WA – PCT Section L . . . as in Lots to Love (Harts Pass to Rock Pass)

Piece by piece maybe someday I’ll complete Section L. In 2016, I only made it 8 miles north of Rainy Pass before I had to turnaround due to tendonitis in my shin (link). I landed in Mazama after completing a hike in Glacier Peak Wilderness, including a small piece of Section K (link), in need of a weekend adventure that wasn’t overcrowded.

Wildflower happiness.

Ptarmigan or grouse.

Long traverses.

Hello mountains, what beautiful texture you wear.

I couldn’t help but reminisce about a previous trip into the Pasayten Wilderness (link).

The trail was in good shape following fires the previous year. Thankfully it was a fairly short stretch.

Rock Pass campsite.

First light.

As I hiked through the area, I couldn’t help but visualize the terrain covered in snow as the southbounders experience it during their 30-mile hike to the border and back from Harts Pass. These photos illustrate the dangers and severe consequences. Definitely adds an element of eh gads to the beginning of their journey.

Slate Peak Lookout.

Just a short drive from Harts Pass is Slate Peak Lookout. Upon my return to the trailhead, I drove to the lookout parking area and then hiked up to the Lookout. This is the view of the lookout from the PCT.

There were a couple of nearby ridges worthy of a hike. I would have loved to explore this one but alas I had places to go.

The interpretive signage was helpful, especially showing peak names. I was surprised to learn the peak on the right was Jack Mountain. I hiked around that mountain a couple years previous (link). That’s snow-covered Mt Baker between the Jack and Crater Mountains.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 3-5, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Register just past the trailhead for wilderness overnight stays.
  • There are three places to park for Hart’s Pass Trailhead access. I recommend passing the ranger station, and the restroom only parking area to the trailehad only area.
  • Mice seem to be a problem everywhere in Washington, and they seem to like to break into my car.
  • There were lots of bees out enjoying the flowers also. I tend to have quite the reactions. I think this was Day 2 and it stung through my shirt. It kept growing for a couple more days.
  • Be prepared for biting flies and mosquitoes. I’d sprayed my outerwear, pack and screen on tent in advance with Sawyer’s Permethrin (Amazon link), and applied Picardin (Amazon link) to my skin when needed.
  • Mazama, Twisp and Winthrop are good resupply locations
  • Dispersed camping is available on nearby USFS lands.

Resources:

Links:

WA – Glacier Peak Wilderness, Spider Gap / Buck Pass Loop (Part 2 of 2)

I ended Part 1 (link) at the Cloudy Pass PCT junction.

I was tired and still had some miles to hike before I’d reach my evening destination. I must have still had a bit of energy though as I took a few photos.

A friend recommended I spend the night at Image Lake so I could experience the Glacier Peak sunset.

What a traversing trail. There were lots of flowers mixed in with what looks like grasses.

Image Lake

The camping is far from what I’d choose. No view of the lake and instead campsites hidden in the trees to protect this fragile area that has been over loved. It took everything I had to hike from camp to the far end of the lake to watch sunset. I joined a couple of other motivated photographers. The skeeters were horrendous making it hard to capture a mosquito-free photo. I knew I should wait longer to catch best color but when the others grew tired, I joined them on hike back to camp.

At least I had a view of Glacier Peak from my campsite. The designated areas where overflowing and I grabbed this space on the perimeter. As expected I was drowning in condensation by morning.

The next morning I hiked to Miner’s Ridge Lookout.

This is year #5 for Russ volunteering as caretaker of the Lookout. He’s been spending much of his time restoring the lookout. What he’s accomplished is impressive. He lives here about two months each summer, joined occasionally by his wife, Kelly, and other family members. I heard his grandkids were helping out a couple weeks ago. If you hike in from the Suiattle Trailhead, you’ll find a bucket asking if you would help shuttle supplies such as nails or screws. Also consider bringing him a gift of fresh vegetables or fruit.

Views were very hazy and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a new fire start or if this was the smoke blowing in from the fires in Alaska and Canada. Russ was on the radio when I arrived. There was a fire in the Devore Creek drainage between Stehekein and Holden; it was 100 acres as of that morning.

I decided to hike the loop. Not the brightest decision as it included bonus descending and ascending miles, in less than beautiful conditions. I would have enjoyed repeating the green traverse instead. I should have hiked the higher trail around Image Lake.

