WY – Tayo Lake +++, Southern Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness

After enjoying a memorable morning at Lower Deep Creek Lake (see previous post for details on the hike to the lake), it was time to dry out my gear (snow fields create lots of condensation, as does setting up in the rain). Sunshine makes me happy! 

As my gear dried I watched the mackerel clouds. Did you know there are a ton of poems about these formations? I think this one is most appropriate, “Low’rin clouds, low’rin skies, Stay indoors if you are wise. Mackerel sky, mackerel sky, Never long wet, never long dry.” 

And after the storm, the flowers were heavy with damp, but all shiny and clean. 

Goodbye for now Lower Deep Creek Lake

It was time to head south on the Ice Lakes Trail #706, that is as soon as I could find it. 

I was trying to avoid this mess, home of the real trail.

After a bit of navigating, I found clear trail. I was prepared to turnaround if conditions were too gnarly.

There was plenty of snow around, but little on the trail that couldn’t be avoided.

Happy splashes of color could be found around every corner. It feels like spring, even though it’s the last week of July.

Blue or purple columbine, just like in Colorado. Stunning! 

And then I found a yellow one. 

Water was rushing gushing creating nature’s music and near constant wet feet conditions. 

This lake or pond was still partially frozen over and the entire surface was covered in a thin sheen of ice. 

Hello reflection! I believe this was Ridge or Cliff Lake

I climbed a hill to catch this view of Jug and Boot Lakes or maybe Ridge Lakes?

Cliff Lake? I was so distracted by the beauty I forgot to notate times on my maps so they’d coincide with my camera time. Please help me out if you know the correct names.

Since I promised myself I’d mostly stay on trail, I avoided further exploration of other lakes in the Ice Lakes Basin and instead headed up to the first pass where rain was threatening. Remember those mackerel clouds? 

The lighting was amazing as I watched the storm ebb and flow. 

I climbed off trail for better views. 

See my umbrella? I hid out under this rock and had lunch waiting out the storm, then climbed to the top of the boulders for more views. 

Oops I overshot and hiked down well below my umbrella rock. Look closely . . . I guess I needed those bonus miles. 

With the storm giving me a bit of a reprieve, I knew it was time to say goodbye to my roost and head to a protected area before thunder and lightning made an appearance. 

You know you’re going to be in for some technical descending when you see a sign like this. Should be fun with wet slick rock.

First easily unavoidable snow on trail. 

The views were outstanding. 

Then back to clear trails. 

As I rejoined the trail after my extra credit sightseeing at the pass, I met Bill who was also hiking south. He is an avid fisherman and was heading to Tayo Lake. It was on my possible list, so we decided to share some miles on this much less maintained trail (Tayo Lake #707). 

Bill taking a walk on the wild side, wildflower side that is. 

Bill caught a beautiful Golden Trout at stunning Tayo Lake. 

About 4:30am, Bill woke up and said I think we are about to get wet. We had to quickly put on our rain tarps as we both enjoyed the stars through the mesh of our tents sans fly. 

I got up to watch the storm. Found this great rock to lounge on while staying warm bundled in down and drinking hot beverages. Let the entertainment begin. Who needs a TV?

The storm commeth’, the storm goeth’, and Bill fisheth’.  Notice the iceberg in bottom left corner near Bill. When we arrived last night there were two large chunks of ice floating not far from shore; after the storm only one remained and it was headed toward the outlet.

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 7/26/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 8-10
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, didn’t track but plenty
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: none
    • Overgrowth: none on Ice Lakes Trail but plenty of Willow thickets on the route to Tayo Lake
    • Signage: good, plan for cairn and route finding on the Tayo Lake Trail
    • Terrain: moderate, plan for snow and muck travel
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: Expect company on the Ice Lakes Trail but less likely on the Tayo Lake Trail
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t need deet
  • Precip: expect thunderstorms in July
  • Temp: Overnight varied and seemed to fluctuate a lot from low 30’s to high 40’s; daytime highs were probably in 70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+++ cherries (out of 5) (would have been a 5 if I could have accessed Tayo Lake without mucking through bogs and bushwhacking through willow thickets)

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, snow, bugs and navigation.

