I stood entranced by the music rising from the rushing water; it seemed like an orchestra in full session. The woodwind instruments twittered in front of me, the strings vibrating just down stream, and the brass-percussion adding tones from upstream. A Pacific wren’s twill sounded like a soprano soloist warbling forth a wonderful song to accompany the orchestra. I felt like I was in a concert hall and decided this was the place to camp for the weekend.
I sat on a rock to listen to the water in the Lillian River. The river ran down through a narrow valley with steep walls that climbed almost a thousand feet on each side. The river, a tributary of the Elwha on the Olympic Peninsula, was more a creek by eastern standards, maybe a dozen yards across. The water tumbled over a series of rocks and small ledges creating continuous rapids for a hundred yards up and down stream. The water ran clear and I could glimpse the bottom between white frothing water. I watched for the flash of a fish running by but never saw one. As the Elwha River becomes recolonized with salmon this tributary should be an ideal place for them to spawn. I wonder how long it will be until we can see salmon moving up this water course looking for gravel beds.
I pitched my tent 10-yards from the river under the branches of a western hemlock and red cedar. A large grand fir grew right along the river and two big-leaf maples with leaf buds just beginning to swell grew on the other side of the opening. Light green moss produced a blanket of color the trunk and branches of the maples. Douglas firs dominated the walls of the valley and red cedars, western hemlocks, grand firs, and Douglas firs covered the narrow valley floor. Many of these trees were close to 3-feet in diameter and rose more than 200 feet into the air. Sword ferns and a carpet of yellow-green moss covered the forest floor. The moss, as soft as a fine feather pillow, gave a damp sweet smell to the air.
Damp wood made building a campfire difficult but I finally had one burning. It reminded me of a time I camped with my wife and daughter in Florida. The mosquitoes buzzed around us but the smoke from the fire helped keep them away. We had a great time adding small sticks to the flame. No mosquitoes on this trip and the heat from the fire was nice in the chilly mountain air. I wish they were here.
I had found the right place — wild and with solitude — to escape the bustle of Seattle and settled for a quiet weekend.