An Existential Backpack Trip on the Olympic Peninsula

words + photos by Don Mankin

The sun was shining as I passed by the town of Sequim (pronounced “Squim” like some kind of squishy, low tide cephalopod) on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula (OP). I was on my way to Olympic National Park, one of “America’s Ultimate Parks,” according to National Geographic.

Times are tough and money is short; that is why I vacationed last summer in the OP, home to one of the most diverse and accessible wilderness areas in the United States. The Peninsula is just an hour or so drive and a 30 minute ferry ride from Seattle, and its varied attractions -- a rugged coastline, empty beaches, glacier-capped mountains, alpine meadows, pristine lakes, and thick rain forests – are a relatively short drive from each another.

There was another reason for this trip, to see if I, at the advanced age of 67, could still haul a fully loaded backpack into the wilderness and survive a few days on my own. From my 30s to my 50s, I used to do a solo backpacking trip almost every year, several of them on the OP. It was always a deeply satisfying experience – a meditative, reflective, man-alone-with-nature, listening-to-your-inner-voice, getting-in-touch-with-your-primal-self, city-boy-alone-in-the-wild kind of thing. I loved it.

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