Links:

Resources:

WY – Deep Creek Lakes, Southern Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness

After my previous week’s trip where I spent most of my time wishing I’d chosen a different itinerary, I knew I needed more WOW factor this time around. You may recall I started my first trip at the Torrey Creek/Trail Lakes Trailhead (near Dubois) as I was shuttling friends from that location to the Middle Fork Trailhead (near Lander). Task accomplished as I said goodbye to Mike and Ryan. 

The next day I began my trek from Worthen Meadows which contains two trailheads, Sheep Bridge and Roaring Fork, making for convenient loop opportunities. 

The Worthen Meadows Reservoir is nothing special, but gives you a first look at the Wind River Mountains, and provides a potential place to swim and clean up after the trip. There are also nearby camping opportunities. 

My plan was to start at the Sheep Bridge Trailhead and travel counterclockwise unless egress was prevented by snow or water crossings or other yet to be determined obstacles. Self registration is expected as permits are not required in the Winds unless you are traveling through the Wind River Indian Reservation.

By the way, a little trivia. According to Wyoming Public Media, “Popo Agie Wildernes (Puh-POE-zha), a true word stumper that is not pronounced as it looks, meaning “beginning of the waters”. The Wilderness runs through the Shoshone National Forest, which stretches out over 102,000 acres of rugged topography in the Wind River Range.” 

I was beyond excited to be on maintained trail flanked by aspen trees, which I have on my list to enjoy the changing colors this fall. 

All of the trails on the main loop are well signed, although varying a bit from map names and denoted distances. At this junction, I chose to take Sheep Bridge Trail #701, which I’d been traveling since the trailhead.

I can’t remember what these are called, but they are the primary ground cover at lower elevations (7-9,000′).  It’s fairly uncommon to see the mixed colors as they turn from yellow to pink during maturation.

It’s about 3 miles from the trailhead to Sheep Bridge itself, which provides safe passage across Middle Popo Agie River.  

Who let the cows out? Yes, there’s open grazing along parts of the trail. Yield to these wild beasts! 

I truly love visiting the various wilderness areas of our country. 

Another junction, another decision. I choose Middle Fork Trail #700

The one and only Mariposa Lily I saw on this trip. I should also mention, I saw many of the same flowers I’d seen the previous week at similar elevations, and did not repeat the photos unless there was something exceptional.

First of the season penstemon, although a breeze was preventing a great capture. 

I transitioned to Pinto Park Trail #708 at this junction. 

Elephant Head Orchids are indeed a rare beauty. They are much smaller here than in Washington. 

This was a tough choice junction. If I continued on the Pinto Park Trail, I could see Baer and Echo Lakes. 

But as I was getting tired, I elected to take the Deep Creek Cutoff Trail #709 with a plan to camp at or near Pinto Park Lake. This sign might need a little TLC. 

In many ways Pinto Park Lake was a bit of a disappointment. There were no signs pointing the way to the lake and I hadn’t noted it was off trail. There were several social trails which I explored but found thick willow and marshlands preventing lake access. However, the inlet provided great water access with nearby extremely peaceful forested campsites. 

As I continued west on the Deep Creek Cutoff Trail, I found these beautiful and interesting rock formations. There’s a lot of interesting geology in the Winds, something I’m looking forward to learning more about.

Monkey Flower are one of my favorites. 

This Columbine was so striking in it’s pure white. 

It was a low overcast morning, making Lake 10054 look a bit dreary and not very inviting. 

The trail continued to be gorgeous and in great condition. Thank you trail maintenance crews! 

And then I found snow, nothing on trail that couldn’t be avoided.

These flowers were small and low to the ground. 

These were quite prevalent at around 10,000′. I’m guessing a type of lupine? 

This was a curious grass and possible seedpods or buds, again around 10,000′ elevation? 

Two more beauties I’ve not previously seen. 

Then there I was at the end of the line, looking directly at the outlet of Lower Deep Creek Lake

Weather was deteriorating fast. My choices were, cross the outlet toward Ice Lakes Basin (on maintained trail) or continue west exploring Middle and Upper Deep Creek Lakes (without trail)? After my experience last week, I was drawn to keeping to maintained trails until I got in better shape and gained confidence with this new landscape. 

