Memorial Holiday Backpack First Divide - Duckabush River to Staircase R.S.














Eight Stream Bridge

North Fork Skokomish Trail 5/4/13


North Fork Skok Trail 5/4/13


NE Face of First Divide from Home Sweet Home June 2012

  • Rating: moderate to difficult
  • Route: The drive from Olympia North to the Duckabush River TH off Hwy 101 will take 2-3 hours because we need to leave a vehicle at Staircase Ranger Station (exit point).

  • Gear:In addition to 10 essentials and overnight camping gear the following items are required
  • Teva sandals or other suitable footwear for fording rivers
  • Ice axe
  • Backcountry Permit (available at TH)
  • Gaiters and Gore-Tex shoes are recommended.


  • Carpool: Rendezvous at 9:00 AM - Westside Olympia Food Coop. We will carpool from the Coop to trailhead at Duckabush River with a side trip to Staircase to deposit a vehicle. We leave on time and do not wait.
  • Please bring $15 -25 cash per person to reimburse drivers and pay for permits and entrance fees.
  • Links: How to ford a river w/ John E Hiker
  • Backcountry Permit required ($6.00 per person)
  • NW Forest Pass required for vehicle(s) @ Duckabush TH
  • No dogs allowed in National Park

Disclaimer: We will be in the wilderness. Serious injury or death can occur. We are not professional guides nor do we claim to be experts.  It is not our responsibility to get you to the listed destination.  We hike at our own pace.  By attending this hike you are assuming responsibility for your own personal safety and we will not be held responsible.

Trek Description

UPDATE: (5/6/13) An exploratory trip up the Skokomish River revealed extensive trail damage with many trees toppled across the trail (see photos). A phone conversation with the Park revealed their trail crew will NOT be clearing the Duckabush or Skokomish River trails before June at the earliest. The Forest Service reported their trail crew has cleared the Duckabush Trail up to the Park boundary (six miles).

Therefore, participants should be prepared for a fairly "athletic" hike requiring many small detours and much squirming over, under, and around fallen trees. In addition, I am adding some group gear that participants will be asked to take turns carrying including a lightweight hatchet, bow saw, and some rope.


One of my favorite early-season treks through the SE Olympic Mountains for about 33 miles. We begin hiking 17.6 miles up the Duckabush River. Next we climb up and over First Divide (4688') and down into the Skokomish River valley. Then out to Staircase RS along the North Fork Skokomish River. There are two obstacles along this route.

• Spring ford of the Duckabush River - A challenging ford in May at least 60' wide with swift water over knee deep. See photo below.

• Climb over First Divide - Totally snow-covered in May (see photo above). Ice axe required. If you've ever slogged up to Panorama Point or Camp Muir on Mt Rainier than you can probably climb the 500' NE face of First Divide. It's an easy climb if you are comfortable on snow and crampons are NOT ALLOWED. On the other hand, if you've never used an ice axe or practiced the self-arrest than this hike is not for you.


This trip is NOT recommended for novice hikers. Participants will be required to sign a liability waiver at the trailhead. Guests are not allowed on this event - you must be a member to join us.



(car shuttle)

DAY01 - 10m / Duckabush TH - 10-mile Camp 5/24/13

DAY02 - 7.6m /10m Camp - Upper Duck Camp 5/25/13

DAY03 - 5.6m / Upper Duck - Nine Stream Camp 5/26/13

DAY04 - 10m / 9 Stream -  Staircase TH 5/27/13

(car shuttle)


What you can expect

• Duckabush River ford - This is a serious crossing in springtime. The river will be fast-moving, sixty feet wide, cold, and at least knee deep. For a thorough explanation of river fords on video see enclosed link

  • Duckabush River Crossing 7/5/11 - will be deeper in May

• DAY03 will be in snow (no trail) throughout the day and the group will hike together.

• Low avalanche danger in late May

• A true wilderness experience (unlikely to see other campers)

• Campfires

• Long days - only a month to solstice!

• Bear wires at all campsites

• Success!! Event Host has crossed First Divide multiple times in spring snow conditions.





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  • Dirk

    A great trip. Got a good workout each day with the hiking and bushwacking over, under and around all of the downed trees. The amount and size of the timber on the ground was amazing. Nice campfires every night to cook dinner and kick back and relax by. It was fun to break out the ice axe to traverse and climb up and over the snow covered slopes. Jon, excellent job with the navigation over the divide. Sure felt good to be hiking downhill after that. Thanks Jon and Mack for a fun four days.

    May 28, 2013

  • Jon E

    Yeah, Monday was a real soaker but the liquid sunshine the rest of the trip went almost unnoticed. No bugs at all. Continuous snow above 3800' and we were the first party to cross First Divide this year. Besides having to share 10-mile camp with a huge group from the WTA we had the entire backcountry to ourselves for most of the trip. 414 trees down across the 33-mile trek.
    Mac - thanks for your excellent fire management and for kicking steps all the way over First Divide! Dirk - Thanks for the stories and the laughs. I wouldn't have attempted this route without you guys. I appreciate the company and support. Overall, a great adventure!

