What was to be a six-day backcountry hike in the northeast corner of Olympic National Park for 64-year-old Kelly Hall turned into a 10-day ordeal that ended Monday when he walked out to the Whiskey Bend trailhead. The Bainbridge Island hiker is tired, has some scrapes and bruises, but is otherwise OK.
Hall walked out to the Whiskey Bend trailhead in the Elwha River valley shortly before 10 a.m. Monday and met a group of hikers who gave him a ride to the Elwha Ranger Station.
Hall was reported overdue Thursday night after he failed to show up at a planned rendezvous with a family member at the Slab Creek trailhead.
He began his hike on Aug. 30, setting out from the Obstruction Point trailhead near Hurricane Ridge. Hall planned to do a 39-mile hike through Grand Valley to Grand Pass, and continue over Cameron Pass, through Dose Meadows, over Gray Wolf Pass and along the Gray Wolf trail to the Slab Camp trailhead, according to Maynes.
Members of another hiking party told searchers they saw Hall on Aug. 30 in Grand Valley, about four miles from his starting point.
Hall later told park searchers that while hiking near Grand Pass in very foggy, rainy conditions, he lost the trail. He found himself heading west into the Lillian River drainage rather than into the Cameron Creek drainage as planned, Maynes said.
Once he realized where he was, Hall opted to continue hiking downstream along the Lillian River, knowing he would eventually come across the Lillian River trail which would lead him to the Elwha River trail and the Whiskey Bend trailhead.
Traveling along the Lillian River, Hall covered eight miles of extremely strenuous, far more rugged and time-consuming terrain than he had anticipated, taking nearly four days longer than he had originally planned for his hike, Maynes said.
Hall was well equipped with food, a water filter, maps and compass and other appropriate gear for backcountry travel.
“Wilderness users should always be ready to experience the wilderness on its own terms. Mr. Hall was ready, and was able to successfully reach safety and the road system on his own,” park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a prepared statement.
Searchers who contributed to the effort include National Park Service employees and volunteers, an aircraft and crew from Washington State Patrol, and volunteers from Olympic Mountain Rescue, Clallam County Search and Rescue, German Shepherd Search Dogs, Kitsap County Search and Rescue and other community members.