Unless you’re lucky on the weather front, staying dry on an Olympic backpack is impossible. It’s far more realistic to aim for staying comfortable.
If sunshine and blue skies accompany you, so much the better. But if, as is sometimes the case, Mother Nature nurtures her rainforest, you can still enjoy the hike without scuba gear.
First, no waterproof fabric, even breathable ones, will keep you dry on the southwestern slope of the Olympics. You could hike 4-8 hours per day in steady rainfall, which means that if your parka doesn’t spring a leak, you’ll sweat a quart of water.
When I’m certain hordes of summer tourists won’t chase me about, laughing hysterically and pointing, I’ll wear lightweight long underwear and tote an umbrella. In the high country, I bag the umbrella and slip on a light waterproof and windproof parka and pants.
Second, remember that the “rain shadow” is a real phenomenon. While 144 inches of rain falls in the Quinault River Valley every year, only 17 inches falls on the lower Dungeness River Valley, about the same as Spokane.
You’ll likely enjoy more sunshine backpacking on rivers and ridges on the northeast side of the Olympic crest. These include the Elwha, Dungeness, Quilcene, Little Quilcene, Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers.
Finally, as the mist collects on those errant locks sticking out from under your rain hat and dribbles over brow and nose, try to remember why you hit the trail in the first place. No traffic cameras or stupid Geico lizards surely top my list.
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