By Douglas Scott
The Enchanted Valley sits in Olympic National Park, another jewel in a region incredible rich with beauty. Located above one of the most impressive rain forests in America, Enchanted Valley is a sought after destination for hikers and backpackers from all over the world. With bears, mountains, glaciers and great trails and camping, the region is teaming with adventurers on sumer day. Normally, the region is full of backpackers enjoying the last sunny weekend of summer, but in early September 2014, Enchanted Valley had been turned into the scene of an $124,000 relocation of one of the oldest buildings in Olympic National Park.
The Enchanted Valley Chalet had sat in the same spot in the Quinault Region of the Olympic Peninsula since it was completed in 1931, seven years before Olympic National Park was created. Originally a privately owned backcountry lodge, the building stopped being used around WWII and was eventually sold to the National Park Service in the 1950s. For the next 60 years, the Enchanted Valley Chalet stood as a destination for backpackers worldwide, a remote building existing in an otherwise pristine wilderness. Serving as an emergency shelter, as well as seasonal backcountry ranger station, the Chalet was a welcome sight to many a weary hiker.
Olympic National Park Spokesperson Rainey McKenna, who was on her first visit to the Enchanted Valley, led tours for members of the media. She expressed the same love for the region that many have.
“Enchanted Valley is a gorgeous, very popular hike. People have been Hiking up here for generations. For a lot of people this is a part of their memory and a part of the National Park Experience. They associate the chalet with their experience on the trail,” says McKenna.
Located in wilderness, vehicles are not allowed in the park, making the logistics of getting supplies to the area quite difficult. While helicopters could be used, the NPS is required to use the smallest possible helicopter to do the job. For three days, a small helicopter carried between 700 and 900 pounds at a time to the Chalet. Flying back and forth with heavy loads dangling 30 feet below the spinning blades, the chopper provided a continuos buzz in one of the quietest regions of the country.
As the helicopter would fly out, it would carry an assortment of pipes, building material and decades worth of trash, some of which had been sitting in the valley for over 70 years. With just 25 flights, the Park service made sure to get their money’s worth, as the helicopter alone cost roughly $1,600 each trip, or $40,000 in total.
Everything else was hauled in by either mules or hikers. The 13.5 mile long trail from Graves Creek to Enchanted Valley weaves along the Quinault River, through lush rain forests, and some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world. Transporting goods along this route isn’t the worst commute in the world, and the destination makes it even better.
If you haven’t hiked to the Enchanted Valley, it is a must-see for nature enthusiasts. Leaving the dark greens of the rain forest, the Enchanted Valley opens up into a visual wonderland. The valley is often called the Valley of 10,000 waterfalls, as the north side of the valley is made up of steep cliffs. Numerous waterfalls pour down its flanks in the wetter months and year round, a few small waterfalls fall from the melting snow. To the northeast, Mount Anderson (7,330 ft) sits exposing its huge glacier and endless rugged peaks heading to Anderson Pass. The valley is breathtaking and is consistently named one of the best backpacking trips in the National Park System. Sitting right along the trail in this majestic valley is the Chalet, a three story wooded cabin, perfectly rustic, right down the the hand carved wooden bench that sits on its porch.
Starting in 2014, the Enchanted Valley Chalet had been sitting precariously on the ever-shifting banks of the Quinault River, teetering close to being destroyed by the slightest shift of the river. What had been a 10-foot buffer in October 2013 quickly shrunk to being undercut by the spring rains and snow melt in May 2014.
Monroe House Moving, Inc. of Sequim, Washington was awarded the contract to move the building. Using standard house-moving techniques, the contractor installed two main lifting beams beneath the chalet, which lifted it 20 inches off the ground. The chalet was slowly moved with four hydraulic jacks, pushing the 90 ton building in 17 inch increments over 5 minutes. Lubricating the beams with Dove brand soap, the crew would slide the historic chalet a few millimeters at a second, nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. Luckily, Olympic National Park officials have provided a link to their time-lapse cameras to watch the entire move. (Watch the house move here.)
The Enchanted Valley Chalet has been moved roughly 75 feet from the river banks, but its story isn’t over. For now, the chalet sits safe, away the the wild waters of the Quinault, serving as a wonderful sight for the last of the backpackers before winter sets in. Over the next year, we get to decide what to do with it, as the public, with approval from the National Park Service, has the last word on the historic chalet.
By September of 2015, Olympic National Park officials hope to have not just a solution, but already implement the plan.