CA – Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Cabin Creek Trailhead (aka Squaw Valley Creek)

What has become known as the fifth season on the west coast is in full swing. Fire and smoke season is one I’d sooner skip and have successfully run from and avoided for several years. With 2020 being the year of COVID-19, I made the choice to stay local. My new normal was checking the Air Quality Index every morning. On this day, I saw some green to the north and decided I best take advantage of this rare window.

The skies were white with smoke. The visibility was limited and I considered turning around several times. I needed out of the house so onward I went. I’d chosen this trail as it would be more of a meander than a strenuous hike, one where I could lollygag along a creek and just enjoy being outside. I of course was worried about crowds since that’s become a norm this summer. Thankfully upon arrival there was only one car at the trailhead. For this smoke sensitive asthmatic, the air quality seemed acceptable.

When I first started hiking about ten years ago, this was the Squaw Valley Creek Trail, but due to political correctness, the offensive word has been removed from most named places. However this hike is still along thus named Squaw Valley Creek. Cabin Creek is a secondary stream further downstream so it doesn’t really make sense to change the name but whatever it is it is.

I was introduced to umbrella plant aka Indian Rhubarb along this trail. It’s probably my favorite water plant. Seeing signs of changing seasons reminded me fire season won’t last forever.

It was a hot day so I was grateful for easy creek side access where I could stay wet and refreshed.

This waterfall provided a perfect lunch break backdrop. Interestingly, Squaw Valley Creek (still named as such) originates on Mt Shasta at South Gate Meadows the destination of my previous hike (link).

There was evidence of recent trail maintenance which is always much appreciated.

If there was any negative to my day it was face flies but thankfully I came prepared with my headnet.

Soon enough bug season will be gone, just like fire season and summer.

Until then I’ll be grateful for this day when I escaped the smoke and enjoyed creek lullabies, a soft trail, bird song, the smell of pine needles and freshly sawed timber. I may have only walked about 1/4 mile on the PCT this day but it brought back the most wonderful memories of when I walked from Burney Falls to the Oregon border.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 28, 2020

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • I hiked this as an out and back, but there is a loop option. I tried the loop several years ago and found it choked with poison oak. I didn’t go that far this time so don’t know condition but something to consider. I’ve been warned of rattlesnakes in that meadow as well.
  • There are a couple of eroded sections of trail and at at least one place where some rock scampering is required.
  • For additional hiking from the trailhead, consider the PCT north or south. The nature trail near Ah-Di-Na Campground is worth a visit although a bit of a drive or a 10+ mile jaunt.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, PCT Eye Candy

This is the reason many fall in love with the PCT. The trail meanders, winds, rises and falls. It’s of dirt, grass, sticks and stones. Most of all it’s about dreaming and stories. Who built these trails? Who wandered here before me? What did it look like decades ago? Who will I meet, what will I see? Where will I lie my head each night?

I’ll let the photos tell the story of my jaunt between Carter Summit and Man Eaten Lake, about a 35-mile section. I shared stories about the lakes I visited in a previous post (blog link).  The wildflowers deserved their own post as well (blog link).

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Tips:

  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

 

CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, a PCT Wildflower Jaunt

In addition to the debut of a PCT Swimmer’s Route (blog link), there were plenty of wildflowers to be found between swimming destinations. These photos were taken on a 35-mile section between Carter Summit and Man Eaten Lake.

Collomia grandiflora (Large-flowered collomia)

My book calls the blue in the center pollen; I assumed it was stamen. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen these so I was excited to find them along the trail. I’ve never seen them in groups or patches, always solo with maybe one companion. Hey, that describes me.

Allium

I should have taken more photos. These plants were so whimsical.

Lewisia cotyledon, Siskiyou lewisia

These beauties were fairly plentiful along this section of the trail.

Polemonium ? Jacob’s Ladder ?

I wasn’t able to easily identify these. These blooms were a rare sighting on the trail.

Penstemon and Paintbrush

There were multiple varieties of penstemon along the trail and it probably the most plentiful bloom on this trip.

There were several varieties of yellow flowers along the trail. They added a nice punch of color.

In wet areas I found Leopard Lily. Tigers have stripes, leopards have spots. At least that’s what I was told by a local botanist. 