    May 28, 2013

  • Mac

    Another enjoyable, if damp, trip. The Duckabush crossing was a breeze. Jon nailed the route-finding over 1st Divide. Plenty of wood for campfires (down low). Many trees down over the trail. Snow above about 3600ft(??). Snow soft up and over the pass due to persistent light rain. Lot's of elk sign, but didn't see any. Great company! Thanks Jon and Dirk!

    May 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    sorry i thought i had canceled my rsvp, i work a llllll weekend : ( have fun and post pictures please!!

    May 24, 2013

  • Dirk

    Checking on the meeting place. Is the coop the one on Pacific Ave?

    May 23, 2013

    • Jon E

      So glad you can join us. NEGATIVE on the Coop. Coop on Pacific Ave is "Eastside" location. We are meeting at the WESTSIDE Coop corner of Bowman & Rogers in West Olympia. Check the map. About a mile NE of Capital Mall, hidden away in a residential neighborhood.

      May 23, 2013

  • Dirk

    whoops, never mind.

    May 23, 2013

  • Dirk

    Hey everyone. Just checking to see if we are still on for this hike. Is everyone still going?

    May 22, 2013

    • Jon E

      Dirk - I sent out a email to the group on Tuesday. Not sure why you didn't get it? Mac and I are going for sure. I haven't heard from you or ANICK. You are welcome to join us still. If you are seeking adventure than I guarantee this trek will deliver. It will be a total wilderness experience and we will undoubtedly be the first people across First Divide this year.

      May 22, 2013

    • Mac

      Hey Dirk, I hope you're coming! Should be a good trip.

      May 22, 2013

  • Lucia H.

    I will wait for better weather :)
    Have fun guys,

    May 22, 2013

    • Jon E

      No worries Lucia. Hopefully we'll see you on another adventure.

      May 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I couldn't get the time off from work :( So infortunately, yet again, I have to decline. One of these days I WILL get out with everyone :)

    May 22, 2013

    • Jon E

      Sorry we can't get you out on your first Olympia Meetup. Maybe next time.

      May 22, 2013

  • Jon E

    Weather Forecast is okay. Perhaps some rain but not a washout by any means. Get ready for a real adventure. This group will likely be the first across First Divide this year. Should have the entire backcountry to ourselves on Memorial weekend.

    May 20, 2013

  • Lucia H.

    Looking forward to being outdoors for a few days !

    May 16, 2013

  • Chris S.

    I want to see more of these posted. Thanks! Unfortunately I have a commitment on the 24th and a really busy week at the store. Keep offering stuff like this.

    May 9, 2013

  • Jon E

    Thanks for that timely report Mike. Much appreciated!! Mac and I had a good "warmup" this weekend and postulated that Duckabush might be in worse shape. Confirmed!

    We'll have to chop our way through.

    May 6, 2013

  • Mike B.

    FYI -- We hiked into five-mile camp yesterday. The FS trail has four major trees down that require some scrambling to get over. Reports from other hikers stated a considerable number of trees down beyond five-mile camp. Several groups trying to get to ten-mile camp had aborted their trips and were returning.

    May 6, 2013

  • David M.

    Change of plans. Trip to Hawaii has come up so I won't be able to attend.

    April 27, 2013

  • Trish

    Sorry, an opportunity to go to Italy has come up and I’m not sure I’ll have all my stuff together for this trip by the time I get back.
    Have fun and Buon viaggio!

    April 24, 2013

  • Kevin F.­­­

    Duckabush is a great trail. A side trip to Marmot Lake is an inviting wrinkle. There are a family of bears that lived up there, I think. You might see some cubs playing in the snow near the lake. Stream fording is tricky this time of year. Be careful!

    April 15, 2013

  • Syndi C.

    Out of town that weekend. Sounds like fun and exactly what I'm looking for ;-)

    April 10, 2013

  • Syndi C.

    Out of town that weekend but looking forward to the next event ;-)

    April 10, 2013

  • Gene S.

    Agree with jounkeep it lite!

    April 10, 2013

  • Megan S.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I just got a new job and won't be able to get the time off. Have a tremendous time, everyone! :)

    April 4, 2013

  • Paula Jorgensen K.

    I'm on call that weekend, and I can't bribe my co-workers to fill in. Have fun, and take lots of pics!

    March 18, 2013

  • Charlotte S.

    I have to cancel as I don't have the right equipment for backpacking--gave it all away.

    March 16, 2013

  • sandy

    I cannot take that time off work, sorry and have a great hike

    March 16, 2013

  • Jon E

    I've posted some thoughts on lightening your load in the discussion area.

    1 · March 15, 2013

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