Day 14 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast.
Lupe’s day began uneventfully enough. She woke up on a soft bed at a motel in Tacoma. Before checking out, SPHP gave her a bath. Afterwards, Lupe and SPHP spent part of the morning at the same park where Lupe had played Frisbee the evening before. Next was a boring stop at a laundromat. When the clothes were all clean, the interesting part of the day began. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP left Tacoma on Hwy 16, and headed for the Olympic Peninsula.
It had been sunny and warm out in Tacoma, but by the time Lupe was crossing the Hood Canal on Hwy 104, the sky was overcast. After a while, a light mist began, but it was intermittent and didn’t amount to much. The Olympic Peninsula is mountainous, but between the clouds and the tall forest that lined both sides of the highway, there wasn’t much to be seen.
From the Port Angeles vicinity, there were views of the ocean off to the NE. SPHP had been looking forward to taking Hwy 112 W along the N shore of the Olympic Peninsula, but Hwy 112 was closed due to road construction. Instead, Hwy 101 took Lupe into the N end of Olympic National Park. After Yellowstone and Glacier, Lanis and SPHP now knew better than to bother stopping anywhere in a U.S. National Park. Dingoes just weren’t allowed in the backcountry.
Lupe, though, knew this place was different. For here, in the towering old rain forests of the misty mountains, is the home of a creature from a forgotten age. Seldom spoken of by American Dingoes and Carolina Dogs, and even then just in low growls and whines, is a race of ancestral Dingoes known only as Big Paw! U.S. National Park or not, no human has ever been able to find, capture or record Big Paw.
Hwy 101 left Olympic National Park and entered the Olympic National Forest. In the national forest, Lupe would be less restricted. Lanis and SPHP started looking for a place to camp, and soon arrived at the Klahowya campground. Klahowya campground was in a forest full of ferns and moss. It had a real jungle look to it. There were plenty of open sites in the campground, too, some of them next to the Sol Duc river.
Lanis and SPHP selected a site, and set up Lupe’s tiny house. Lupe was still sitting in the Honda Element. She wasn’t so sure about things. What if Big Paw was lurking somewhere out there?
Eventually, Lupe came out of the Element to inspect the campsite. Klahowya campground really was a very impressive place. Lupe’s tiny house was set up in a jungle setting unlike any place Lupe had ever camped before. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP took a short walk through the jungle down to the Sol Duc river.
From the size of the exposed rocky riverbed, it was easy to see that even though there was a fair amount of water in the Sol Duc now, normally it was a much larger river. However, a dry spell and the late August season meant the river was quite low. Lupe sniffed around in the bushes and young trees growing near the rocky riverbed. She was having a good time exploring.
After spending a little time down along the Sol Duc river; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP returned to the campsite for a picnic. When the meal was done, Lanis and SPHP thought it might be fun to find a trail. Everyone got back into the Element. Lanis drove back to Hwy 101, and turned W. In just a few miles, there was a side road to the N that looked promising.
The side road wound around in the woods. It emerged from the forest at a large clearing where there were some old abandoned buildings. The road went past the buildings, and soon ended at a trailhead. No other vehicles were there. Lanis parked the Element. A very wide, level trail led Lupe, Lanis and SPHP into a dense forest. Perhaps 30 – 50 feet down a steep embankment to the right, flowed the Sol Duc river.
After a little while, SPHP realized the wide trail was actually an abandoned road. Under the leaves on the trail was a layer of pavement, occasionally exposed at the edges where the where the old road was starting to crumble away. From the left, small streams trickled down a mountainside. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP came to a single track trail that led up the mountain. A sign said it led to Snider Peak, elevation 3,055 ft.
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP took the single track trail, although how far it was to Snider Peak, no one knew. The trail switch-backed up the mountainside until it was out of view of the abandoned road below. Although the trail was in seemingly good condition, no one else at all appeared. Lupe was having fun exploring the forest, but Lanis and SPHP eventually decided Lupe had gone far enough. It was time to return.
Back down at the old abandoned road, it was still early enough out so Lupe, Lanis and SPHP continued farther along the abandoned road instead of returning to the Element. Through the trees were glimpses of the Sol Duc river down the embankment on the right, which was steeper and higher here than before. The river was now 50 – 100 feet below the road.