Looking east from the Lower Deep Creek Lake outlet. Maybe finding early spring maintained trail is a bit much to ask. 

Lower Deep Creek Lake as it started sprinkling. 

Although I’d only hiked 3 miles, and it was way too early to set up camp, Mother Nature had other ideas. I tried waiting at the storm under my umbrella, poncho and ground cloth, but it just got too cold. It looked like this precipitation was going to stick around for a while, and since I was here for the views, why hike with none? Setting up my tent in the rain and wind is never fun. It’s much harder to keep a two-walled tent dry during setup. Definitely not my favorite thing to do, but all I could think of was my nice warm bag and a hot cup of tea or cocoa.

It rained and hailed steadily all afternoon, so I whiled away time reading. My book of choice was Temperance Creek: A Memoir by Pamela Royes which is quite suiting after my recent trek in Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River, albeit the Idaho side. Lots of references I could relate to and a book I’d recommend. 

First light the next morning confirmed my decision to wait out the storm. 

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 7/24-25/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 11 (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: none
    • Overgrowth: none
    • Signage: near excellent
    • Terrain: very good, a few spots of muck
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: moderate
  • Solitude: Depends, could be busy, but mid-week with early summer conditions, it was very quiet except for a few groups of NOLS kids.
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t need deet
  • Precip: expect thunderstorms in July
  • Temp: Overnight varied and seemed to fluctuate a lot from 32 to 50, highs were probably in 70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4 cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, bugs and navigation.

Links:

Resources:

WY – East Torrey Creek, Northern Wind River Mountains, Fitzpatrick Wilderness

Cloud filled skies greeted me as I drove toward the Torrey Creek Trailhead. 

I’d passed through the Tetons earlier that day and witnessed Mother Nature’s fury. As the temperatures quickly plummeted 20 degrees, heavy rain, hail and winds blasted for a couple hours, I was reminded to pack accordingly for my upcoming trip. 

With 2.25 million acres and 110 miles to choose from, how did I decide on this trail as my first experience in the Winds? Well as most of you know I’m an opportunist. When friends needed help with a shuttle between trailheads, it made sense to start where I’d be meeting them especially as my goal is to hike more, drive less. 

The ranger station in Dubois was closed when I arrived so I headed out blindly hoping to find decent conditions. I’d recently seen a trip report of the loop I planned to hike which started on the Glacier Trail #801; I’d packed accordingly.

Based on Nancy Pallister’s book, Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, “the overall rating for this trip is EASY although off-trail navigation skills are critical.” Feeling a big pudgy and out of shape after abstaining from serious hiking the past couple of months, I figured EASY was exactly what I needed. And so it began . . . nice trail, beautiful bridge, perfect temperature, blue skies . . . 

Showcasing the power of snowmelt on West Torrey Creek. 

I was even welcomed with a rainbow.

I was ecstatic to be hiking this groomed trail in near perfect conditions. 

All too soon, I left maintained trail and followed the old trail to Bomber Falls, so named due to a WWII B-17 bomber crash site. According to Ron Adkison’s book, Hiking Wyoming’s Wind River Range, “expect to encounter faint tread, a tangle of fallen trees, and steep pitches.” I rate it a B+ for unmaintained trail conditions; it was pretty easy to follow, with not too many obstacles but the steep was really steep and could have used some nice switchbacks.  

The falls are hard to see in this photo but they were impossible to ignore with the constant pouring of an incredible amount of water. 

I was spent by the time I reached Bomber Basin, a mere 5.5-6 miles from the trailhead, albeit with 2400-2600′ of elevation gain. Looming thunderstorms helped cement the decision to spend the night next to this lovely stretch of East Torrey Creek. 

From a nearby bench, I had views of upper Bomber Falls, and was wooed to sleep by it’s lullaby. 

Route directions said to cross East Torrey Creek to avoid a “mass of horrible talus.” I found the cairns marking the crossing.

Slippery rocks with risky consequences were well beyond my comfort zone; the creek was much too high to cross safely in my opinion. I’d recently heard a saying, “no epic today is worth no epic tomorrows,” and this certainly applied here. 

