Hike to Lillian River, Olympic Wilderness

Lillian River flows through a bottomland forest ina step sided the ravine. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

Lillian River flows through a bottomland forest in a steep sided ravine. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

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.

The gentle rapids along Lillian River gave a soft backdrop to my camp. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

The gentle rapids along Lillian River gave a soft backdrop to my camp. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

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.

Sword Ferns and moss covered the understory along Lillian River. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

Sword Ferns and soft pillowy moss covered the understory along Lillian River. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

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.

My camp fire at Lillian River camp. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

My camp fire at Lillian River camp. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

7 thoughts on “Hike to Lillian River, Olympic Wilderness

  1. A beautiful and unique place to spend some life-time. The story accompaniment certainly adds even greater value to the imagery; well done. I’m headed to 2nd Beach with another photographer-friend tomorrow (Friday), hopefully to squeeze in some photography between rainy days. (I don’t often have the luxury of picking the best times for photography)! Best Regards.

    • Thanks, John. Have a great time at 2nd beach, it is really pretty there and I bet the clouds and mist will be wonderful. Pictures can be great in the rain too. I saw a great picture of the milky way taken there on line the other day.

        • Hi John,
          Love your shots. You made some really great ones. I really like the slow water ones and the one with a little of the sun in the corner really grabs me. The moss covered trees are really beautiful and with the two people in the shot gives some nice size perspective. The vertical up through the trees is stunning and a hard one to get. Congratulations, it looks like you had a great trip and I do wish I had been there. I am off to PA to visit family for a few weeks. Hope you get out some more and make some more great shots.
          Best, tom

  2. Beautiful! I think I might need that photo of Lilian River….look like portrait style I can use!

    Hope you had a Happy Easter!

    • Thanks, Nancy, it was a wonderful trip, very tranquil. I will print one up for you. Hope you had a great trip to France.

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