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by Duane Miles
The following tale has been largely disemboweled from the body of Chris Morgenroth’s autobiography, “Footprints in the Olympic,” Chapter 33. Included are various observations throughout.
But before we continue, take note here that according to the American Heritage Dictionary, there are two definitions for the word disembowel. Only the first one mentioned gives this tale’s opening statement any real teeth. The other only has relevance if we aren’t able to learn any facts from the following story.
Let’s now join together as a pack of ravenous pursuers attempting to get a taste of what it must have been like for Chris Morgenroth to stand nearly toe-to-toe with a pair of wolves bent on consuming him.
In his previous years of wandering through the Olympic Peninsula wilderness, he never had cause for fear from wild creatures.
Therefore he again didn’t expect any such trouble on this day in 1916 either. If he had, a pistol (on his hip) would have been his weapon of choice. As things turned out, he was able to get his hands on weapons — sticks and stones; barely enough to do the job. Three other factors played into his survival also. There’ll be more about those later.
Chris was working for the U.S. Forest Service on an assignment to check trail conditions in the Elwha Valley after a rather severe winter. Besides clearing windfalls from the trail, there was much needed repair of broken communication wires.
It was on the 13th that Chris left the trailhead probably near where the Elwha Ranger Station now sits. I’m not certain but it may have been true that the present road to today’s trailhead at Whiskey Bend did not exist in 1916.
Anyway, Chris hiked to a place called (Grant) Humes Ranch to hook up with a co-worker, Lee Elliott. When he arrived he only found a Mr. Pearson there, a friend of Grant’s. Pearson told Chris where Lee was and there being lots of daylight left that day, Chris continued on in hopes of even now catching up with him.
As many of you know, there are two major trail systems on the Elwha as well as several loop trails. One of those major trails goes toward Dodger Point, some 11 miles from a junction 4.7 miles from Whiskey Bend. The other trail from this junction is largely along the route the Press Expedition took through the Olympic Mountains in 1889-1890. Chris struck out alone in this direction.
Was Chris able to return to Humes Ranch before dark? Now, it’s not fair peeking at Chapter 33 of Chris’ book — May light for your feet guide you on the path of life until we meet again.