I met a group the previous night who were returning from Bomber Lake. They successfully traversed the west side which made me feel “if they can do it, I can do it too.” I couldn’t help but remember the photos I’d seen of the beauty to be found ahead. All I had to do was get through a few miles of burned forest, deadfall, swamps and that mass of horrible tallus. 

I was tempted to turn around but I really didn’t want to repeat what I’d gone through, so onward I went. 

I found beauty along the way. 

I finally found snow around 9,500′. My route included travel in the 10-11,000′ elevation zone so I’d come prepared with microspikes and a Black Diamond Whippet. 

As I wandered through meadows, the wildflowers kept me somewhat distracted from the challenging terrain. 

This was the type of scenes I was expecting to find in the Winds. 

After hiking hard all day and not covering near enough miles to make Bomber Lake, I called it a night at the top of these lovely falls.

I was surrounded by beauty but also the never ending rubble. 

And enjoyed a night as queen of the lands. 

With morning came the decision to turn around. I knew what to expect by reversing my steps and the time it would take. With a commitment in 2.5 days, I sadly set forth to conquer those dreaded miles of boulder fields, mud bogs, down trees and so much misery. My body was really hating me. I was carrying a ton of extra weight with cold weather and rain gear, snow travel gear, and bear protection. 

With another thunderstorm threatening it was time to find camp. 

On my way in I’d marked a location as one with water and good views. I arrived just in time to quickly set up my tent and dive inside before the storm arrived with great furry. 

After a couple hours, the storm abated and I went out to gather water only to find these curious steps on the nearby sandbar.  

Upon closer examination, it was YOGI. Look again at the photo with the tent and the proximity. Would have you stayed or moved on? What do you think I did?

Earlier in the day, I found this fresh pile of scat. Maybe belonged to same bear. On this trip I also saw fresh moose scat and a day later saw a moose in the distance.

Other on-trail visitors. 

 

My favorite sightings were marmots and pikas. 

Extra credit was finding a couple of Big Horn Sheep near the trailhead. This area is winter home to a herd of 900. 

I can happily say I survived this trip. I feel humbled. The Winds won this time; I’ll win next time! 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: July 18-21, 2017
  • Mileage: Around 18 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Around 4,000′ ascent/descent
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: TONS
    • Overgrowth: Little
    • Signage: None
    • Terrain: EXTREMELY challenging boulder field and deadfall
  • Water: Plentiful
  • Camping: Plentiful
  • Solitude: Only saw the one group over the 4 days
  • Bugs: Plentiful
  • Precip: Afternoon storms
  • Temp: Lows of 45ish, highs 70-80
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 2 cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Be on your A game with fitness, prepared for multiple conditions, and good with navigational tools.

Links:

Resources:

Finding Happiness . . . 7 years in the making

Facebook just reminded me of my first backpacking trip. 2010 was a GREAT year!

I started off with an inexpensive pack from Big 5 and a five pound Sierra Designs Tent.

Lessons:

  1. Capacity matters: buy pack after gear otherwise you might find yourself short of space
  2. Fit matters: just like your favorite pair of jeans
  3. Pockets and compartments don’t matter: so much wasted time searching for stuff
  4. Weight matters: grams = ounces = pounds = PAIN

Thankfully I’d already discovered the world of long distance hiking, and kick ass hiker blogs, so after that miserable yet enlightening trip, I got busy making lots and lots of changes.

Since then so many miles and smiles and memories. Unforgettable experiences. I found my tribe, my happy spot. 

Link to more jabber on Long-Distance Hiking

Food Jabber – Budget, Time, and Health Friendly Meal Prep

Food is fuel and while many can get away with Pop Tarts, Snickers and Top Ramen as their primary nutrition, it doesn’t work for me. Others have big wallets and live on Mountain House meals. The majority of hikers though find themselves somewhere in between. I’ve experimented a lot over the years and this is what I’ve found works for my current lifestyle.

Breakfast

At home, I eat low carb, high protein. I’ve never been able to tolerate sweets in the morning. If I don’t start my day with protein, I bonk. I’ve created my own cereal mix which can be eaten hot or cold. It has sufficient calories and protein to keep me climbing hills while also keeping my taste buds satisfied.

Pick your ingredients and customize to match your personal palate. You can easily increase the protein by adding nuts, milk or quinoa.

