Trip Report: North Fork Quinault River to Wolf Bar

Read about our relaxing trip to the North Fork Quinault River Trail where we admire the towering trees, encounter some fresh bear scat, save some banana slugs, and even take a refreshing plunge into the glacial-fed river!
Regina Robinson Regina Robinson
Olympia Branch Super Volunteer
July 28, 2022

The day started off cool, gray, and cloudy. We arrived at the trailhead at 10:35 am. The low-lying mist swirled gently around us, cloaking ancient trees, shrouding foothills from view, and forcing us into cold weather gear we were not too happy to put on. Summer was here after all, but it didn’t seem like it.

As we gathered our packs and put on our gaiters, we relished the deep silence, listening to the wind whisper gently in the trees as the birds’ chirped their “hellos.” Nature is beautiful; we leaned in to hear what she had to say. She whispered back, “relax and enjoy.”

The trail was lush with western buttercup, ferns, and big leaf maples. Salmonberry, serviceberry, unripe red huckleberry, beadruby, and rhododendrons provided a backdrop of verdant green. Moss dripped heavily from low branches, ferns in some areas stood as tall as me.

The path widened through the lowland area, indicating water. Cotton woods stood thickly as yellow cinquefoil brightened up the darkness. Old growth cedars and spruce towered over us – silent sentinels to a time long since past. Broad big leaf maples swayed in the gentle morning breeze, their music providing a background tempo for the birds’ morning arias. We were not too long on the trail when the forest gave way to a brief view of steel-gray, glacial-fed river below.

Olympia2.jpgLush green along the trail. Photo by Regina Robinson.

Our pace was leisurely as we stopped to admire plants and animals along the way. We found many banana slugs which I diligently moved off trail, much to the chagrin of my hiking partner. One slug in particular was a brilliant crème color that stood out from the dry pine needles. I rescued several more slugs before we moved further. Each time I lifted one out of our foot path, I hoped it was happier among the damp moss.

We kept moving, heading slightly downhill. I stopped as I approached a dry stream bed lined by tees and ferns. Flowers popped up in solitaire little pockets, eking out survival amidst the dry gray rocks. I was awed by natures rage and beauty, and wondered what this area would look like in early spring with the glacial snow melt running full-bore.

Olympia9.jpgNorth Fork Quinault River looking upstream towards Mt. Lawson. Photo By Regina Robinson.

Crossing over the dry river bed, we moved into another world of dense ferns and taller, wider, trees. The quiet stillness was a reminder that dream worlds do exist. I expected dinosaurs to crash past me at any moment.

We crossed out of this dream land into another wet land. Tall grasses, purple self heal, daisy fleabane, gray’s lovage, yarrow, false bugbane, pearly everlasting, false dandelions, and a lush carpet of knee-high yellow monkeyflower grew thickly. Ferns stood as tall as my 6 foot hiking partner, dwarfing him as we moved silently into a stand of ancient trees. Moss glowed golden in the dappled light. Birds sang their calls in an otherwise silent forest as the wind lightly made the leaves dance. The breeze gave a welcomed respite from the heat.

My hiking partner stopped mid-trail to gaze at the most glorious tree. She was tall, with bark a wonderful shade of burnt red. We looked at each other – no need for words. We both agreed she had stories to tell. I leaned over and laid my hands upon her trunk. I whispered, “thank you for being here.” I swear I heard her sigh.

Olympia10.PNGHidden campsite at Wolf Bar. Photo by regina robinson.

We hiked up trail to the junction of the Wolf Bar Camp. Shady, sandy sites, large enough for two or three tents, were a welcome sight. We spied a boot path just north of the campsites and decided to take it. Berry-studded bear scat as big as my two hands was fresh on the trail and we made a note to be extra cautious.

Past the shaded camp area, we found a sunny spot for lunch. Well-rounded, smooth rocks gave way to elk and deer scat and hoof prints barely discernible in the deep black sand. We found a flat cedar plank that we used as a bench. Stripping off our boots, gaiters, and socks, our feet sighed in gratitude. We ate lunch with butterflies dipping and flitting between us. A fawn walked to the river’s edge for a drink. It stood still catching our scent – wondering if we were friend or foe.

After lunch, we decided to take a sun nap. My friend built himself a makeshift platform of large, smooth river rocks. I napped on the cedar plank. For an hour we soaked up the warm summer sunshine.

Olympia8.jpgRegina after a plunge into the North Fork Quinault. Photo by Oscar Churchill.

When we woke, it was time for a swim. Yes, we took the plunge into the swiftly-moving, cold water. After the initial shock, it was absolutely delightful.

We made it back to the car by 4:08 pm. No, we did not hurry back. We set a casual pace, neither of us in a hurry to leave this sanctuary.

Lead image of trail head at North Fork Quinault River. Photo By Regina Robinson.

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