Last time I was on this hike (2009) it was so god damn crowded people set up tents in the trail because there were no spots left. I vowed to never backpack a place that crowded again. What a mistake that was!
The road to get here was the biggest piece of shit. Normally that deters 90% of people, but you wouldn’t know it by the 100+ cars parked up and down the road. Parts of this trail have popular swimming holes of unparalleled beauty, but with the crowds of Disney Land.
Like any popular hike in the Pacific NW, once you go beyond 3 miles, there are no crowds. The vast majority of people have no desire to really go farther than that. Granted there are some exceptions, and last time I was here this area was definitely one of them. However this time there were no backpackers comparatively speaking. We only ran into a family who peeled off the trail pretty early once they found a good spot.
The beginning of the trail is actually a road, but it’s closed off to vehicles. It passes an abandoned mine and quite a bit of machinery and mining equipment that was abandoned long ago.
I learned that this very popular trail had been re-routed due to erosion issues on a large portion of it. We had to cross over the river to the new trail and continue along. Eventually the old trail reconnects and we continued on to the end of the maintained trail under some giant Cedars and camped there. Maybe this reroute reduced the number of hikers and backpackers? Seems a pretty easy obstacle to overcome, so I don’t know why there weren’t more people out backpacking.
We didn’t see anyone else camping along the way and I couldn’t believe it. I expected throngs of backpackers and we found none. We did notice some very quiet campers near us, but we never would’ve seen them if not for their fire.
The river was beautiful and the weather was beautiful. The next morning it was drizzly and I got the chance to try out my IKEA poncho. We passed through the old mining camp of Jawbone Flats which is now home to a nature center called Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center.
Its worth noting that this area has only been designated wilderness for 20 years. Greedy capitalists wanted to rape this area and destroy it for short term profits. Wise people convinced the government to protect it and we now have this beautiful area to enjoy.