For this batch I started with a multigrain cereal (rye, barley, oats and wheat). Then added steel cut oats, regular oats, flax, chia and hemp seeds, bran, dried fruit, cinnamon, brown sugar and the secret ingredient, egg white protein powder which has 16 grams of protein per 1/4 cup, is tasteless and dissolves easily. Buying in the bulk food bins makes this even more economical. This large bowl made 45 servings (heaping 1/2 cup dry). I didn’t price out the ingredients so not really sure of cost per serving but I’m sure a fraction of prepackaged cereal.

Tip: use a wide-mouth funnel to fill bags to keep crumbs out of zip track. 

Another option I’ve discovered is crackers combined with a protein-rich spread. Each of these makes a 400 calorie meals with 10 grams of protein. 

As part of my second breakfast, I like to have cold coffee with chia seeds (60 calories per tablespoon and 3 grams of protein). SmartWater bottle + vanilla coffee + chia seeds = YUM! Tip: use a funnel to fill the pill bag. Cut the corner of the bag to pour into bottle (avoid spillage in wilderness especially near water supply). Tip: leave bottle on side while seeds are absorbing water, shake frequently, otherwise you’ll have an undrinkable glob at bottom of bottle.

Lunch and/or Dinner:

Although I much prefer homemade meals, they are time consuming to create and dehydrate, plus they tend to have a shorter shelf life and are sensitive to heat. Thus, I choose to take the easy, but less delicious route. My meals need to work with hot or cold water since I frequently hike stoveless. I don’t like packaged meat such as tuna, chicken, spam, etc. so I use soy (TVP) as my protein instead. I’ve not had success rehydrating regular pasta with cold water but have found bean-based products by Explore Cuisine work great and are a perfect substitute.

Base ingredients:

  • Instant rice
  • Instant potatoes
  • Rice sides
  • Bean noodles
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa

Primary sources of protein:

Flavorings:

  • Seasoning packets (i.e. taco, spaghetti, stew, pesto)
  • Bouillon
  • Powdered cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil

Sample Meals:

  • Instant rice + TVP + refried beans + taco seasoning
  • Instant potatoes + TVP + powdered cheese + red pepper flakes
  • Edamame noodles + TVP + bouillon seasoning
  • Adzuki noodles + TVP + spaghetti sauce seasoning
  • Stuffing mix + couscous + TVP

Within a few hours, I packaged up nearly 70 meals. My portion size is about 1/2 cup dry.

Snacks:

I prefer savory to sweet. My base ingredients tend to be nut based, then I add various flavors to different bags so I don’t get the same mix daily. 

Bars are my least favorite snack, especially protein bars. I seem to carry them around more than I ever eat them . . . My motto is keep trying new things and have a nice assortment to choose from. The Trader Joe Sweet and Salty granola bar was my latest purchase. In the future I’ll buy my sweet items at resupply stops.

All packed up and ready to hit the trails. 

Amazon Shopping Links:

Jan’s Long-Distance Hiking Jabber Link

ID – Wildflowers of the Snake River Trail- Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Wildflower viewing was one of the primary reasons I wanted to hike the Snake River Trail in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Here are a few of my favorites, with names based on limited research. ENJOY!

Brodiaea

Who am I?

Narrowleaf Skullcap (?)

Larkspur

Fiddleneck

Balsamroot

Aster (Tragopogon dubius)

Paintbrush (bonus: tent worm?)

Three Flowered Avens (Old Man’s Beard)

Phylox

Aster (?)

Redstem Filaree (?) Geranium (?)

Sweet Pea or Milk-vetch

Flax (lewisii)

Prairie Star (bonus: poison ivy)

Ladybugs love Milkweed

Date(s) Hiked: May 4-8, 2017

Spring 2017 Road Trip: Days 67-71 (out of 78)

Resources:

Links:

ID – Snake River Trail, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

I’d stopped at the Hells Canyon Visitor Center in Riggins a few days previous but found information seriously lacking regarding the Snake River Trail. Thus while at my friend’s house in Boise, I took time to plan this trip as well as the next leg of my travels.

My little Chromebook is getting quite colorful and very customized. 

