Elwha Valley, Humes Ranch Loop, and Goblins Gate (A Six-Mile Hike)

It may have been less than six miles. Part of the route was washed out. I think. It was hard to tell. There were signs, there were counter-signs. Anything was possible and therefore nothing mattered.

It’s inside Olympic National Park, in the Elwha Valley area-thing.

Here’s the picture that I’ve decided I want to have show up at the top of the homepage (until I post another article at which point it will be replaced by that article’s picture):

Goblins Gate - Elwha River

You can almost *smell* the goblin!

Right, so that’s the Goblins Gate. Or Goblin Gate or Goblin’s Gate. I’m guessing the Parks Service doesn’t really know either, so I’m not gonna worry about it. Point being, it’s the best part of the hike and the only real Sehenswürdigkeit there. IMHO. Basically there’s this river and then it makes a sudden right turn and immediately after making this right turn, it has to go through this narrow part where the goblin is. But about half the river misses the turn altogether and has to seethe in fury, churning anti-clockwise in desperate agony just because it ended up in the wrong lane a half-mile back and there weren’t any signs saying that it was going to have to make a right turn eventually.

It’s like driving on the east coast.

Here’s a picture of the seething. It may not look angry, but, trust me, if you could *see* the undercurrents here…

Elwha River at Goblins Gate

It's like trying to get out of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.

So the part on the top of the photo is the raging vortex.The main river is coming from the left. That little stream pouring into the vortex is just a little stream that pours into the vortex. It’s not a good photo.

Here’s another picture of the gate, which I liked, and in particular a rock that makes up the gate, which I liked.

A rock at Goblins Gate on the Humes Ranch Loop Hike

Already pictured.

Other than that, though, the hike was like a well-written eulogy: gloomy but coherent.

There are trees and moss and clouds. It’s dark. In most places, yes, I’d call it a tree prison. Here are some trees with moss.

Humes Ranch Trail

But mostly the hike's not this pretty.

Just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression there. Mostly there are trees on either side of you and nothing to see but trees. When you’re down on the river, all there is is a river and then some mountains covered in clouds.

I suppose it might look different with better weather.

When I got off this trail, I decided to go down the nearby Mills Lake access trail. The lake will disappear soon as it was created by a dam that’s getting busted in the near future, though probably not by Lancaster bombers. The parks service isn’t that cool. The hike down to the lake was short but strenuous (read: steep). At the bottom, you mostly saw a river (the lake is further down as it turns out) and mountains covered in clouds.

There’s also this little fellow:

Waterfall at mills lake.

It's 15 feet tall!

IMHO: the only remarkable thing about this waterfall is that you have to walk through a knee-deep creek to get to it. The water there is cold in the winter. It had probably been snow a couple hours before I stood in it. I probably should have taken a photo of me standing in it. Battery was low though. Barely even got this shot off. And now you get all the benefit of being there without the hassle of having to later chip ice off your boots just so you can get your feet out.

And then I left there and ate at Wendys in Port Angeles on the way home. Am still amazed that you have to pay $4 to get over the stupid new Narrows bridge. Man. Seems like renting a private helicopter to airlift you over the Sound would be about the same price and, if you scheduled it in advance, potentially more convenient.

Nice to get outside though.

bkd

Day 2: Wailua River Kayaking to Secret Falls

One of the cooler vacation activities I’ve done. Rented a one-man kayak to take onto the Wailua river (Wailua Kayak Adventures is one of the two or three companies “allowed” to rent kayaks for the Wailua — everyone else has to give guided tours). Paddled for a little bit, then came to the trail to get to “Secret Falls”. There are plenty of people there, of course. It’s all in the marketing.

Seriously great, though. I don’t know that there’s a kayak+hike experience ending in a waterfall with a swimming hole that I *wouldn’t* classify as great. But probably there is. But I like kayak+hike experiences that end in waterfalls and swimming holes regardless.

 Wailua River Kayaks Parked at Secret Falls Trailhead

The paddle in to the landing was 2.5 miles long and, due to “strong” current, the last 100 yards were the hardest. This seems pertinent. Upstream you have the wind to your back. Downstream it’s in your face. Evens things out.

 Secret Falls, North Fork of the Wailua River

The focus is fine. There’s just that much spray here. The waterfall fell harder than did the water at Hanakapiai Falls (yes, > 9.8m/s/s, exactly). Not as deep, but the water was warmer for swimming.

 Secret Falls

It *almost* looks secret from this perspective. IMHO.

I also went to Kilauea Lighthouse yesterday. Got some photos. Maybe I’ll post them some time. More likely, I’ll never post about this vacation again. But on the plus side, at least I didn’t use the word “vay-cay”. Man. I need out of Marketing myself.

bkd

Alligator Creek, Sans Alligators

I’ll start with the video this time. It’s actually compressed. Then if you’re interested, you can get my amateur historical synopsis.

VIDEO (Quicktime, 4.7MB): Alligator Creek

[amateur historical synopsis]

Essentially at the far western end of Red Beach is Alligator Creek, which is actually the Ilu River and is known to historians as the site of the Battle of the Tenaru (the name of another river with which the Ilu was confused). It was called Alligator Creek by US Marines because of the number of crocodiles that were seen swimming in it. Anyway — Red Beach was where D-Day happened on Guadalcanal, but it was a quiet D-Day with virtually no opposition. The Battle of the Tenaru was the first real battle of the campaign.

Prior to Tenaru, Japanese ground forces had been essentially undefeated. In fact, with the exception of the Japanese taking of Wake Island (where a small force of Marines managed to hold off an overwhelming Japanese force longer than they had any right to), there’d been no indication to the Japanese that anyone in the world had the courage to stop them. They’d taken Manchuria, parts of China, Singapore, and much of Southeast Asia without much effort. In the Philippines, at the close of the Battle of Bataan, a US and Filipino force of 75,000 had surrendered to fewer numbers of Japanese soldiers (and then endured the Death March for which Bataan is famous).

With that in mind, the Japanese were expecting to be able to re-take Guadalcanal from the Americans without much effort. Which helps explains the actions of the Ichiki Regiment. Commanded by Col. Kiyono Ichiki, a group of 800 Japanese soldiers started what they’d imagined would be a walkover battle in trying to cross the mouth of Alligator Creek. Given that these were soldiers seasoned by earlier battles in Asia and that the Americans were entirely untested, it was thought that the Japanese soldiers’ superior spirit and fighting know-how would carry the day. So, with USMC machine gun emplacements at the ready, they ran across the river attempting bayonet charge after bayonet charge.

Turns out machine guns are more effective at a distance of 5-100 feet than are bayonets. The result of the battle was the majority of the Japanese regiment getting killed. (Only a few dozen Marines died in the battle.) Just from a historical context, then, Alligator Creek is where the battle occurred where Japanese soldiers for the first time in the war realized that they were not invincible and where it became apparent that the establishment of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere wasn’t necessarily a fait accompli.

[/amateur historical synopsis]

Man that was long-winded. The area around Alligator Creek was sort of pretty — at least there weren’t so many people living around there to generate the kind of garbage tossed into and around the Matanikau. Never saw any crocs there myself, though. Sadly. Maybe next time.

bkd

The Mouth of the Matanikau River

Late summer, early fall of 1942, the decisive land battles of the Pacific Theater were being fought on Guadalcanal. There were two key battle locations that, essentially, held the key to victory: Edson’s Ridge and the mouth of the Matanikau River. The mouth of the Matanikau was important because it was the only reasonable place to cross the river due to the density of the jungle upriver (and the upriver depth). Meanwhile, the mouth of the river was essentially a sandbar, so shallow that as often as not the river never actually got around to emptying into the Pacific.

If the Japanese had been able to cross the river, especially given the “cordon defense” employed
by the USMC in the early campaign, they would have had a clear shot to Henderson Field, the true objective of the campaign. Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that the mouth of the Matanikau River was one of the absolute most important places in terms of turning the Pacific Theater in the Americans’ favor.

Since then, the Solomons’ capital of Honiara has been built on top of the old battlefields where most of the fiercest fighting on Guadalcanal occurred. Here’s what the mouth of the Matanikau looked like on July 3, 2007:

VIDEO (Quicktime): Mouth of the Matanikau

The route to the mouth of the river runs from the Kukum Highway (which was apparently known as “Highway 50″ when it was built by the US military after the campaign) through “Matanikau Village”. There was an original Matanikau Village that existed on this spot before WWII, but it was leveled probably by the naval bombardment that immediately preceded the USMC landing on the island (it had likely already been abandoned by the time that happened). Here’s what the current Matanikau Village looks like (the village is in the heart of The Big City, Honiara, with a population of 50,000; the country has a population of around 300,000):

VIDEO (Quicktime): Matanikau Village

(Apologies for the low quality and tiltyness — I was trying to be inconspicuous for some reason. And for some reason everyone I passed on the way in thought it was funny that I was there, but they didn’t seem to care when I was leaving.)

I guess one could conclude a few things here. A couple conclusions I made:

1. In the Solomons, sites that are held holy by US and Japanese military aren’t considered that way by the locals. At all.

2. The Solomon Islands is a poor country and, aside from the happy people, kind of a sad place.

BK