I absolutely love backpacking with Zoe! She is so easy and natural on the trail, and is super fun company.

While on our big family vacation to the northwest US this summer, she and I did a lovely little overnight into the rainforest of Olympic National park.

We drove the camper up the Quinault valley and stopped at the ranger station for the permit I prebooked on the NPS website. From there it was another haul up the dirt road to Graves creek campground. Bryan snagged a waterfront spot for the camper – he and Avi and Slim Jim the dog were excited for some down time.

Zoe and I, though, got packed to go and walked the half mile to the East Fork of the Quinault River trailhead. The parking lot was packed, which surprised us as the campground was nearly empty.

The trail began with a great bridge over the river before heading gradually up up up into the rainforest. It seemed to be following and old jeep trail. This trail does continue past where we stayed into Enchanted Valley where there is an old ranger station building.

At the high point of the trail we stopped for a snack. The route steeply dropped down to the east fork of the river and we were blown away by the steep canyon under the Pony Bridge.

Our permit was for the Pony Bridge backcountry site, but the ranger told us we could continue on the trail another half mile or so past the actual bridge to find some much nicer spots along the river and avoid all the day hikers passing through.

Zoe scoped out the site at Pony Bridge – it was pretty sloped and right near the trail, so I let her decide if we should press on and try for a better place. It had started to rain, but that kiddo just doesn’t care! She was still in the mood to hike further (it’s only 3 miles to Pony Bridge from the TH), so on we went!

After a half mile of walking high above the river canyon, we found ourselves down at a nice flat area where the valley widened. A secluded little campsite was tucked back by the river and surrounded by ferns and giant old trees. Zoe found a perfect spot!

We spent the rest of the day messing around, and even hiked a bit further up the trail without packs. About a quarter mile on was a footbridge over a small side creek and a really cool campsite just beyond. We thought about moving our stuff, but didn’t since it was right on the trail and ours had privacy. But we did spend the afternoon at that spot eating salmon-berries, throwing rocks, and bouncing on a balanced log.

Back at camp that evening we spent a while prepping the fire and finally got a good one going. Everything was so damp, it was tough, but worthwhile to keep away the crazy mosquitoes that came at dusk!

We had to eat dinner walking around to keep the bugs out of the food. Two bites, walk ten feet, two bites, walk again. It was unpleasant and we were grateful to snuggle into the tent to play Uno and talk about all kinds of stuff. We talked about all kinds of stuff; her upcoming Algebra book, where we should live when Bryan retires, and she wanted to know all about my “dating life” in high school and how Bryan and I met; I tried my hardest to think back that far.

In the morning we packed up and poked back to the Pony Bridge area. Here we were able to scramble down into the canyon for some incredible scenery of ferns and mosses dripping.

From there, the hike out was uneventful. Took another long break after the steep uphill and enjoyed poking around an ancient picnic table. All in all, I would estimate our distance at 8 miles round trip from the camper.

I can’t wait for our next one!

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