 

 

 

 

I’ll admit I resisted and wasn’t all that excited about hiking Hells Canyon. While in northeastern Oregon last fall, I visited a couple of the overlooks and it appeared like boring brown hills bordering a meandering greenish grayish river. As I researched, I felt even less inclined.

This is from the USFS web site:

Advisory: Most of the trails Hells Canyon are in rattlesnake and poison ivy country! Water on the trail is scarce and unsafe to drink if not previously treated.
Difficulty level: Many sections of the trail are ‘more difficult’ due to short steep sections, uneven rocky surface and narrow sections against rock outcrops. 

Ticks are another known issue so I treated my clothes and gear with Permethrin using Section Hiker’s Soak Method. Tip: if you use this method, I recommend a good rinse before first wear to prevent sweat or rain induced skin contact, or contamination of wilderness water sources.

However, several respected friends kept telling me how much they loved the area. I enjoyed my Rogue River hike, and figured the Snake River Trail might be similar. Since I was in dire need of a long hike and timing was right, I knew I’d regret passing up the opportunity. So decision made, I pulled together the resources and supplies I’d need, and with no permits required, I had flexibility as to start date and time. Not knowing how long my intended 56-60 mile trip would take, at my anticipated leisurely pace, I packed 5 days of food.   

At first glance, you think it’s a monochromatic pallet. This is why when I took a peek last fall and saw the landscape covered in dry grasses I wasn’t all that interested in exploring further. At least now it’s tinged green. For reference, Idaho is on the left side, Oregon is on the right, and the Snake River separates the two. 

But upon closer inspection, you find little gifts of colors. I’ll be writing a separate post to highlight the wildflowers.

The trail was rarely flat. There were lots of elevation changes with a few visits all the way down to the river otherwise plenty of skirting around and over topographical obstacles. This is the profile for the first 10 miles to give you an idea of the not-so-flat terrain.

Kirkwood Ranch, pictured below and at about the 6-mile mark on the profile graph, is a place where boaters and hikers share the beach and compound, including flush toilets, a fresh water creek, lush grass and picnic tables. 

A highlight of my trip was meeting the volunteer caretaker of Kirkwood Ranch. She not only maintains the grounds, the restrooms and house, but also is the museum docent and ranch welcome committee. Her first stent was last July and August, during which she turned 80. Yes, that’s right, 80 years young! She’s back . . . this year for May and June. What an inspiration. During our conversation I found out she and her husband had a cattle ranch not far from my home base. What a coincidence and truly special encounter. Dare I mention there are not roads, so she’s here 24 x 7 for those two months. The only resupply is via the ranger, mail boat or through a little trail magic via jet boaters and rafters.

The museum at Kirkwood Ranch is quite large and well stocked. It appeared to be in great condition but the caretaker informed me that major foundation repair is scheduled. The park expects her to pack the contents. Seriously? Like she doesn’t have enough to do, not that she was complaining. 

Kirkwood Creek was so refreshing and I just loved this little waterwheel. 

One of the rare signs on trail. My plan was to camp between Kirkwood and Sheep Ranches. 

When I stopped in at the Hells Canyon NRA Visitor Center in Riggins to gather resources and inquire about conditions etc., a staff member told me I might get my feet wet if the releases from the Hells Canyon Dam were too high. When I asked what too high meant, she said about 60 or 65,000 cubic feet per second. I checked with Idaho Power online before leaving and also found a flow monitor at the Pittsburg Landing Boat Launch. The photo below shows trail proximity to the Snake River. I didn’t think much about it as I crossed this spot.

They grow em’ big here. Yes there are snakes on the Snake River Trail along the Snake River. 

The views from Suicide Point were probably my favorite. YES, I think I found GREEN spring! It’s hard to believe rain was expected. I overheated quickly and was thankful for my sunbrella by 9:30am. All creeks were running and I took the opportunity regularly to wet my shirt and head.

For those wanting to take the leap, you might call this suicide pool. 

You can see why they call this Snake River. 

Temperance Creek Ranch is a private holding on the Oregon side. The adjacent Idaho side hosts an unmaintained landing strip, which is I’m sure quite convenient for ranch access. It’s a bit hard to imagine living without road access, especially in what you would think would be inhospitable climates. My guidebook indicated this flat is an excellent place to see large herds of elk in the mornings. 

I didn’t see any elk on my return visit either (8:30am).

I spent my first night at Little Bar and witnessed a pretty spectacular sunrise. 

It started raining just as I finished packing, sans the tent. It rained hard for an hour or so. Since I wasn’t in a hurry I relaxed, read and waited out the rain. The rain took a break around 8am and I quickly finished packing and got on trail. This is the view from my campsite. It sprinkled until about 10am. 

This cabin near Caribou Creek is not on trail, but can be easily accessed via a well used social trail. My guidebook didn’t provide any history on this cabin.

Nothing brown or monochromatic here. 

I’m not the only one who likes flowers.

When I saw the rare tree, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to their friends. 

Pine Bar was an exception. What a sight to behold! 

According to the USFS web site, “The yellow-stained rocks mark a mineralized zone along a fault called a ‘gossan’. Deeply weathered parts of the gossan form alurn deposits.” 

This is the Sand Creek Game Warden Cabin on the Oregon side. According to the USFS web site, it’s an “Administrative cabin used by Idaho and Oregon Fish and Wildlife agencies and Oregon State Police.”

Look across the river at the slice in the rock. That’s the trail on the Oregon side. It was by far the most interesting feature I’d seen. Observing the trail for so many miles I couldn’t help but be curious and wonder about condition and whether it’s maintained and used to the same degree. I might just need to add to my spring 2018 hike list. It’s Snake River Trail #1726. Per the USFS web page, “During the winter of 1947-48, a Forest Service crew cut through the rock overhang above the river, creating the stretch of trail known as the ‘Eagle’s Nest‘ because there was once an eagle’s nest above the trail.”

Sheep Creek Ranch is another historic park holding managed by a caretaker. The one in attendance during my trip was doing an exceptional job with landscape and maintenance chores but lacked in the social department. He avoided me during both visits. According USFS web page, Sheep Creek was “Homesteaded in 1884 by William McLeod, a Scotsman and Civil War veteran. After his death, the county sold the place to Fred and Billy McGaffee, who traded it to Lenora Barton for her place on the Imnaha River in 1 935. Sold to Bud Wilson in 1952, then to the Forest Service in the 1970s.”

River mail service boggles my mind. 

On my return trip, the temperature at 1pm was unseasonably pleasant. 

To the north of Sheep Ranch is Steep Creek, not to be confused with Sheep Creek to the south. 

What would the Snake River Trail be without it’s namesake snakes? 

My guidebook mentioned a 90′ tall metal fire lookout tower on Hat Point. My naked eye said maybe this is it. I took many photos, and sure enough after zooming and cropping I found the tower!

The bear grass was just beginning to bloom. The tall thick grasses made for not only wet feet hiking after the rains but also required attention to avoid hidden obstacles especially rattlers. You can also see why ticks have made this their home. Thankfully after treating my clothes and gear, I was free of those invaders.

I couldn’t find any history about Johnson Bar, but there was evidence of old rock foundations nearby and according USFS web page, “a Mr. Johnson bought Temperance Creek Ranch in the 1930’s and it was in his family until the 70’s.”

Looks like a weather station on the Oregon side. 

Besides snakes, the canyon is known for poison ivy. I’m not sensitive to poison oak and was a little concerned about it’s cousin. Thankfully it seems I’m lucky in that regard also . . . at least for now as I’ve heard you can lose that immunity. If you don’t know the saying, you best learn it. “Leaves of 3, Let it be.” 

The color and shine makes many confuse sumac with poison ivy. Some are poisonous, but this variety is not. 

I saw very few people on this trip, so it was exciting to look across the river and see this pair riding the trail in Oregon. 

A benefit of high water and early season is avoiding the jet boat crowd. I only saw and heard a couple boats each day.

Bridges make me happy, especially when snow melt is causing them to run fast and full such as this one over Bernard Creek.

My guidebook says, “and soon come to the nicely restored McGaffee Cabin. The upstairs loft and the porch are good spots to lay out your sleeping bag for the night.” I borrowed the book from a friend and am left to wonder about copyright date. 

