Body odor: nature's bear repellent Jul 18 '00
Pros Probably the wildest part of the park
Cons Very difficult trip: not for the novice!
I'd been hiking the Olympic National Park for nearly a week. It was typical hot, dusty Labor Day Weekend weather and I'd just ascended Lost Pass, then Cameron Pass, while travelling from the Dosewallips River to Grand Ridge. I hadn't seen a bath in a few days and, since I was solo, this wasn't a big deal.
It had been a tough morning--the arduous ascent, 1,000 feet up Lost Pass in less than a mile, followed by a hot mile across the shadeless and spectacular alpine bowl of Lost Basin. Following this, I climbed an additional 1,400 feet to Cameron Pass, on the shoulder of Mt. Cameron. This is by far my favorite area of the park. Other areas are prettier, Heart Lakes Basin for instance, but no other place can match the combined grandeur of Lost and Cameron Basins. Together they create huge swath of alpine vista reminiscent of the Alaska interior. Even from the highest ridgetops, not a trace of civilization may be seen. The sole sign of human activity may be the distant contrails of a passing jet.
I first saw the bear from the top of Cameron Pass. It was ambling slowly, feeding on the opposite wall of Cameron Basin. I'd guess a half-mile separated us. This was bear #11 for this particular trip and I'd long ago become comfortable around them. The bear wasn't so used to people, as I learned.
I began descending the steep talus of Cameron Pass with the wind in my face. From that distance my bear friend could neither see nor smell me and it continued to feed, unalarmed. Then, the wind changed--now blowing at my back and directly toward the bruin. Five minutes or so later, its head whipped up in alarm and the bear froze. Seconds later it shot, a black, furry meteor, straight up the 1,000 foot ridge and disappeared over the other side. Oh boy, I guess I need a bath! Evening found me camped in Cameron Basin, buck-naked and braving countless mosquitoes, vigorously scrubbing off several days of trail grime. At least I hadn't been snubbed by a skunk.
Cameron Basin and Lost Basin are at least two days' travel from any trail head. Three days are more reasonable. You can:
1) start at Hurricane Ridge and slog your way up the incredible Grand Valley (and fight the incredible Grand Valley crowds). Descend the dizzying, 2,500 foot drop from Grand Pass, only to regain it all in the hump up Cameron Creek.
2) descend from Deer Park down the Three Forks Trail, and spend the next two or three days slugging it out with miles of stinging nettles as you follow Cameron Creek up its entire length.
3) come up the relatively well-maintained Dosewallips Trail to Dose Meadows. You'll spend a day or two in the company of a few hundred other solitude-seekers, plus their dogs and horses. Then, you'll face the daunting task of climbing Lost Pass, followed immediately by Cameron Pass.
4) for the truly masochistic, you could begin at Deer Park, drop down the Three Forks Trail, then proceed up and over Graywolf Pass. I've done this route. It is only for the truly insane.
Whatever your chosen punishment, you'll find Lost Pass-Cameron Basin to be an unforgettable wilderness experience. Bring your soap: the animals have a dress code that is strictly enforced.
Best time to go: Aug-Sep