This waterfall was especially refreshing. I met Russ and Kelly again here where we both took a break and enjoyed more chatting. Russ also manages Image Lake, including the backcountry toilets. On this day, after their duties they were out for a hike to an area new to Kelly.

Finally I was back on the PCT. Loved meeting thru hikers who were happy to celebrate “PCT grade.” The loop I was hiking was definitely NOT PCT grade.

As they say all good things must end. Sadly within an hour, it was time to exit the PCT for the steeper terrain of the Buck Creek Pass Trail.

I was glad I’d taken this photo the previous night as on this day the image was filled with smoke haze. I believe the chute to the left leads up to Spider Gap and Lyman Lakes. My Peakfinder App wasn’t working so I’m guessing here based on my topo map. I think the mountain to the left is Dumbell Mountain and the one to the right is Fortress Mountain, which the trail skirts around the front.

I always say things happen for a reason. This trail is very populated, with many more hikers than I like, especially at camps. I happened upon this solo campsite at just the right moment. I had a fantastic view of Fortress Mountain, a nearby creek, and the best sleep of the trip.

The skies cleared and from my campsite I had this nice view of the Miners Ridge Trail I’d hiked on my way to Image Lake. I think it would be fun to hike the actual ridge.

The next morning I was entertained by these clouds. Did they foretell a change of weather?

As I hiked toward Buck Creek Pass, I was reminded of how lucky I was to have gotten a clear view of Glacier Peak the previous day.

Monkey Flower

A little different perspective of lupine.

My goal was to claim one of the three campsites at Buck Pass before spending a few hours hiking up Liberty Cap Mountain. If you look closely you’ll see the switchback trail going up the open green area. The areas appearing brown are really lupine and other wildflowers.

The lupine meadows were overwhelming. That’s Helmet Butte in the background.

I was in my element! Plentiful flowers mixed with mountains galore. I enjoyed seeing another side of Glacier Peak.

Ptarmigan

I forget what these are called. They are one of my favorites with their intense color.

Learning there was water not far from the pass, in fact on the way to the Liberty Cap trail, made it possible for me to spend the day exploring the area. This spring is probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The overflow creek was edged with this greener than green turf.

It was so soft.

There were a few of these tiny flowers interspersed.

Pretty sweet view.

Watching sunrise is my favorite time of day. I sure felt lucky getting to experience the mountain minus clouds.

This was my least favorite part of the loop. I’m still not sure whether I would have preferred to have gotten this section out of the way in the beginning and ended with my favorite parts. I wouldn’t have wanted to climb through the hot overgrowth area so I guess in that way I’m glad I completed as a counterclockwise loop. As they say, pick your poison.

Although few of the berries were ripe, it was surprising to see fall color in a few places.

There was a sign at the trailhead indicating the bridge was out. It was very functional and thankfully not flagged closed. The stream crossing would have been easy; getting up the bank might have been challenging.

Much of the trail below the burn area was extremely overgrown with berry bushes.

The umbrella made getting through the burn and berry areas much more tolerable. It was humid and hot.

I was also glad my car was parked at the trailhead. I wouldn’t have wanted to tackle the 3-mile road walk after already being overheated. However, there is a creek near the Buck Creek Trailhead where you can clean up and/or cool off. Highly recommend!

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 27-31, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Register at the trailhead so the trails continue to get funds allocated for maintenance, etc.
  • Be prepared for biting flies and mosquitoes. I’d sprayed my outerwear, pack and screen on tent in advance with Sawyer’s Permethrin (Amazon link), and applied Picardin (Amazon link) to my skin when needed.
  • Leavenworth is a decent resupply and WiFi location. Can you tell I was craving vegetables?
  • There is dispersed camping opportunities available near Leavenworth in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
  • I found a $3 shower at a local fitness center.
  • When there isn’t a nearby laundromat or you don’t have enough to justify a load, shower laundry is great and the dashboard works as a drying rack.
  • Set mouse traps in your car at the trailhead!  Mouse 1, Jan 1.
  • Squirrel Tree Restaurants at Coles Corner was a worthy stop that filled my belly and made me happy.

Resources:

Links:

WA – Glacier Peak Wilderness, Spider Gap / Buck Pass Loop (Part 1 of 2)

Following the map north after my jaunt through Goat Rocks (link), I stopped at Mt Rainier hoping for a walk-up permit to spend some more time near or around the Wonderland Trail, which I hiked in 2014 (link). Well luck was not with me on this day. The ranger talked me into a Plan B but when I saw the sign warning against car vandalism, I thought better. Next in line was Glacier Peak Wilderness. I hiked through this area on the PCT in 2016 (link) but sadly Mother Nature kept me from seeing much of the mountain. So maybe just maybe this would be my opportunity.

