Olympic National Park: Revisiting my First Backpacking Adventure


A few years ago, I was working at the REI mothership in Washington.   Mondays would be filled with badass weekend recaps of mountain biking, kayaking, climbing some mountains, etc. Me…I was content with my day hikes – that is until my friend, Diana invited me on my first backpacking trip.   We did some planning to pick one that wouldn’t be too crazy for this initial adventure and landed on the 19-mile High Divide Loop in Olympic National Park.  Also known as the Seven Lakes Basin trail, I was pretty pumped for amazing views.  


Here’s four DOs & DON'Ts I learned on that first backpacking trip:

DO bring something to read.  It can make for a fun treat at the campsite.  You can actually tote along a book (but keep in mind the extra weight) or download a book to your phone. I had Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, a pretty funny recount of him trying to tackle the Appalachian Trail. Perfect for hiking.

DON’T necessarily read his chapter on bear encounters before your first night in the wilderness. “Black bears rarely attack. But here's the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want…. What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die of course. Literally shit myself lifeless.”  Hilarious, right? But not the best after thru-hikers tell you that they just chased a bear away nearby.  

DO learn if your tent mate talks in their sleep.   I found out (too late) that Diana talks and sometimes yells in her sleep. I woke up our first night to her screaming, “WHAT is going on???? WHAT THE F*** IS GOING ON?!!!”  Of course, I bolted up completely convinced that a bear attack was indeed happening.  Diana mumbled a bit when I asked her what was wrong and went right back to sleep.  

DON’T hesitate to recount stories like this to tease your friend mercilessly about their crazy night terrors.

DO bring rain gear. Olympic National Park is a rain forest. That means a rain jacket, rain pants & a rain cover for your pack.   It rained 18 of our 19 miles, stopping just at the right times to convince us to go on.  Otherwise, we were straight up wet.

DON’T hesitate to find shelter & warm up however you can. That means, bring extra socks (toasty feet go a long way), eat hot meals and break into the occasional ranger tent if you have to. I mean, they probably don’t encourage it, but sometimes you need to dry out. If you do break into a ranger tent, a dance party to lighten the mood or leaving behind treats/nice notes for the ranger is the right way to go.

DO take in all of the beauty, even in the rain. You may not have stunning, sunny views, but you’re still going to see some freaking amazing things.  As an example, we saw a bear eating blueberries not too far from our campsite.  He must've heard Diana screaming the previous night and thought he should come visit.  

And finally, DON’T be discouraged from doing the same hike again. That’s what we did this year – repeated our very first trip on the High Divide. And guess what? It rained again.   This time just 14 out of the 19 miles.  And we've already talked about when we'll go back again.

Here are some pics from Olympic National Park this year to show you why we love it:

Sol Duc Falls.

Sol Duc Falls.

Have you been to Olympic National Park? Any questions about prepping for a backpacking adventure? Put your comments below and thanks for reading!

Related Posts:

  1. Hiking the Pacific Northwest

  2. Overnight Backpacking Prep

  3. More from Rita V: Smoky Mountain Adventures: Just Say YES.

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Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,

Rita V and the Hashtag 59 Team