The river curved away from the old road, and the road began to climb through an exceptionally shady and gloomy portion of the forest. At the top of the rise, the road leveled out at the edge of a clearing. On the opposite side of the clearing was a decaying old mobile home, and some dilapidated outbuildings. No one was around, but a flag was flying – a black flag with the skull and crossbones on it. Lupe had come to a pirate hideout!
Lanis and SPHP didn’t think it wise to tangle with pirates, and retreated back through the gloomy forest down the wide trail to the bend in the Sol Duc river. There was no sign of pursuing pirates, but the hair on Lupe’s haunches was up. She was staring down the abandoned road ahead. On the side of the trail opposite the river, up on the mountainside, a dark form was moving at high speed through the trees – and coming closer.
Lupe growled deeply. Suddenly, out of the forest and onto the abandoned road ahead, leaped the approaching menace.
It was huge, as tall as either Lanis or SPHP! Its long, shaggy fur was mostly dark gray with silver streaks, but where Lupe sports a beautiful white vest on her chest, the creature had a vest of ebony. A huge curly tail arched high over its back. The creature’s large soft ears were flattened against its head. Its gray eyes glowed with a distinctly reddish hue. Saliva dripped from its fangs and gigantic pink tongue. Big Paw!
With a low, snarling growl, Big Paw bounded to the attack! There was no escape. Lanis and SPHP faced certain doom. A brown and white flash streaked toward Big Paw. It was Lupe, barking wildly! Big Paw paused to consider this noisy, tiny Carolina Dog for only a moment. Big Paw lunged at Lupe, but she was too fast.
Lupe circled around and around Big Paw, biting his heels and harassing him. Big Paw snapped at her again and again. At times Lupe dashed into the trees to get away, with Big Paw hot on her tail. Lupe barely escaped. Once, Big Paw was so close, his slavering jaws snapped shut on the upper end of her tail, ripping her fur there away.
Lupe darted between the trees like lightning. Big Paw crashed into several of them trying to catch her. Finally, Big Paw hit one of the trees so hard, it leaned and then plummeted down to the Sol Duc river below. As its roots tore away from under the old abandoned road, a big chunk of the road gave way. It too, went crashing down into the Sol Duc river. Lupe and Big Paw almost fell with it, but both managed to scramble back away from the crumbling bank.
Lupe was panting hard. She had put up a valiant fight, but Big Paw was too fast and strong. Only Lupe’s agility was saving her, but her energy was fading with each daring escape from Big Paw’s jaws. Finally Big Paw had her cornered. He snarled and lunged, but Lupe lunged first. Her fangs sank into Big Paw’s neck. She clamped her jaws shut, and hung on tightly.
Blood streaked Big Paw’s fur. He howled with rage and pain. Big Paw shook his head violently, but the little Carolina Dog dangling from his neck refused to let go. Big Paw couldn’t shake himself free of Lupe!
Big Paw took off into the forest, retreating back up Snider Peak, howling in pain the entire time. Lupe hung on. For how long she didn’t know. It seemed like an eternity, but may have been for just a minute or two, if that. Big Paw made a mighty leap over a giant old tree trunk laying horizontal on the forest floor. As he did, Lupe crashed into the tree trunk, smashed between Big Paw and giant tree. She lost her grip and fell dazed to the ground.
When Lupe woke up, Big Paw was gone. She was alone in the terrifying forest. Big Paw might return hunting her at any moment! Suddenly, she heard voices rising faintly up the mountainside. Lanis and SPHP were calling her, and looking for her. Lupe staggered to her paws, and took off running down the mountain.
Soon Lupe was back with Lanis and SPHP. Both shouted with joy at seeing her alive. They petted her, and hugged her, and kept congratulating her on her most stupendous victory ever in all of American Dingo or Carolina Dog history! SPHP promised her endless treats, steak and ice cream. Lanis said he had captured her entire battle with Big Paw on film. She was going to be rich and famous!
It doesn’t happen often in that distant land of mist, but on the night of the full moon, when the wind is right and blows the clouds clear away from the mountains, as the pale light filters through the ancient rain forest, if you go to the old abandoned road above the bank of the Sol Duc river, and follow it to the start of the single track trail to Snider Peak, then there the Dingoes say, you can still hear Big Paw howling with rage far up the mountain.
And, if you continue on in the moonlight, on the abandoned old road, you will come to a wide open view of a curve in the Sol Duc river where the road and forested bank caved in during the Battle of Big Paw. But unless you are looking for trouble, don’t continue on the road up to the pirate hideout, or worse yet, go up the single track trail to Snider Peak.