Western Pasqueflower aka Anemone occidentalis

The first of the season Dr. Seuss mop heads. It was still a bit too early to find the best messy hair versions.

Pyrola crypta (Pine-drops)

This was by far my most exciting find. I had yet to see blooming pine-drops.

Lilium rubescens, Chaparral Lily, Redwood Lily

Not positive on the ID, but loved smelling these lilies before seeing them. They were just starting to bloom. I saw a lot more buds than blooms. Such showstoppers!

And a few more just because I can never get enough.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Tips:

  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, Jan’s PCT Swimmer’s Route

We have high routes and peakbagger routes, so why not a swimmer’s route? I was craving some time on the PCT after my recent travels on unmaintained trails in the Trinity Alps, and thought it would be fun to visit some lakes adjacent to the PCT. I started hiking north from Carter Summit off National Forest Road 93, PCT mile marker 1580.

1. Siphon Lake

My first detour was a side trail to Siphon (or Syphon), Water Dog (or Waterdog) and Russian Lakes. It’s less than a mile from the PCT to Siphon Lake and another to the junction of Deacon Lee Trail. The sign shows the spelling with a Y but the maps, guidebook and online references indicate an I.

From the PCT, this lake rates high on the ease of access scale.

I had good intention of swimming in Russian and Waterdog Lakes but after a late start from the trailhead and lollygagging a bit too much at Siphon, I had to turn around after hiking to the Deacon Lee Trail junction. It looked to be quite a descent and since it was already 7pm I knew I was pushing my luck so those lakes will be saved for a future trip. There is a cairn route to Russian Lake about halfway between Siphen and Waterdog Lakes thus I at least got this photo of Russian Lake and Peak.

I camped at Siphen Lake and had a great swim. There were plenty of fish and newts. I wandered around finding evidence of previous siphening activity in the form of pipes. I was told by a local rancher that the lake was used for nearby mining however I also saw online that it was used for agriculture purposes. I tend to believe the mining theory as Foster Mine is in close proximity. There is a well established camp near the lake so I’m guessing it’s quite popular with the equestrian crowd. Although I had the place to myself I wouldn’t count on it.

2. Bingham Lake

Since I was doing an out-and-back hike, I visited this lake on my return trip. It involves a rocky scramble following cairns. I got off track on my way, going up higher than needed. Tip: the route takes you up the rock pile then to the right into the woods then back to the rock pile then stays near the outlet creek. It’s about .25 mile to the lake from the PCT. There are numerous campsites and it appeared to be a moderate use lake. On the morning of my swim, I had the lake to myself.

The lake was a perfect swimmer’s paradise. With a nice rocky entrance, deep clear water, and great temperature even for this 8am swim. The sun was in my face so I couldn’t get great photos. For those interested in peakbagging, you start from Bingham Lake to summit Russian Peak.

3. Statue Lake

This is one of the more challenging lakes to access. There are at least three ways to reach the lake. The most common is from Statue Creek which is the way I hiked. There is a cairned trail starting where the creek crosses the PCT. Sadly this area was devastated in the 2014 fire making the unmaintained trail a bit of a mess. I got off track a few times but ultimately found myself faced with a wall of huge boulders which needed to be navigated prior to reaching the lake. When I found a campfire ring I figured I was in the right place. It was a little less than one mile and 400 feet elevation gain from the PCT to the lake.

The lake is behind this ridge. You can see the PCT traversing about one third of the way down. Where the PCT rounds the corner is supposedly one option for access. I camped at this spot one night in hopes of finding the access but with the burn you’d have to be really motivated to work your way through the boulders, dead brush and down trees.

The statue of Statue Lake.

From the lake I hiked up to this secret passage.

On my return trip I looked for it from the PCT and upon finding it, my thought was there was a reasonably direct route up the front side and through the notch.

4. Paynes Lake

This is a no brainer stop as it’s right on the trail. There are plentiful campsites although it can be busy as they are used by both PCT hikers and others accessing the area from several nearby trailheads. I was happy to capture this early morning alpenglow view. You can also reach Albert (aka Albers) Lakes from a nearby unmaintained trail. Since I’d visited Lower Albert previously I skipped on this occasion; Upper Albert is still on my list but I remember the manzanita bushwhack and am not very excited at the prospect (blog link).

5. Smith Lake

I looked for use trails as I hiked north with plans to swim on my return trip. I found a cairn marking the route along the PCT at the far northern end which is ultimately the route I followed. This is the view of Smith Lake from the PCT looking east toward Mt Shasta.

It was a steep descent but much less worrisome than Man Eaten as the footing was solid. By the time I reached this tree I was disheartened to see how much further I had to descend especially when I looked over and saw an even steeper route.

At this point I decided I better turn on my tracker so I could find my way out. Since I don’t have a clean recording I’m guessing it was about 500′ in 1/3 mile.

But finally I was almost there.

It was another perfect swimming lake! I found a campfire ring but zero indication of any flat area appropriate for camping.

6. Ruffey Lake

This is a popular day hike trail from the Etna Summit trailhead. The trail is in excellent condition appearing to have been recently maintained. The switchbacks were reasonably graded although you still descend 350 feet in about a half of mile. This view includes both Ruffey Lake and Etna Mountain.

The best place to swim is the rocky side of the lake, shown below in the distance. There’s an easy use trail around the lake and a short-cut trail straight down off the main trail.

There were tadpoles, guppies and fish near where I swam. This lake is a bit more mucky than some and I’m sure gets worse as the summer progresses. On this day like most of the other lakes I visited I had it to myself and I found it perfect for swimming.

7. Fisher and Marten Lakes

It’s a long dry 14-mile hike from Etna Summit to these lakes. I would revise this route to exit at Etna Summit and get back on at another trailhead such as Kelsey Creek or Shackleford Creek. I enjoyed a great swim in Fisher Lake which is right next to the PCT. It’s another lake that is fairly shallow and could be muddy a little later in the summer. It’s twin is Marten just a short distance away, also along the PCT.

Newts are like an aquatic lizard.

8. Man Eaten (aka Maneaten) Lake

I saved the best for last! Having been to this lake previously via other trailheads further north I knew this would be a great turnaround spot (blog link). I won’t lie it’s not a fun descent as it’s a combination of scree and steep loose dirt as you drop 500 feet in about 1/2 mile. This is the view from the PCT.

Finding turquoise-colored water in northern California is a rare treat. It is a deep lake with crystal clear water.

I met a group of 4 teenagers and a dad hiking out as I was arriving. They had caught several fish and sadly appeared to leave behind a bunch of trash. I was so glad I could collect before it ended up in the lake.

The lake outflow provided a nice waterfall.

I’d always wanted to camp at this lake so getting to witness sunset color was the perfect dessert for this trip.

The next morning as I hiked out, I was gifted this reflection.

Lakes I didn’t visit:

Jackson Lake – this is a lake on private property.

Lipstick Lake – I visited this one from the Ducks Lakes side a few years ago so wasn’t interested in a Take 2. That trip made a lasting impression, in a very negative way (blog link).

Taylor Lake – there is a steep use trail from the PCT down to to the lake but this one is much better reached from the direct trailhead.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Tips:

  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

 

2020 – A Decade of Section Hiking Long Distance Trails . . . my podcast debut and resume

As I prepared for an interview with Jester on Section Hiker Radio, I took a trip down memory lane. I had many stories, tips, tricks, lessons to share, but 45 minutes just isn’t enough time. During a recent hike, I came up with this solution. Why not supplement the podcast with blog posts? So here is the interview, an introduction and the first of several posts to celebrate a decade of hiking (PODCAST LINK).

PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) Highlights:

Between 2010 and 2020, I’ve hiked about 1500 miles on the PCT.  Many of my stories and photos can be found on my PCT page (link).

AZT (Arizona Trail) Highlights:

Between 2010 and 2020, I’ve hiked about 500 miles on the AZT.  Many of my stories and photos can be found on my AZT page (link).

CDT (Continental Divide Trail) Highlights:

My time on the CDT has been mostly unintentional. It’s been a mix of being invited by friends to join for sections or coincidental as I hiked other overlapping trails. Here’s a link to my CDT hikes.

PNT (Pacific Northwest Trail) Highlights:

Like the CDT, I didn’t make a plan to hike sections of the PNT. Sometimes I found myself on the trail and only realized by looking at the map. It’s rare to find a trail marker.

