Archive for the 'Pasayten Wilderness' Category

Devils Loop– Photo Trip Report

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Trail Name: Crater-Jackita Ridge-Devils Loop Trip Report

Distance: 43-ish miles

Date of Trip: September 20-22, 2011

Permit Info: An overnight permit is required but can easily be obtained at the Methow Ranger District.

Getting There: From Seattle, take I5-N, then Highway 20-E towards Winthrop. Ample parking at the trailhead a few miles after Ross Dam.

Trail Map:

 

Map from 100 Classic Hikes in Washington

This trip report is going to be a little different… normally I include all the excruciating detail; however – on this trip I decided to keep on my notes in my iPhone vs. my usual pen & paper method; and ended up killing my phone. The trip was almost 6 months ago and I have the memory of a goldfish, so I can’t recall all the details.

However, my friend Tim took some great photos that are just too good not to share… so here goes a quick photo-trip report.

Overview:

This trail covers 40+ miles of spectacular terrain dipping into the lonely and vast Pasayten Wilderness in northern Washington. We took it anti-clockwise starting with a big climb up to Crater Lake and heading north to Devils Pass. From here you can do an extended loop (90m or so) by going north, but we only had a few days and so opted for the shortcut west across Devils Dome and a very flat hike out along the lake shore.

Day 1:

Day 2:

 

 

Day 3:

And so started day 3. It dumped on us all morning with brutal wind. Our cameras didn’t come out after this. Devils Done was rough – the umbrellas had a tough time in the exposure and sideways rain, so the waterproof jackets had to ensure most of it. By the time we reached the shores of Ross Lake for our camp site, it was still somewhat early in the afternoon. Faced with a soggy night, we opted for a hike out. We came out by headlamps after an epic 24 mile day.

I made the mistake of taking new shoes for this trip and not replacing the insoles with super-feet. The stock inserts were awful when fully saturated and hiking hard and kept folding up uncomfortably. I won’t make that mistake again.

East Pasayten Loop Trip Report – Day 4

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

It was 4am and it was cold. My watch was reading 38 degrees in the tent – chilly when you consider the daytime was in the 80’s. 

It was a rough night; and my sleep pad felt thin – I forgot to take my usual nighttime dose of Tylenol PM before hanging the bag for the night. I shut my eyes and tried to get back to counting sheep, or mountain goats maybe.

Eventually 6am came and the sun came up brightly through the trees and started to warm things. We expected to have a cold breakfast as we thought the sun would come up late – hidden behind Amphitheatre Mountain, but it rose perfectly between the saddle and hit the campsite early.

I got up to warm a little in the morning sun, and got some coffee going. The bugs weren’t bad this morning, so it was nice and pleasant sitting out on the rocks.

We ate breakfast, did camp chores and then spent a while doing extensive foot repairs. We debated if the best option for my now liquid filled blister was the lance the skin and drain the fluid or not. The fluid supposedly serves as nature protection – but it sure makes things feel less comfortable with a swollen bulge in your shoes. We decided to leave it intact at least for now. Plenty of duct-tape and gauze later and we were all ready to roll. Nigel and Tim were sporting some new foot-sores now too – so they deployed some preventative measures of their own.

Just before we left camp, my satellite pager went off. My heart fluttered with fear. Surely Theresa can’t be going into labor… we’re too far from the road to evacuate in any reasonable time. I checked the message and it was indeed from Theresa – but just some sweet words of encouragement. It was a cute to get messages from her on the trail – kind of like being in primary school getting little love-notes passed from another classmate with a crush; but also weird to receive them one-way and not be able to text-back.

We left camp around 8 am and decided to take a ‘shortcut’ to Remmel Lake that was marked as “hard to follow” on the Green Trails map. We went off in search of the shortcut.

The ‘hidden’ trail was rough going at first – not that it was hard to find, but it wandered through a marshy area with heavy horse damage on the trail – so there was deep unpleasant mud to walk in. After a while, the trail did start getting a little trickier as we climbed up into a rocky area with little vegetation. It looked like one could do a neat side-trip here up into a saddle that appears like it would look down into the Amphitheatre. However, we elected to continue on.

Eventually we re-found a trail and it popped us out into a stunning meadow

area, with breathtaking views all around. A small stream ran through the base of the meadow and I broke off from the group for a while to get water from the stream. Walking back towards the group, I realized that the ‘grassy looking meadow’ I was in, was actually thick with flowers with green-buds on just waiting to bloom. We were a little ahead of the curve due to the late snow melt, but I sure wish I could have seen this area in full bloom. Still – it was very pretty as it was.

Further on from the meadow area we walked into an area with what appeared to be a somewhat permanent camp. There were white tents, a propane tank and a fuel drum. The camp seemed still – and a deer was munching grass on the other side of it. We assumed perhaps the trail-maintenance crews stayed here?

The trail descended rapidly until it dropped us out near Remmel Lake around 9:30am. Remmel Lake was wide open and very expansive. Plenty of horse damage here, but pretty none the less. There wasn’t a sole in sight during our time there. I kept peering over the other side of the shore – half expecting to see some a bear or other large wild-life – but it was still as could be.

As you leave the Remmel Lake area there is a very tight hairpin turn off to the left – which is easy to miss; which is the trail leading down to the Junction to 4 point lake. The decent was long, and pounding on the feet. In true Tim style – he decided he would ‘jog’ (more of a ‘sprint’ in our book) down the trail and meet us at the junction. He gained a good half-hour over the rest of us by the time we caught up with him.

In Tim’s absence, Nigel and I debated on what we wanted for lunch. Cheese Crackers and Salami won out again – and our plan was to snack at the junction. Half way down I  had a bright idea… We stopped in a chilly stream and filled up a left-over foil pouch from a freeze dried meal last night with water, and plopped the cheese and Salami (Vacuum sealed) in it. This was my “trail refrigerator” and had a good 35 minutes to get the cheese nice and cold for lunch. Sure – it meant carrying an extra pound of two of water – but our packs were very light at this point in the trip.

We caught up with Tim and ate lunch – out came the head nets – as lower in the woods the mozzies and biting flies came out – obviously attracted to the delicately chilled Aged Cheshire Cheese on the menu.

It was only 11:30 am and we had a choice to make:

  • Climb 2.5 miles or so and camp at four point lake for the night, at the consequence of a long 16 mile last day out.
  • Or continue on another 8 miles to our first camp, followed by a short 5 mile half day out. 

It was tough call – four point was supposed to be very pretty, but it was really early in the day still. The long last day didn’t appeal either.  We decided to skip four point and push on to the first camp.

The eight miles along the Chewack valley were long and gradually descending. We arrived at camp around 3:30 pm. My blisters were burning and so I went to dump my feet in the stream to get some relief.

Nigel, Tim and Bill started the next debate…

“So… it’s only 3:30pm – which is pretty early in the grand scheme of things…” (uh oh… a very slippery slope)

We had a few more options to consider:

  1. Stick around and setup camp for the night.
  2. Bust our asses on the last 5.2 miles out of here and car camp at the trail head.
  3. Option 2, except drive home stopping for junk food on the way.
  4. Option 2, except head to Winthrop for celebratory Margaritas at the Mexican place and then drive home. 

We spent a good hour debating our options and repairing our feet. We’d used up all our duct-tape on blisters and were down to just a few plasters. At 4:30 we took the final poll – each of us first a first and second choice vote. The votes came out 2,0,2,4 in favour of Margaritas! So on went the packs and out came the polls.

The push out was hard work – it had been a long day so far – over 16 miles to the camp site, and we were adding another 5+ to get out. We forgot how unmaintained this section of the trail was – but seemed to brute-force our way under and over fallen trees with a feverous vigor! The power of the mighty Margarita promise!

Two hours later, at 6:40pm we arrived at the bridge we started the trail on.

This time the trail head was not empty – a forest service truck was there, and two frogmen were swimming in the river in dry suits. They were surveying fish – and had found Chinook Salmon, Rainbow and Steelhead Trout swimming upstream. We chatted with them for a while while we washed up in the river before heading for civilization and tequila.

[Apologies for the long delay in getting this written up. A newborn sure takes a toll on ones time to be able to write blog entries!]

Go Back to East Pasayten Loop – Day 3

East Pasayten Loop Trip Report – Day 3

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Day 3 was an abrupt start. Around 5 am – as the sky was lightening I heard a shriek from Nigel, muffled by my earplugs– “Maaaattee – wakeup – there’s a mouse under your hat”. Sure enough, a little field mouse had found enough of an opening in the zipper of the Tarptent that we left open to allow a platy-hose to supply water in the night.

Breakfast was another hearty Swiss Muesli with coconut milk – spiced up with some de-hydrated raspberries that Nigel’s wife Lynn made for us from her garden. They were perfectly tart! We also drank a bunch of Chia Seeds to see if the extra fuel would help us get going.

We were on the trail by 8am and my blisters were already very sore. Boundary trail continues past haig mountain, around teapot dome for another 7.2 miles on the way to Tungsten Mine. There were plenty of meadows and larch trees and ever-improving views along the way to keep us entertained.

On the other side of teapot dome we found a great looking unmarked campsite with good water sources.

After several hours we finally arrived at Tungsten Mine.. There were a few clues we were near the mine – a stream crossing the trail with some rusty iron pipe sticking out and some other old iron artifacts. The trail forked – to the right to the upper area of the mine and the cabins – the left down to the lower area – the pit and machinery. We went right and straight for the cabins.

I love stumbling on old buildings like this out in the wild. Either old cabins, look out towers or ruins. It makes for a great time to pause and ponder the people that were here long before us.

It was around 1pm and time for lunch. We hadn’t needed to stop for a mid-morning snack today – the Chia Seeds seemed to be doing the trick and sustained us for longer than usual.

The mine had two main cabins – a smaller on with an drum-stove and a larger one with more amenities.

Nigel and I headed for the small one while Tim and Bill searched for water to treat. I had to sit – my blisters were excruciating now. I looked at the damage – and it wasn’t pretty – both heels had quarter-sized water pockets forming – owch – we still have a long way to go.

We explored both of the cabins and then wandered down the hill to explore the mining area. The views of Apex Mountain from the mine shaft opening were spectacular. I can think of worse places to work each day.

For more details on Tungsten Mine, Nigel has an excellent write up here.

The only sad part for me about the mine area, was all the graffiti in the cabins. So many name carvings in the old logs. Some people have been more thoughtful and carved on wood plaques and hung them instead, but not nearly enough.

I was also shocked (no pun intended) to see remnants of Knob & Tube electrical wiring. I was surprised that they would have electricity all the way out here.

After several hours of exploring the mine, we started to move on. The guide suggested that water was scarce between the mine and cathedral lakes; so we loaded up all of our Platys at the Mine. Nigel and I rock-paper-scissored for who carried the water load. Nigel won.

A half mile from the mine, I was trailing behind the pack – wobbling slowly on sore blisters. Nigel took pity on me and ended up taking the water load anyway.

The trail between the mine and Cathedral pass is stunning. A miles or so after the mine the trail enters some wide open meadows around Apex pass. The back of Apex Mountain sweeps away into the distance – reminiscent of Annapurna or the back of Half-Dome. Larch trees are abundant here and it makes us want to come back and do this trail in the fall – to see all the leaves in their golden glory.

As we hike on, the views of Cathedral Peak become ever more impressive – revealing a deep vertical fissure down the center which is still harboring snow.

About a half mile from the pass, the trails passes an unusual granite band that cuts deep into the hillside. The area we cross it has a good water source that appeared like it would still be around in later summer.

The last stretch climbed gently to the pass and looking down into the valley below – there were many meadow openings in the trees, which made it appear like a well manicured golf-course, with huge granite slab for additional décor.

A few final switchbacks and we were at the saddle of Cathedral Pass. The wind whipped up and howled around us here, so out came some layers. We could see a long way into the distance – all the way to Windy Peak. We wondered if they mis-named it – and we were standing on Windy Peak instead.

Down into the other side of the saddle we could see Upper Cathedral Lake, back-dropped by huge cliffs and a small shallow melt-pool / pond to its upper right.

After a rest and photo opportunities at the Saddle, we wandered down into the Cathedral area. We were giddy with excitement for how pretty it was and knowing we had almost accomplished another solid day on the trail.

We stopped at the pool to check it out – it was shallow – maybe two feet at best with a muddy bottom. It was also apparently a breeding ground for mozzies – as there was a lot of Lava floating on the surface – which swam down into the pool if the surface was disturbed with a pole.

After sticking our feet in – it didn’t feel too cold – so we decided to take a little dip. I leaped in first, followed by Nigel and then Tim. Bill wasn’t going to fall for it – he knew all too well that the mozzies love him – and would likely be eaten alive if he got so exposed.

I can’t think of anything more invigorating for the body and soul than dipping in a cold mountain lake after a few days of backpacking. Outstanding!

After drying out in the sun – we put out gear back on and head down to the main lake to find camp spots.

The camp sites along the shore of the lake were closed for restoration, so we ended up camping in what appeared to be a horse camp up on a slight hill – with peek-a-boo views of the lake.

We had not passed another sole all day – and were the only people camped at the lake. Hard to imagine on a year were there are little other places to hike (due to lingering snow) and it being well into summer.

We ate a fine dinner – hung our bags, and chilled by the lake watching the sun go down. As the sun dipped, it lit up the cliffs by the lake with warm orange hues and lingering shadows. The trout leaping out of the lake and breaking the silence with their splashes only added to the ambience.

After the light faded over the lake – Tim and Bill found a great spot high up the rocky scree where they could see the rest of the sunset in the other side of the valley down into lower Cathedral Lake and the mountain in the distance.

Total distance for the day: 14.7 miles.

[Oh yeah – Tim gets all the credit for the outstanding photos and the “team-player” award for lugging in his Canon 20D.]

Go Back to East Pasayten Loop – Day 2

Read East Pasayten Loop – Day 4

East Pasayten Loop Trip Report – Day 2

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

We awoke to blue skies and a soggy layer of condensation on the Tarptent. I blame the internal moisture from last night entirely on Nigel’s snoring. All I can add is that I sure am glad I packed ear-plugs.

Breakfast today was an interesting affair. We had two competing meals: Team A (Bill & Tim) entered the "coff-meal" while Team B (Brett & Nigel) entered "Granola with fresh blue-berries and coconut milk". "coff-meal" was Tims invention – it consisted of instant oatmeal mixed with instant espresso in a zip-lock bag. I can’t vouch for the coff-meal – but the Granola / coconut milk was a hit. Even Nigel was impressed – which takes some doing give that he’s a guru Thai-Chef.

We hit the trail at about 7:30am. The trail soon passed a turn on the left up Fire Creek trail. The route in the normal guide book takes this direction and fords the Chewack River. We chose to do the hike in reverse for a few reasons: a) we wanted to save the best for last and gradually work our way into Cathedral Lakes and b) we were told there was still snow at upper Cathedral and an extra few days of melt-out would be in our favour, and c) Fire Creek was heavily burned out and has not been maintained. The crossing of the Chewack didn’t look that bad – but it looked knee-deep in places. The ruin of an old shelter could be seen on the other side of the bank.

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East Pasayten Loop Trip Report – Day 1

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Trail Name: Eastern Pasayten Loop

Distance: 65-70 miles, round trip

Elevation Gain: 10,000+ ft

Date of Trip: July 13th – 16th, 2008 (3.5 Days)

Permit Info: An overnight permit is required, but can be obtained from the Trailhead; no advanced reservations necessary. Northwest forest pass required for parking.

Getting There: From Seattle, take I5N 62 miles to Highway 20 (Exit 230), then east 128 miles to Winthrop. At Winthrop, turn North on West Chewack River Road which becomes FR #51 a (Amazingly well maintained) gravel road. Follow the main road all the way to the end – at Thirtymile Camp.

Trail Map:

trailmap

Map from Backpacking Washington.

Don’t forget to click on the thumbnails to see larger images!

Pre-Trip Notes:

We chose this trip due to a heavy snow-year in the Seattle area. In early July 2008 most trails that would be open were not accessible due to a heavy lingering snow-pack. The Pasayten Wilderness area in Eastern Washington melts out early and is amazingly void of crowds.

Day 1: (July 13th, 2008)

We left Seattle at about 8:15am. As we loaded up the packs into the back of Tim’s land cruiser I noticed all of the Platypus Hoses hanging out: "Make sure you water doesn’t leak" I quipped.

The drive was both beautiful and fast – it’s a very pretty drive through the mountain passes to Winthrop. We arrived at Winthrop around noon. Our target destination was the Brew Pub for lunch. Sadly it was closed due to renovation – so off we went to the duck inn for Mexican food and beer.

Follow the link below for the rest of this report.

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