16.0 miles, 2000' gained, 1 night(s)
I have been wanting to do this trail for a long time. My original hope was to do a thru-hike with car shuttle but I was only able to get one friend to go with me, so we picked the Jones Creek to Elk Creek section with the intention to do an in-n-out backpack, camping at the Elk Creek Campground for the night.
We hit the trail around 9:30a and knocked out the first 7.5 miles (to the Kings Mt. Trailhead) around 12:30-1p and stopped for lunch. I really enjoyed the lush green environment. I felt like I was in the Olympic NP/NF walking through some of the woods and crossing some of the creeks. I didn't have a good map for this area (actually, I had a PDF file I had printed out with distances and that was about it) and had no idea what the elevation gains were going to be, aside from what I had read on portlandhikers.org. The first 7.5 miles was mostly going up, then gradually coming down to the Kings Mt. TH, where we again spent the final 3.5 miles going up, up and more up, before a nice steep drop into the Elk Creek CG.
This trip was designed to be "easy" so we could test out new gear. I had a new Hennessy Hyperlite hammock, a new Enlightened 20 degree top quilt, and a new MicroRocket canister stove. My friend was also trying out a new air mattress and a JetBoil stove.
We set up camp and I realized I definitely need to change out my suspension on my hammock. The stock suspension is not ideal, so I had some fun practicing my knots and getting it to work. I brought my hex tarp just in case it looked like rain but the weather looked like it was going to hold, so I used the stock tarp instead.
We cooked up dinner, got water from the river, and basically enjoyed some down time at camp. 11 miles in one day is the most I have backpacked (not the most I have walked...but that's another story!) and once we stopped, I realized that my outer ankle on the right foot was really sore. I have had this happen before but thought I would be fine in the morning.
I slept like a baby in the new hammock, only had to adjust the tarp and underquilt once. No cold butt syndrome, and it never rained, so I feel like I got pretty lucky. We made breakfast and got all packed up in the morning. I tried walking and my ankle was very "upset". This was not good. There was no way I was going to be able to limp back the 11 miles to our car.
Lucky for me I had set this trip up to have an exit plan...aka the "walk of shame" on Hwy. 6. It was 11 miles by trail to the car, but only 5 miles and on fairly level road (my ankle was having problems with a lot of the up/down and side to side movement on the trail). I knew I could make it 5 miles and so we set off, walking carefully on the shoulder of the road. Having walked 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago, some of it very similar to this situation, I sucked it up and pretended I was in Spain walking the Camino.
While I was severely disappointed in not returning the way we came, I look at the trip as a success and a learning experience. We had a great time and I am looking forward to doing the other section of the trail.