Camp my second night was south of McGaffee Cabin where I watched a couple of mountain goats on a nearby peak grazing. A few things I learned (1) the river has an unpleasant odor so avoid camping in too close of proximity; (2) I wouldn’t want to take a dip in the river nor use for drinking water; (3) if you’re noise sensitive, don’t camp near rapids; (4) the canyon walls provide shade during both sunrise and sunset; and, (5) be prepared for rain and wind.

The guidebook warned of the trail being overgrown with grasses and poison ivy south of Bernard Creek. Well . . . I think I can agree. I was glad for my GPS track as had a few navigational challenges.

I met a group of four who’d been dropped off by the boat I’d seen earlier. They’d just crossed this creek and said it’s about knee height. If I hadn’t met them, I’d have turned around. My guidebook said, “splash through Three Creek.”

My favorite on trail lunch was needed after successfully crossing that creek. 

And then I arrived at the end of road. The group I’d crossed paths with earlier told me their boat driver said the trail near Granite Creek was under water about neck deep. Well it seems I found the spot, just south of Granite Creek Rapids. Neck deep is a little more than getting my feet wet as implied by staff at the Hells Canyon Visitor Center.

I checked the stats when I returned from my trip. I’d been told be aware of crossings when releases were above 60-65,000 cubic feet per inch. Well that needs to be revised to something closer to 40 or 45,000 if you want to hike south of Bernard Creek. I was there on May 6th when flows were at 50,000, at least 4′ too high for my comfort.

Had I known about this dead end, I wouldn’t have crossed Three Creek. Twice in one day was pushing my luck.

My campsite on the third night was the best of the trip. 

My smile returned the next morning.

On my return trip, I found a few panels of pictographs. According to Wikipedia, “The earliest known settlers in Hells Canyon were the Nez Percé tribe. Others tribes visiting the area were the Shoshone-Bannock, northern Paiute and Cayuse Indians. The mild winters, and ample plant and wildlife attracted human habitation. Pictographs and petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon are a record of the Indian settlements.”

The terms get used incorrectly quite often. I thought this sign at the Pittsburg Landing interpretive area was helpful. 

These Chukar partridges were the most plentiful living creature on the trail. I think they need to be called the Heart Attack bird. Hidden from view, they waited til the last minute to take flight. My heart jumped several times. This was the rare time one stuck around long enough for me to photograph. Birds in general were plentiful along the trail. I loved waking to their songs and listening to their chorus of sounds as I walked the trail.

I saw lots of fish jumping but these were the first I observed near shore. Is this a steelhead?

There were a few places where the trail might make some nervous. 

You can see the scree field along this traverse. 

My fourth and final night was back on Little Flat near where I’d stayed my first night. On this trip I experienced quite a range of temperatures. The first day was full sun and hot for me, but probably only in low to mid 80’s. By 7pm it had dropped to 65, and the overnight low was 52. With cloudy skies and intermittent showers the second day, it was a bit cooler but overnight it only dropped to 55. On my 3rd night the temperature was 57 by 5pm and held steady only falling to 52 overnight. The overnight low on my fourth night was 36. At 8pm the temperature was 46. While a little chilly to sit around in, it sure made for more comfortable sleeping but resulted in heavy dew from the recent rains. In fact I’d made an amateur move by sleeping without my rain tarp, which meant awaking to a very damp sleeping bag.

But oh how I enjoyed the full moon via the open sky netting on my tent.

Pittsburg Landing offers stunning views and is worthy of a drive even if you aren’t interested in hiking the trail. There are nearby intrepretative trails and well as river access. 

A wildflower post will be forthcoming. Until then, here’s a little teaser. 

So the question remains, was it more heavenly than hellish? I think you know my answer.

And now I can say I’ve been to hell and back 🙂

Date(s) Hiked: May 4-8, 2017

Spring 2017 Road Trip: Days 67-71 (out of 78)

Tips:

  • If you don’t want an out and back hike, you can hire a boat to take you upstream from Lewiston or downstream from Hells Canyon Dam. I met a group of 4 who’d been dropped off and were hiking toward Pittsburg Landing. Another option is to hike upstream and float downstream with a whitewater rafting transporter.
  • Dispersed and Campground camping is available at Pittsburg Landing. There are also a few dispersed sites on the road to Pittsburg Landing.

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