set out a few candles around the porch to give us some light, creating a cozy ambiance.  We sipped more whiskey, ate our meal of tuna-noodle surprise and again patted ourselves on the back for such a change of fate of being out of the weather.

After a while I again glance around the porch and see my space blanket windscreen is now ablaze!  Rick throws his cup of whiskey on it and quickly douses it out. I accuse him of trying to burn the entire rain forest down in a monsoon as well as whiskey abuse and he pleads guilty due to extenuating circumstances, pours himself another cup and again giggles that silly-ass “I’m buzzed” giggle of his.

I used that space blanket with the scorch mark for many more years.  I have it to this day and could never throw it away.

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The next day we pack our gear and head back down the trail to the truck. We quickly become soaking wet, and the trickles and creeks are all fully charged now.  We get to one that is at least knee deep and roaring.  It is too wide to jump across so I go off trail a bit, closer to the river and find some mossy boulders to hop, skip and jump across.  The packs are by now much heavier and I barely hop across without busting my ass.

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Rick sees this and moves farther down to a small, moss-covered log that crosses the stream.  This is only about 20-30 feet from the fully raging Bogachiel River.  The log is rather small, maybe 10-12 inches wide, so he is gingerly inching his way across.  As he reaches the middle, the entire center section of the log, from both ends, breaks off and plunges him, like an elevator, into the stream up to his chest pack and all!

I of course start laughing and start trying to get to my 35mm camera but then quickly get worried as he is now being carried along to the raging river.  I yell at him to grab something as he is grasping for anything he can, eventually grabbing a bush along the stream.

Still laughing, I help him out of the creek and as he stands there looking like a drowned rat I just reach for the pocket of his pack where the whiskey is kept and hand it to him. If only the iPhone or GoPro had been invented when I really needed it!

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