This summer was a bit of a blur so instead of proper write-ups of each worthy hike, they’ll all just get a quick recap.
Thompson Lake Fail (May 12)
Take 2 on my attempt to make a loop out of Thompson Lake and the Pratt River trail. This time I onto the traverse past Thompson lake under Putrid Pete’s Peak before turning back because the going was too slow and I didn’t feel safe. The clinometer showed a 45+ degree slope, there was a lot of post holing, no trail, and no GPS. In the Thompson Lake basin, the snow was ~5ft deep but it was cut through all the way through where the little streams which you’d barely notice in the summer ran. Just finding my way down to Thompson lake was fun as the trail seems to be maintained mostly through use and so it wasn’t always clear where it was though the destination was never in question. At least this was a fun fail.
Pratt River Trail (May 19-20)
This was an out-and back scouting trip. Last year, a ranger who hitched me off Steven’s Pass said he’d hiked this and flagged it for potential restoration. The trail follows an old, straight forest road which is nice in that it’s usually flat but sufficiently overgrown. The state of disrepair varies from slightly mossy to a few sketchy footlogs where things have been washed out.
It started raining as I headed out in the after noon and after a proper downpour, things dried up until sundown. I abandoned my interest in trying to cross Pratt River early and see if I could make it up to Spider lake. I was able to identify the correct valley with map, compass, and “staying found” (taking a class paid off) but lost my appetite for what would have been a at least a waist deep crossing in a fast current. However, I discovered that there used to be a ramp down to the river at about where I’d intended to cross and so wonder what the history is there. Maybe the used to float logs down the Pratt River?
I spent the night in a hammock gifted me by my Senior year of College roommate. I’d only used it once before and gotten too cold. This time I brought a mat and it kinda worked. It took some work to set up but was quite a comfortable cocoon until the prolonged “banana bend” (even though it’s an asym design) began to wear on me. Also got to play with the cat can stove which worked quite well.
Ross Lake East Bank Trail (May 26-27)
The East Bank trail is long and pretty flat and made a chance to stretch my legs (~24 miles day 1, ~36 day 2) and see if the post-surgery knee would hold up. It did and so I got to tag Canada. I woke up on on day 2 and despite having overslept and despite feeling it prudent to turn back, decided to go to Canada anyways and deal with the fallout later. Seeing the border again made me really happy.
It turns out you can just drive into the US from Canada without any sort of border security which surprised me. This wasn’t a particularly notable trip from a nature viewing perspective and so I listened to two books by people who you might term cultural ambassadors. The whole things had an oddly disembodied political – social – emotional feel which is different from most of my hikes where I don’t listen to audio books.
Thompson Lake through Pratt River Loop (June 23-24)
I’d taken two attempts at this route earlier this year and finally it free enough of snow to make it through. This trip was a fantastic blend of conditions: cool uphill through the forest, long traverse across a steep mountain side with just enough snow to be interesting but not enough be dangerous, mist making things mysterious, just a dash of route finding, easy miles with pretty lakes, discovering that the Pratt Lake trail is in great condition besides being abandoned (not to be confused with Pratt River trail to which it connects), and an ahead-of-schedule finish with a road walk down the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.
I want to try this again next year but packraft the road walk.
Desolation Double Fail (July 6-7)
Back to the East Bank trail but this time with the ambition of climbing Desolation peak on the way to and from Canada. As it turned out the half inch of rain which was supposed to be gone by midnight instead became thunderstorms. Ella and I had only brought emergency camping gear since we were going for a speed hike as she’s training for ultras. The most miserable night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten started at 1:30am on top of Desolation peak when I didn’t realize that my emergency bivvy would prevent anything from drying and so tried sleeping in my wet clothes. I’d hoped that they’d dry out a little and I’d get to warm-and-damp.
I’d brought a day hiking backpack which didn’t give me easy access to water when it was stuffed and I was moving quickly so despite the rain I was probably dehydrated. For dinner, I had a peanut butter and raisins on a tortilla which was mostly a giant glob of peanut butter. This didn’t sit well in the stomach. The next morning, without a clear guarantee that it would be sunny enough to dry our gear or that my stomach would stop feeling like the beginning of poisoning, we decided to head back and netted 44mi in 20 hours (or something like that). Day 2 was even quite pretty.
This was my only hike with a partner this summer and without one, it would have been pure misery. I’d probably have just turned around. However misery loves company and so I look back on the experience with unadulterated fondness.
Devil’s Dome “Day” Hike (July 28)
Wanting a shot at redemption after getting queasy and weak a few weeks before, I set out for a 34 mile day hike. You know, as one does. With only oat bars for energy. Problems didn’t start until the last climb to Devil’s ridge when my heart rate didn’t settle despite taking a 15min break. Also, I was beginning to feel weak. I ran across two parties of heavily laden backpackers both of which commented that I was going really fast. That’s easy when you don’t have a tent or sleeping back in your running vest. By the time I got to the top of Devil’s Dome, I’d been having to make deals with myself about not worrying about how much daylight was left. Fortunately, there’s less elevation gain on the way back and the moral of the story is that if you put one foot in front on another, eventually you make it home. However, being sick to your stomach and having to hike for three hours by headlamp might have been a new low in my hiking career.
The upside is that I finally got to see Devil’s Ridge on a relatively clear day.
Angeline Lake (August 4-5)
Feeling pretty beat up and so this was a pretty easy weekend where I hit the trailhead after noon and was back well before dinner the next day. I even brought a full tent instead of a tarp which was fortunate because there were mosquitoes. This trail follows the classic Seattle-area pattern of a boring climb (punctuated by views of a waterfall) followed something fantastic at the top. In this case a string of large, beautiful lakes with granite backdrops. The crowd thins, the trail gets less maintained and much rougher, and in a surprisingly short distance (7-9 miles) the experience is ravishing. There’s a thin, twisting, not quite tortured ridge walk worth of the Goat Rocks or Enchantments which drops you towards a saddle. The saddle was still covered in snow and I followed boot tracks over. The descent towards Chetwoot Lake is steep and I think I missed a turn-off because it looked like a pour-off. The boot tracks ended at the outlet stream from Chetwoot to Angeline which was just passable by rock-hop if you pointed your feet down-stream the current broke against your sole when stepping barely submerged rocks. The crossing is followed by a bush-whack. I started descending towards the lake but remembering seeing no backs and usually sheer cliffs, made eastward around it probably just .1 to .2mi before setting up camp in a dried mosquito bath. The feeling of solitude (surprisingly hard to come by in the near-Seattle cascades) was delicious.
On the way back out the next day, I spent some time at the Saddle overlooking Chetwoot and ferocious mountainscape behind it and got worked up a little.
No Pictures – Some things are too precious to share 😉
Jackita Ridge to Woody Pass (August 13-14)
This trip had dual purposes: figure out if I can hike all day without getting sick to my stomach and see the eastern end of Devil’s ridge. Also there’s ~10.5kft of climbing on day 1 and ~6kft on day 2 so it was also something of an attempt to be athletic again after a couple of rough goes. The trick seems to be not bringing oat bars.
Things went well. I was able to walk all day at an even pace. I only stopped twice on the first day: to draw water from a spring (springs are the best) and eat dinner. The east end of Devils ridge descends to a valley then comes up to a saddle where it becomes the PCT. The long traverse started with a good view but was quickly overtaken by foliage. The PCT really stands out in how easy it is and how beautiful it is. The traverses are high and long with sweeping views. The descents and ascents well graded.
I ate dinner of cold soaked ramen looking west from the dramatically cut Woody Pass while watching sunbursts dance and roll through storm clouds and holding onto my hat when a strong gust would come whipping through the otherwise dead air.
I ran into several through and section hikers finishing up their trips. I enjoyed being back in through-hiking territory even if I had to introduce myself as “just out for a weekend but I was class of 2016” when several asked if I were making a border push.
No Pictures – Left my phone at the shelter 3hrs up Jackita ridge when I took a break on the way back.
Dingford – PCT Loop Did Not Go (Sept 1-3)
Starting from the not-a-named-trailhead 6mi before the Dingford Trailhead (I didn’t know the road was passable by non-4×4 cars), I tried to set up a 67mi training loop which would bring me to the PCT near Waptus lake and connect back via the Red Mountain after going south to Kendall Catwalk. This was a training hike and I carried 4 gallons of water which I didn’t touch. Max pack weight was 56lbs and my pack is only rated for 40 so the discomfort on days 1 and 2 weren’t surprising. Revisiting the beautiful Dutch Miller Gap and Ivanhoe Lake on the first evening was enough to break through the exhaustion a little. Some streams were dry (yes, even in the PNW) and I had to jog back a half mile for water that first night.
Day two was a little better physically. I visited Pete Lake which isn’t quite the PCT route but takes a turn-off which is a real trail despite there being a lot of sticks placed to say “don’t go this way”. I also got to visiting all the sites of my struggles with navigation and snow last year. The trail south from Spectacle Lake is a true gem and almost would have been worth carrying a pack this heavy to see. A surprise was when a vlogger I follow came hiking by in his trademark ping running shorts. I was racing daylight and really not moving nearly as quickly as I’d wanted but it about 20 miles in time to set up at a dry pond set in a ridge line which is maybe a hundred yards wide but falls off steeply on each side. I’d noticed this area last year and thought it would be a great opportunity to camp. There was even water. Carrying 4 gallons of water as training weight when my bottles were dry and I was thirsty was a unique aspect of the struggle.
On day three I passed a few more places I remembered from the year before though Kendall Catwalk itself isn’t as stunning as I recalled. The area became thick with through-hikers and then day hikers. I turned up the Red Mountain trail and the crowd dropped off. I only saw and old man and in talking with him discovered that the trail had been abandoned and was degraded past the point of safe travel. As I discovered, there is actually a sign which says, “Abandoned”. This is what you get for clicking through a route on CalTopo too quickly. Fortunately, the saddle had line-of-sight to Snoqualmie Pass and I was able to call a friend who gave me a ride back to my car that evening where I found I’d been issued a ticket because I’d left my pass face down. More unfortunate was that in the last three miles, (after 51 miles, why pick the last 3?) my knee started having real pain such that I limped visibly. That’s my first time it’s acted up significantly while hiking and is a real blow since it seems that running longer distances (on concrete at least) inflames it as well. I guess the indestructibility of youth has truly faded from me.