Wonderland Trail:

I can actually mark this one complete. It’s the only long trail I completed in one go. I’m not satisfied though as there are so many side trails I’d like to explore.

What long trails await (map link)?

So many trails, only so much time. I feel my personal timeclock ticking. Whether I’m section hiking a long trail or exploring trails with WOW per mile, I’m happy with that pack on my back moving my home each night while chasing sunsets, sunrises, wildflowers and so much more.

 

CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Tangle Blue Lake Trailhead . . . spring jaunting

While you’ll find information for Tangle Blue Lake in guidebooks, it takes more than casual preparation to find the trailhead as there’s no signage at the highway junction. In fact this sign at the trailhead no longer exists. This is a photo from my 2013 visit. 

This is your 2020 welcome board.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone refer to this as the Grand National Trail, named for an old road to the Grand National Mine. This sign has been defaced since I took this photo in 2013. Maybe because the mileage isn’t exactly accurate. It’s now 3.75 miles from the trailhead to the lake although I’m not sure how far along the trail this sign is located.

This sign is long gone as well. I’d like to think it was removed by the Forest Service for maintenance rather than stolen.

Expect 1,200 feet in elevation gain on a well-used, rocky, easy-to-follow trail. According to Mike White’s Trinity Alps book, “Legend suggests that Tangle Blue Lake and Creek were named by an early resident of the area who started his trip into the wilderness after awaking from a long night of partying to find his feet tangled and the air blue.”

It’s a rare treat to get the lake to yourself like I did. There are far more private campsites along the creek or further up the trail.

Marshy Lakes

There are several options for exploring off the main trail, although signage is somewhat lacking and trails are not necessarily maintained. My goal for this trip was to hike to Marshy Lakes, then up to East Boulder Lakes, followed by a northwest jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail, then returning on the Tangle Blue Lake Trail which connects to the Eagle Creek Trail.

You’ll need decent navigation skills to find the lakes. Along the main spur trail, you’ll see a pond before finding a trail near a “no hunting” sign which leads to Little Marshy Lake.

There is a mighty fine camping area which is on private property, a carve out in the wilderness (shown below on the map). The memorial is for a mule or horse. They even have piped water to a faucet. So fancy!

The lighter shade on the map represents private property which includes a little more than half of Little Marshy Lake, the end with the camp.

At the far end of the lake, you’ll find this waterfall created from Big Marshy Lake’s outlet.

Big Marshy Lake.

East Boulder Lakes

I recommend reversing direction slightly from Big Marshy Lake to reconnect with the old road and current use trail to the PCT. Attempting a short-cut ends up being a lot more wasted time and effort. You can see my track on the above map photo when I wandered to the left of the trail.

When I hiked the PCT in 2015, I wasn’t inclined to add miles so I was excited to see the East Boulder Lakes basin. I explored the ridges on both sides of the pass but wasn’t motivated to hike down into the basin itself.

Pacific Crest Trail

The PCT provided spectacular views down toward Big Marshy Lake and the mountains towering above Tangle Blue Lake.

The close-up details of the rocks was worthy of closer inspection and pondering the geologic history.

You can expect snow on the PCT in early spring. Some patches had serious consequences should you slip.

I spent a night along the PCT where I got to watch this bald eagle hunting for it’s dinner.

It was a perfect place to watch the nearly full moon rise while smiling at this sunset view.

The next morning I enjoyed a brilliant sunrise with Mt Shasta hidden within.

I continued hiking northwest on the PCT. My next POI was Middle Boulder Lakes basin. It was filled with a frog choir. I’d need earplugs to camp there. I considered hiking the loop that connects these lakes with Telephone Lake.

I caught a little cell signal for an updated weather forecast which told me no lollygagging.

I found a great view of the northern side of Caribou Mountain and other major peaks of the Trinity Alps.

I tried to find a view down to West Boulder Lake but without a trail and steep cluttered hillsides, I wasn’t too motivated to play hide and seek. However, there’s a trail junction on the PCT for another lakes basin which includes Mavis, Fox Creek, Virginia and Section Line Lakes.

The lakes aren’t visible from the junction but if you hike up a bit and explore the ridge, you can find this view of Mavis Lake.

I was able to see Virginia Lake with my naked eye, but it was hard to capture with my camera. It’s tucked just below the granite side of the mountain. I met a group who were staying at Fox Lake. They said it was a great base camp from which they’d spen one day hiking to all the lakes in the basin and the next up to the PCT and down a side trail to Wolford Cabin. So many options for loops and trip extensions. Be warned though, trail conditions are a big unknown especially given recent fires.

Bloody Run Trail / Eagle Creek Divide / Eagle Creek Trail / Tangle Blue Trail

I reversed direction back to this trail junction. I had no idea if I’d find remnants of trail or if it would be a big mess or . . . it was a big mystery but one I was willing to at least take a stab at ground truthing. I was happy to at least see this sign on the PCT (it reads Bloody Run Trail and Eagle Creek Divide).  As you may recall I found the sign for the Eagle Creek junction when I was on my way to the Marshy Lakes.

Step 1, go the 1/4 mile to the divide. Take a look around and see if I could find a trail that matched my digital map.

I found the divide without incident on a fairly well used trail to a campsite. From there I wasn’t able to find the trail that connects to Wolford Cabin but found the light use trail continuing down Bloody Run to this junction. By this time I was beyond hopeful as I’d dropped quite a bit of elevation and was not looking forward to reversing direction.

I was thrilled to find this sign at the junction of Eagle Creek Trail and Tangle Blue Trail.

According to the map you can connect to/from the PCT to the Tangle Blue Trail. I didn’t find any evidence on the PCT but I found this sign along the Tangle Blue Trail and it looked like a fairly straight shot through an open meadow but I didn’t check it out so it remains a mystery.

I found a few old trail blazes on trees. I wouldn’t attempt this trail without excellent off-trail navigation skills. When you temporarily lose the trail, backtrack and watch the digital map as the old trail stays fairly true to what’s shown on the maps.

Cairns were well placed in many spots, and very helpful with the navigation game.

It was a beautiful area filled with meadows, flowers, streams and views.

The lower section is more in the forest and bit messier than the upper section. Had I been paying better attention and not gotten off track a one point where I found myself in a manzanita quagmire, I would have been 100% thrilled I’d taken this alternate. Buy hey, I came, I explored, I survived.

I was especially excited to find this sign on my way back to the main trail. Yes, the Tangle Blue Trail exists!

After that wild day, I found a cozy spot to call it a night. If I hadn’t gotten off track, I probably would have camped along the Tangle Blue Trail where I would have had more open views. But that too is all part of the adventure and something that will keep this trip memorable.

Grand National Mine

On a previous trip I took the side trail to explore the mine. I didn’t find a sign this trip, but it’s pretty easy to spot the old road. You can see the red roof of the old stamp mill in the lower left corner of this photo I captured as I was coming down the Tangle Blue Trail from the Marshy Lakes/Eagle Creek junction. You can see the old road above the mill. Someday I want to come back and continue further up the road to the ridge. I’m sure it would offer excellent views.

As of my 2013 visit there was lots of debris left behind. According to the Trinity Lake Revitalization Alliance, “The Grand National Mine produced about 1,500 ounces of gold, 2,200 ounces of silver, and 1,900 pounds of copper between 1934 and 1937. A few ounces of gold and silver were produced in 1930 and 1931. Nearly 54 percent of the gold was from quartz veins, which assayed at an average value of $23 per ton. The owner estimated that some 22,600 tons of material was in the three veins of the main mine diggings as of the late 1960s. At some $20 per ton, that was a value worth pursuing. Of course, now that the mine is wholly within the Trinity Alps Wilderness, it has been retired for all practical purposes.”

Flora and Fauna:

Early spring flowers were abundant on this trip. I was especially happy to see the lavender pasqueflowers just waiting to become Dr. Seuss blooms.

Although I thought these were all bleeding hearts, it appears a couple are really steersheads, all in the Dicentra family.

This trip was devoid of bears, instead my wildlife was this snake and a lot of frogs.

For a high-use trail, it had very little trash or obvious TP. I picked up quite a lot of micro trash on the first section and later on found these sunglasses. They were covered in mud and looked like they’d been lost a long time ago.

A little something new to get used to as we experience this COVID-19 global pandemic.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 2-5, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links may be included which provide me a tiny kickback to help pay for this site.

 

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: