By Sherry Baysinger
Sherry and Larry Baysinger are licensed/insured independent contractors who pack mules and offer guided horseback rides and pack trips into Olympic National Park.
Nighttime in the Enchanted Valley is spectacular. The moon comes over the mountaintop and lights up the entire valley, so you can see clearly without a flashlight. At sunrise the mountains across the river from our camp at the chalet slowly light up from the top down.
It’s no wonder that the pioneers who built the chalet wanted to make it possible to stay here. One morning we watched a small herd of cow elk and their calves walking along the tree line at the edge of the meadow.
Elk bugling and whistling are common night sounds in the valley. We saw nothing of the shy black bears that are sometimes seen in the valley, even though I’m certain that the aroma of bacon frying was more than slightly enticing to them.
After our breakfast of sausage, hash browns, scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls from the Dutch oven, Sara and I hiked downriver and across the footbridge to explore the other side of the creek and to remove our trail flagging. Early into the project there was a large windfall blocking the trail so Larry, Jeff, Sara and Rod had come in and flagged a detour route for our horses and mules.
The park trail crew had cleared that for us. We felt pampered. All the 20-some years we’ve packed in the park we’ve always packed a chainsaw on one of our mules and much of the time we cut our way into our campsites.
One time Larry and his friend Mike cut out 140 windfalls to get to our drop at Bear Camp. They even built an “illegal” trail around the river washout, which we were later chastised for, even though all the hikers appreciated it. Due to their efforts, National Outdoor Leadership students and their guides received their rations on time.
But that is another story and I think Tom Larkin can help with the finishing touches on that one.
Back in the Enchanted Valley, with the entire house moving crew in camp, things really moved high gear. The chalet was moving at the rate of 17 inches each set up, all day long.
With temperatures in the 80s during the day, the Red Bull, Gatorade and Pepsi disappeared fast. I think Larry has bought everything that the Amanda store has when it comes to refreshing drinks, packing the stuff in on the mules every day.
By the end of Monday evening, just a few days after the start of the project, the chalet is within 38 feet of the 100-foot destination point. Jeff Monroe’s plan was working and the chalet would be moved to its final destination right on time.
By late Tuesday afternoon the house moving crew was ready to move the chalet the final time. Someone hitched lead lines up to Lucy, the camp mascot Beagle dog, and with some coaxing from Sara, Lucy pulled the chalet the last stretch.
Once the chalet was set, the crew members allowed exhaustion to take over. They literally went belly-up and sprawled all over the grass around the chalet.
For the mule packers and cooks, work accelerated because we still had to feed the crew and get our kitchen packed up to leave. We had a huge spaghetti feed with garlic bread for supper.
I used up 10 cans of fruit to make a Dutch oven fruit crisp for dessert. This would lighten our pack boxes considerably.
Sitting around the campfire that night listening to the house movers talk shop could be compared to Pay N Save Coffee Shop back in the day, when all the movers and shakers of logging businesses gathered to make their deals and swap stories.
Imagine driving a house down the highway! Seriously, “Mailboxes, bridges and cars beware, a house is coming down the street!”
House moving is a unique business. Sort of like mule packing; it’s not as glamorous as it looks. These house movers have to crawl around on their hands and knees in the dirt underneath houses with spiders and all kinds of creepy-crawly, slimy stuff.
Not too many people want to do it. It’s a hard business to get out of because you have all the stuff. If you do it right, and everything goes by the book (which it seldom does), then you actually can have fun working, but when things go haywire, it can be disastrous, even deadly.
So, I wonder sometimes if there will be people willing to take risks, work hard and do these kind of jobs. You Forks loggers know the answer: As long as they need houses and paper.
Wednesday morning Sara and I fix one more last breakfast and pack up lunches for everyone to take on the hike out. We pack up our kitchen tent, carefully stuffing everything tightly into the pack boxes so they won’t rattle and bang on the mules coming out. Larry spread out the canvas manty tarps and the crew threw their gear on to the tarps to be packed out.
Sara and I saddled up our horses and our mule Henry for Del Davis to ride out on. By 12:30 p.m. Larry had all the gear mantied, and loaded and we said goodbye to the Enchanted Valley Chalet and headed down the trail.
Few long mountain trail rides are without a measure of excitement and the ride out was no exception. The hot summer weather we had all week is just what makes ground bees and yellow jackets really temperamental.
So, Sara and I were leading out with our horses, heading up a steep part of the trail, when all of a sudden there’s a lot of rattling and banging behind us and we realize that Larry and mules have run over a ground bee nest. If the breakaway strings pop and the packs get catawampus, it can take a few minutes to get things straightened out.
Mule packers usually don’t want help because the mules are used to the muleskinner and anyone wanting to jump in and help can cause a bigger wreck. So we just stop in the trail and wait.
My horse, Spirit, doesn’t have much in the way of patience and after standing for so long he gets fidgety. We were standing between two wooden water-bars and he started to back up, caught his hind foot and went down.
Back up he came and I was still in the saddle good and tight, then he stepped forward and somehow tripped over the front water bar and went down again. This time it felt like he was going to actually roll over so I took my feet out of the stirrups and started to launch myself off.
But my belt had hooked itself over the saddle horn and I was stuck there half on and half off. About that time he righted himself and scrambled to his feet.
This had happened to Sara on another trail, except she didn’t get hung up and got herself free, with the exception of a possible cracked rib from her saddle horn. We won’t mention what horse she was riding or the trail she was on because down the road she might want to sell the horse and it could be a strike against it, especially since hers fell on a perfectly level spot.
This is why the Bible says, “A horse is a vain thing for safety.” I’ve known that most of my life, so I must be a very slow learner.
The rest of the ride out was pretty uneventful. In fact I had to start singing to entertain Sara who I thought might be falling asleep on her horse.
My heart was just overflowing with thankfulness for having been on (and survived) this great adventure to save the chalet and also for the privilege of many years of riding these beautiful Olympic Mountains and rain forest trails.
Thanks for the comments and encouragement that many of you have been to inspire me to share this story. I believe that the chalet will survive for generations because the American people came together in a grass roots effort to honor our forerunners, our heritage and our history by saving the Enchanted Valley Chalet. When it’s time to decide the future home of the chalet, we will join hands again!