A friend recommended I park at the Trinity Trailhead and hike the 3-3.5 miles to the Phelps Creek Trailhead. Thankfully I was offered a ride for the last couple miles.

Flowers kept me entertained as I began my climb.

Soon enough I was in Spider Meadow surrounded by granite walls and wildflower-filled meadows.

Oh the sound of waterfalls racing off the granite walls.

My destination for my first night was just below Spider Gap.

Can you imagine the glacier that raced through here carving these great walls?

Fireweed left as evidence of a past fire.

Penstemon

Thistle and Indian Paintbrush.

Looking back at Spider Meadow and first larch trees. I’m sure this would be just as beautiful in the fall.

First view of Spider Glacier, my challenge for the next day. Look at the bottom and you’ll see the tiny person.

Can you find my tent?

I found these tiny flowers near my campsite.

The view of Spider Glacier from my tent. Would I have sweet dreams or nightmares about the next day’s climb?

I found a comfy slab of granite to snuggle in my sleeping bag and watch sunrise. According to Wikipedia, “Spider Glacier is .50 mi (0.80 km) long but very narrow at only 50 ft (15 m) in width.”

Before ascending, I stopped to check out the crack from which water was flowing.

I watched many hikers ascend the glacier the previous day, most without any traction devices. I knew I’d conserve more energy by wearing the microspikes I’d brought along. I can say, I had no regrets about lugging that extra weight as I climbed in the early morning hours on frozen sun cups.

Waterfalls decorated the walls.

And then I was nearly at the false summit. I’d been alerted the previous night by a group who’d climbed to gap and glissaded back down to camp.

The final push after the false summit.

I was proud of myself of making it up the climb.

Now to get down the other side, to Lyman Lakes. You can see the path on the right bank. I was told, just say NO! It’s really an animal track and ends on an abrupt cliff. Once again I was happy to have my microspikes. I just descended through the snowfield. What a beautiful basin.

The next important navigation tip was to stay to the right as you exit the snowfields, otherwise you’ll find yourself cliffed out.

Looking back up at the snowfield I’d descended.

I found some new flowers in the basin. These may be the dying phase of elephant heads?

Elephant Head Orchid.

Three mop heads standing in a row, E I E I E I O.

Upper Lyman Lake

Lower Lyman Lake. In retrospect I should have ended my day early and camped near the outlet of Lower Lyman.

These are shallow lakes with significant glacial flour.

Beautiful new bridge at Lower Lyman. I for one was grateful I didn’t have to ford the raging creek.

I stopped at the outlet for a dip, but since it was only 12:30pm, I wasn’t ready to call it a day.

So instead of relaxing and enjoying sunset on these beautiful lakes, I continued onward to Cloudy Pass.

Looking back at Lyman Lakes and Spider Gap.

Lupine love.

First view of Glacier Peak.

Working my way through the boulder field. This was part of the PCT fire closure in 2018.

WooHoo, I found the PCT! Since this post is getting long, I’ll continue the loop in anther post (link to Part 2).

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 27-31, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Register at the trailhead so the trails continue to get funds allocated for maintenance, etc.
  • Be prepared for biting flies and mosquitoes. I’d sprayed my outerwear, pack and screen on tent in advance with Sawyer’s Permethrin (Amazon link), and applied Picardin (Amazon link) to my skin when needed.
  • Leavenworth is a decent resupply and WiFi location. Can you tell I was craving vegetables?
  • There is dispersed camping opportunities available near Leavenworth in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
  • I found a $3 shower at a local fitness center.
  • When there isn’t a nearby laundromat or you don’t have enough to justify a load, shower laundry is great and the dashboard works as a drying rack.
  • Set mouse traps in your car at the trailhead!  Mouse 1, Jan 1.
  • Squirrel Tree Restaurants at Coles Corner was a worthy stop that filled my belly and made me happy.

Resources:

Links:

WA – Goat Rocks Wilderness, Goat Ridge / Snowgrass Flats Loop (Part 2 of 2)

After a phenomenal day of reversing the regret of not visiting Goat Lake during my 2013 jaunt, I was excited to reunite with my old friend the Knife’s Edge (Continued from Part 1)

Not a bad morning view, well except for the fact I was a bit worried about the weather given the day I had planned.

Good morning Mt Adams.

Goat Lake and Mt Rainier.

First light on Goat Lake.

Knife’s Edge on the PCT

This section lives high on my list of favorite memories. I was looking forward to hiking it as an out and back, double-dose happiness.

Memory is a funny thing. I don’t remember this rock field.

Ah, there’s that beautiful ridge, but I seemed to have forgotten all the up and down and up and down and various trail surfaces.

 

Looking back at where I’d come and where I’ll get to go again. Hello Old Snowy, I’ll skip the summit but shall never forget witnessing a proposal during my last visit. 

The views were as incredible as I remembered.

And then I found the goats.

It was great to experience the views with snow as my previous visit was in September.

This rock was my favorite to walk on. It sounds like wind chimes or broken china. I took a video during my first hike. Of course in my mind the whole section was made of this material and it was just a flat ridge. Oh memory oh memory, you are not my strength.

There is always a question of taking the high or low route. The low, or official PCT and stock rock across Packwood Glacier, comes with it’s own challenges. The high, Old Snowy route, provides views but is exposed and can be sketchy in bad weather. Of course on my way out I took the high route for the views. On the way back I really wanted to take the shorter low route but had heard mixed opinions with the majority saying they thought they might die and don’t recommend. So I elected to put forth more energy by climbing back up and over. The low route takes you across three snowfields and through several scree fields. If you look closely at the photo you can see where the path’s diverge.

My evening was spent watching fog envelop Goat Lake. It was a constantly moving ghostly figure covering and exposing only to change shape once again.

The clouds surrounding Mt Adams were putting on quite a different show.

Hello Mt Adams, where did you go? Will it rain? Nope! Just free entertainment, so much better than television.

I decided I best check the weather forecast on my InReach, such a great feature. Thankfully the precipitation/snow prediction did not come true. Temperature dropped to 34 in my tent, quite a contrast to 49 the previous night.

But this was my 6:30am view.

Would it burn off? How long might that take? I didn’t wait around to find out. It was time to get off this ridge.

The low visibility really made the flowers pop.

The Dr. Seuss-ish flowers looked like mop heads.

Soon enough it was time to descend on the Snowgrass Trail. It is touted as wildflower heaven. Will it surpass what I’d already experienced?

Meh

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 22-24, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Mt Adams Cafe in Randall had great food, customer service and WiFi. Showers and laundry were available at Packwood RV Park.
  • I highly recommend treating your outerwear including hat, shoes, pack and tent screen with Sawyer Permethrin, and then using Sawyer Picaridin as needed. The combination really keeps the mosquitoes and biting flies at bay.
  • I got another mouse in my house at the trailhead. I recommend setting traps with peanut butter.

Resources:

Links:

 

WA – Goat Rocks Wilderness, Goat Ridge / Snowgrass Flats Loop (Part 1 of 2)

In 2013 I hiked through Goat Rocks as part of my first solo PCT jaunt (link). I left with the regret of not taking time to visit Goat Lake. I was excited to find myself in the vicinity to make this wrong right. This trip started at the Berry Patch trailhead.

I hiked the loop clockwise starting with the Goat Ridge Trail.

The first stretch wasn’t photo worthy except for these frogs. I love frogs, so no complaints from me.

As I climbed higher, I found some blooms.

Dr. Seuss flowers gone wild.

And then I found the reason I returned.

Hawkeye Point

I decided to add in a little extra credit climb. The bonus was getting to see how Goat Rocks use to be one mountain. Hard to imagine it as an extinct volcano, once part of the Cascade chain.

Goat Peak and Mt Adams

Mt Rainier was visible also.

I turned around at the saddle, not wanting to descend just to ascend for a tiny bit better view. Regret? Nope!

Loved these tiny belly flowers I found at the saddle.

Goat Lake

The namesake goats were high above the lake.

The melt was just beginning and oh that glacial blue.

The outlet of the lake creates a beautiful waterfall.

Pacific Crest Trail

The next section was transitioning from Goat Lake to the PCT. 

And then I made it to the PCT and got to camp at nirvana, the spot I’d wished for on my previous trek but my timing wasn’t right as I’d spent the previous night at Cispus Pass. On this night, I could say goodnight to Goat Lake and Mt Rainier.

Evening alpenglow.

Goodnight Mt Adams.

Far in the distance is Mount St Helens I’d visited just a week previous (link).

With the Knife’s Edge on the agenda for the next day, it warranted a separate post (Part 2). Here’s a teaser photo.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 22-24, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Mt Adams Cafe in Randall had great food, customer service and WiFi. Showers and laundry were available at Packwood RV Park.
  • I highly recommend treating your outerwear including hat, shoes, pack and tent screen with Sawyer Permethrin, and then using Sawyer Picaridin as needed. The combination really keeps the mosquitoes and biting flies at bay.
  • I got another mouse in my house at the trailhead. I recommend setting traps with peanut butter.

Resources:

Links:

CA – Hat Creek Rim . . . a spring to remember

2019 shall be remembered as the year of epic snow, a winter that never quit, and rain, rain and more rain. Another memory though is vivid green. Landscapes typically showcasing primarily hues of browns were now painted green, and in the case of Hat Creek Rim, splashed in yellow.

The peaks of Lassen Volcanic National Park welcomed Nancy (WhyNot?!) and I back to Northern California. Yes my camera still has the spot but soon the camera will either be repaired or replaced.

I was giddy walking on this pine-needle trail shadowed by trees, oh trees how I’ve missed you. We felt the hug of home as we stepped on the PCT.

We found rare seasonal creeks filled with reflective pools. Oh the wildlife must be happy.

There was a wonderful display of wildflowers.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 31, 2019

Tip(s):

  • For great food and showers, stop at nearby JJ’s Cafe in Old Station
  • You can day hike this section starting at the Hat Creek Overlook where there is parking and restrooms. It’s about 5 miles to hike from the overlook to the Lost Creek trail junction. The overlook is located on Highway 44, three miles east of the junction of Highways 89/44.

Resources:

Links:

 

CA – Shasta-Trinity and Lassen National Forests . . . winter play

Welcome to 2019, Jan style!

That’s right, I wanted to witness the first sunrise of the year, so good morning Mt Shasta! 

Happy New Year Burney Mountain and Hatchet Ridge, home of the infamous wind turbines. 

Cheers to another of my good friends, Lassen Peak. 

Hike #1 – PCT, Cache 22 Trailhead

It was a frigid 13F degrees overnight. My all time low! Regardless I was up at dawn to catch first light and then warmed up with hot coffee and cereal. The few mile hike back to my car did little to warm me up but I was happy to celebrate the turning of the calendar doing what I love.

Date(s) Hiked: December 31, 2018 – January 1, 2019 (no stats)

Hike #2 – McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, Falls Loop Trail

Since I was in the vicinity after my overnight on the Hat Creek Rim, I decided I’d add 1.5 miles to my earlier jaunt.

Date Hiked: January 1, 2019 (no stats)

Hike #3 – Sacramento River Bend Area, Yana Trailhead

The Carr Fire destroyed most of my winter snow-free trails so this nearby option is better than hiking through burned trees. 

Date Hiked: January 12, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

Hiked #4 – Lassen, Sulfur Works

I introduced a friend to snowshoeing on this short trek from the visitor center to Sulfur Works, a hydrothermal area featuring boiling mudpots and steam vents. 

Date Hiked: January 14, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

Hike #5 – Mt Shasta, Sand Flat Trailhead

Following a week of storms, I had to find some powder. I knew there was a risk of finding ice as the storm had included warming temperatures with rain. Forecasters dubbed the day, “blustery.” Well, I went prepared to stay in the trees and away from wind slab avalanche areas. 

Date Hiked: January 21, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hike #6 – Castle Lake

Snow conditions were perfect for an ascent up Left Peak. 

Date Hiked: January 23, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hike #7 – Lassen, Mill Creek Falls and Ridge Lakes

I’d been dreaming of seeing these falls in the winter for a few weeks. Well those dreams didn’t turn into reality on this day. You gotta pick your risks and this one wasn’t worth it to me. That’s about 7 feet of snow on the bridge and no alternate options to be found. 

Plan B was a good climb on a near perfect day to Ridge Lakes. 

Date Hiked: January 25, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

What Else?

To combat winter blues and maintain fitness, I set a goal for 2019 to be active outside a minimum of an hour 20 days per month.  I’m happy to report I met that objective in January. Here are a few extra credit photos from my daily wanderings. 

The local flora is primarily manzanita and oak; finding hearts is a reward. 

The Carr Fire severely changed our landscape and available trails. 

When all else seems wrong, this message in a neighbor’s front yard is right. It’s my mantra!

Links: