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Here is the index to the trip report on my hike around Glacier Peak. This is a hiking, writing, photo project from August 2016.

https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/a-dream-a-plan/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/lighting-out/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-1-suiattle-river-to-middle-ridge/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-2-middle-ridge-to-high-pass/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-3-high-pass-to-boulder-pass/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-4-boulder-pass-to-indian-head-pass/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-5-indian-head-pass-to-glacier-peak-basin/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-6-glacier-peak-basin-to-mica-lake-on-the-pct/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-7-mica-lake-to-canyon-creek-camp/
https://mossreport.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/day-8-canyon-creek-camp-to-suiattle-th/

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A Dream, A Plan

When we “discovered” the Pacific Northwest many years ago, I started learning about our nearby mountains. I wanted to know how to visit them, travel through them, and find the scenic treasures within. Especially intriguing was the thought of living so near to volcanoes. A few are well-known. Mt. Rainier is unmistakable by sight, visible from various vantages near our home. Situated in a national park only an hour and a half drive away, it is the easiest and first with which we became acquainted. You can see all sides of it during a single afternoon drive (well if it is not cloudy!). You can wander it’s meadows of wildflowers and peer over thundering waterfalls, only a few steps from a cafeteria and bathrooms with flush-able toilets. We read in the newspaper that it is still active and that schoolchildren in nearby towns take part in regular “lahar drills” to practice escaping from speeding walls of mud.

There are other volcanoes too, that extend in a north-south arc across our state of Washington and neighboring states of Oregon and California too. Mt. Baker stands majestically in the distance away from the tulip fields of Skagit Valley. A ski area at the end of Mt. Baker Highway ends at a breathtaking viewpoint called Artist Point. Mt. St. Helens is perhaps the most recognizable to anyone old enough to remember its massive eruption in 1980. I visited the dusty remains of this once snowy-dome on several bike trips. Paved roads reach near to the mountain on both the east and west sides and a mountain bike trail skirts the mountain across the Plains of Abraham. Mt. Adams looms over the agricultural city of Yakima, forming the third corner of a triangle with Rainier and St. Helens. In season, it can be climbed in less than a day with skis. From the heavily-visted Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier, you can look across at Mt.  Adams which seems to be a shorter twin of Mt. Rainier.

This leaves out the 4th tallest mountain in Washington and most volcanically active, Glacier Peak. It is remote and much less well-known. There are no roads to vistas of Glacier Peak. To view it, you either have to be very far away or very close because the mountains that are near to it are quite high as well.  The first time I really got a glimpse of it was on our hike on Green Mountain. We carried Nathan in a backpack carrier and had to carry our dog, Sam, down the mountain too because he was in too much pain from sore hips. The first full view of Glacier Peak I had was from the summit of Three Fingers. Then again a year or so later from the summit of Mt. David, it seemed still so distant and unapproachable. The photo in the masthead of this blog is from that trip. Finally in 2014, Nathan and I made an overnight trip to White Pass. We did a day hike through Glacier Peak Meadows and climbed White Peak. We saw the mountain up close. It appears not as a giant snow cone, as Rainier, Adams, and Baker, but as a steep, jagged, crumbling pile with glaciers tumbling off every face.

In 2016, after several only mildly adventurous summers, I wanted to do something big, something that push my limits and take me to new places. Mt. Rainier has a 100 mile loop trail around it called the Wonderland Trail. Permits are required and every last campsite is reserved. I had heard about a trail around Glacier Peak. No permits are required and there are several options requiring either a road walk or off-trail hiking. My plan started to take shape. I would visit the Napeequa Valley and cross High Pass on the remote east side of the mountain. On the west side, I would hike the much-traveled Pacific Crest Trail. To the north, I would follow the arc of the Suiattle River. On the south side, I had my choice between the White River trail or the Indian Creek trail. Both are described as “brushy” but I had seen reports that the White River trail had one washed out section so I chose the Indian Creek trail.

My plan was to start in the northwest corner and travel counter-clockwise, reaching the remotest sections near the end. The dates were set, I procured gear and dried dinners and fruits. My Glacier Peak Circumnavigation was really going to happen!

 

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Lighting Out

The anticipation of an adventure can be one of the best parts. In your head, is a mixture of the ideal trip and the cloudiness of uncertainty. About a month before the trip, lightning struck. A small forest fire started in the Phelps Creek area below Buck Creek Pass. This was not on my route, but I was planning to pass about 10 miles to the west. The forest service closed that area and said it was a small fire hemmed in by cliffs and a creek and not likely to spread. We went to Wisconsin for a wedding and I expected that it would be burned out by the time we returned. However, when I checked the reports upon returning, I learned that it had flared up and was now bigger. The forest service stated that they would not be fighting it because it was in remote wilderness and didn’t threaten any towns or homes. They widened the closure area to include the entire valley east of Buck Creek Pass. Now I had to decide if it was worth it to hike so close to an active fire.  There was also the risk that the smoke would drift over toward  Glacier Peak and affect my entire hike. This was terrible luck. The only trip we took in 2015 was so smoky due to fires that we could  barely see across the valley. Breathing the smoke was terribly unpleasant. Those fires in the Entiat Valley were 25 miles away from Cady Ridge (where we were camping).

I started planning other options. I thought about hiking the Wonderland trail but really get stressed out by permits and really wanted a remote wilderness experience. I researched a loop in the North Cascades but it seemed like the trip would already be challenged for water as well as several sections of blow downs that had not been cleared. That was a trip more suited to late July, than August. I tracked the fire and a week before we had a day of rain that seemed to tamp it down.  A web cam in the town of Trinity showed that the smoke was mostly staying off to the east. I decided to reverse the direction of my hike and hit that part of the route first. That way if the fire got larger, I might make it through first, or else I could bail out easily.

No one else wanted to come along on the hike. I was planning for 7-8, 15 mile days. I planned for the family to drop me off and pick me up so the car wouldn’t be parked at the trailhead for a whole week and this would give me options in case I had to bail because of fire or injury. We left on a Friday after work. We had to wait for Nathan to get home from his job at the YMCA camp. Traffic was awful. It was rush hour and everyone was leaving Puget Sound for a weekend getaway or summer vacations. It was also one of the hottest weekends of the year with scorching temperatures and high humidity. We had planned to try and find a primitive campsite along the Suiattle River. We hoped for a location with clear views of the sky so we could watch meteor showers. While the best riverside spots were taken, we did find a grassy pullout above the rivers. We set up our tents, ate our dinners and watched the stars.

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Finally, we hit the trail a little after 9am. I was nervous about going off for such a long trip.  My family was nervous too. Travelling alone can be very fulfilling but the margins for error are slimmer than travelling with partners. I am used to biking and dayhiking alone,  so I am self-sufficient and am good at responding to the inner voice which questions all the choices that need to be made along the way. Still, unexpected injuries and mishaps can happen. There are a few that were on my mind.

Spraining an ankle is my biggest worry. I sprained one of my ankles while trail running a few years ago. I was only a few miles from the road and was able to hobble out. Ten miles of hobbling with a pack would not be fun or desirable. I vowed to be careful.

Blisters are a worry. If you can’t walk or if it is unpleasant to walk, it could ruin a trip. For this trip, I wore low-top hiking shoes which are rugged enough to protect my feet from rocks, but not so stiff that I would be vulnerable to rubbing.

Running out of water or getting sick from water are minor possibilities. The route around Glacier Peak should have tons of water from melting snow and glaciers.

Animal encounters, specifically bear encounters, were definitely possible. However on all my trips in the Cascades, I had never seen a bear in the wild. I carried a bear can for my food which saves the hassle of hanging and protects it from being crushed in my pack, but most hikers in Washington only use them if required by regulation. The area I was visiting has a reputation for bears. It seemed likely I would see one or more on this trip, a prospect that was both exciting and unnerving.

My family hiked with me for about an hour. The trail started wide and level. It appeared to be a remnant of an old roadbed. It was heavily wooded and  starts at a low elevation of about 1000ft. The Suiattle river roared and crashed below and to the right but it was rarely in sight. The trail keeps away from the river, circling around the base of Sulphur Mountain.

We hugged goodbye and for a few minutes I felt a tugging sensation as they walked the opposite direction. Then the elastic snapped and I was on my path and they were on theirs.

It was cool in the shade and the river and streams cooled the air as well, but it was starting to heat up and it would again be a very hot day. I kept a steady pace but tried not to go so fast that I was breathing hard or sweating. I had lunch on a sandbar by the river and sent my first location message with a Spot device I had rented. It is a transponder which can be used to send messages via satellite. It has two weaknesses and proved to be unreliable for giving comfort to my family. I could not get a signal unless I was in an open area. There were also two days when the messages appeared to be sent to the satellite but did not reach the messaging center. I planned to check in 3-4 times per day and when it appeared that I did not, my wife panicked and called the ranger who told her it was best to wait and see if I returned on the scheduled date.

After lunch I reached the junction with the PCT. I would follow the northbound trail today and return from the south at the end of the hike. This was the true start of the loop. Soon after the junction, I saw my first and only bear of the trip. There was a black bear downslope from the trail, thrashing around in the berry bushes. When I realized what I was seeing, I scrambled to get my camera . It was too far to get a good shot and my heart was thundering. When I was sure that there were no cubs nearby and that it was uninterested in me, I walked slowly up the trail. For the rest of the day, I was on full alert but sadly would not see any other bears. I don’t know, however, if any bears saw me!

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Bear near Suiattle River Trail

I met three climbers chatting with two hikers soon after and told them about the bear. I recognized one of the climbers from nwhikers and there was a woman talking enthusiastically with the hikers who I would later learn was the famous thru-hiker who goes by “Anish”. She is in the process of checking off the Bulger list and would set the speed record on the Arizona trail later in the fall. Amazing hiker!

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First view of Glacier Peak (south)

I met a ranger who was supposed to meet up with some incoming horse-packers taking lumber up to Miner’s Ridge to fix the lookout. Since it is wilderness, they can’t use chainsaws and can’t air-drop materials with helicopters.

I hiked the entire day through the woods with no views. The trail skirted below Miner’s Ridge. I’ll have to return someday and hike up there. There is a lookout and a famous lake called Image Lake. There was a possibility to hike up Miner’s Ridge but it would add about 5-6 miles and this early in the trip, I did not feel confident enough to add significant distance to the trip. There were no creeks below Miner’s Ridge.

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Canyon Creek

The trail crossed Miner’s Creek and began zigzagging up the ridge. It was very warm and I was sweating a lot. One of my favorite possessions I had brought was a strip of kitchen towel. I hooked it through the top strap of my pack and used it to wipe sweat off my face when it would start to drip down into my glasses. I was passed by a shaggy through-hiker. He was motoring. There was no way I wanted to match his pace on the first day of the trip and even though I had tried to get my pack weight down, it is nowhere near as light as a through-hiker pack. My pack was about 55lbs on the first day. Through hiker packs are typically below 35lbs.

I reached the forest camp at the junction with the Middle Ridge trail at about 4:30pm. I had thought I might camp there but the camp was mostly destroyed by fallen trees at some point in the recent past. Also, it was a dark area of the forest with no views or water and there were tons of mosquitos. I decided to start up the Middle Ridge trail and see if I could find a campsite near a creek. Soon after leaving the broad, groomed PCT, this started to seem like a poor choice as the Middle Ridge trail was much rougher, steeper, and had lots of trees down over the trail. It also seems much less traveled and there were a few points where I had to scope ahead and find the trail where it was covered by fallen trees. My map showed that the trail would get close to the creek at a few spots and finally I found a very nice camp. It was still in forest and there were no views, but it was close the creek, had a decent spot for the tent, and there were fewer mosquitos. I set up camp at 5:15pm and had dinner, bath, and chores done by 7. Many nearby limbs were draped with damp clothes and I had to hang a bag with some food that would not fit in the bear can.

The first day was done and I had 16miles behind me. Except for the lack of views, it had been an ideal day.

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First camp on Middle Ridge

 

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A few years ago, I had planned a weekend trip to visit Buck Creek Pass. My ideal trip was a loop starting at Little Giant trailhead, up the Napequah to High Pass and over to Buck Creek Pass and back to Phelps. It was hard to convince friends to embark on a weekend trip with off-trail travel, that crosses three passes and includes a few miles of road walking. Family and weather issues prevented that trip from happening two years in a row so that dream was scrapped. This was going to be the trip I would finally get do major parts of that planned trip and the next two days were the crux. If I could make it through these two days, I felt I would have the hardest and most uncertain parts of the trip behind me.

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Dawn on Middle Ridge

I started hiking a little after 7am. In only 20 minutes, I reached alpine meadows and traversed a ridge with views of Plummer Mountain. I climbed steadily to a 6000ft pass with views of Bonanza Peak rising behind Plummer Mountain. It was a gorgeous morning with little wind and cool temperatures. There were no clouds and no sign yet of the fires in the Buck Creek Basin. I walked slowly and soaked in the broad alpine views.

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Plummer Mtn

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Plummer Mtn with Bonanza behind

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The trail then descended slowly and sidehilled through the woods then started descending. I consulted my map several times as I did not recall such a long descent. It finally bottomed out at a creek crossing and a nice forest camp where I took a snack break. On day 1, it had occurred to me that I had not packed nearly as many snacks as I usually pack. When I go off with the kids, I like to be conservative with food to make sure I have enough and for a day hike I usually have tons of snacks and never go hungry. I had packed only one clif bar per day and Naomi tossed in a few extras. There were only enough nuts and trail mix for a few handfuls per day. Rationing snacks was going to take willpower. The first two days were challenging but I quickly got used to it and never felt overly hungry after that. But I looked forward to the morning and afternoon snack breaks and learned to take tiny bites and savor my food.

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Glacier Peak from the East

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View from Buck Creek Pass

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Tenpeak Mtn

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View from Buck Creek Pass

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Close-up of Glacier Peak

 

The trail climbed steadily again and emerged from the forest into a sloping meadow with switchbacks. Soon I was at the top of Buck Creek Pass. The pass was very broad and the trail meandered past a few junctions with trails to side destinations: Flower Dome (ironically grown over with trees) and Helmet Butte. Finally at the junction with the Buck Creek trail, I could see smoke from the fire several miles in the distance. It looked like the fire was burning on the both the north and south sides of the valley, climbing the ridge below Buck Mountain and Phelps Ridge. The breeze was blowing to the southeast, away from the pass. I breathed a sigh. Soon the mosquitos and black flies found me and I resumed my walk.

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Buck Creek drainage from Buck Creek Pass

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Helmet Butte from its base at Buck Creek Pass

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Wildflowers at Buck Creek Pass

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Wildflowers at Buck Creek Pass

 

The trail sidehilled through more flowery meadows, traversing behind Liberty Cap, the location for the most stunning and sweeping views of Glacier Peak. It’s flanking ridges filled the horizon from left to right and the brilliant white peak towered above in the center. Brilliant green ridges radiated toward me and sloped downward to the Suiattle drainage. This point, the farthest point on the trail from Glacier Peak, was by far the best vantage point for viewing Glacier Peak.

I reached another small pass with views down into Buck Creek. A stiff breeze blew and both cooled me and drove away the buzzing flies and mosquitoes. I ate lunch in the sun and gazed out at the smoky scene to the east and across the valley at Fortress Mountain and Helmet Butte. Helmet Butte was an interesting sight, a brilliant green mountain with long dark green vertical stripes. From the west side of the pass, I spied a zig-zagging trail climbing an unnamed ridge. Beyond looked to be a brilliant blue hanging lake. The intriguing trail was not on my map. I think it is an abandoned trail which climbs the Triad Creek drainage up to the hanging lake, called Triad Lake.

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Helmet Butte and Fortress

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Miles of forest

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Meadows near Buck Creek Pass

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Gamma Ridge on Glacier Peak

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Headwall near Triad Creek

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Trail near lunch spot

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Lunch Spot

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There is a faint trail zigzagging up this ridge

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Fire below Buck Mtn

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Ledge trail leading to High Pass

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Mt Maude and Seven-Fingered Jack

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Buck Creek draniage

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Marmot sunning near lunch spot

 

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Triad Lake

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Triad Lake

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Triad Lake

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End of the trail near High Pass

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View from High Pass

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View from High Pass

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View from High Pass

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View from High Pass

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Triad Lake from High Pass

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Glacier Peak from High Pass

Following a narrow trail along ledges where marmots sunned themselves on rocks, I finally reached the point below High Pass where the trail petered out. Several social trails ascended the ridge steeply to a breathtaking vantage looking down at talus, snowfields, and a hanging glacier melting into Triad Lake. I dropped down on boulders to the base of the narrow, steep snowfield I had read about. As advertised, the snowfield was steep and then ran out to an even steeper bouldery slope. The snow was deeply sun-cupped but I didn’t want to take any chances of slipping, so I put on my microspikes and got out my ice ax for the crossing. I kicked steps into the snow, plunged my ax, and stepped gingerly across the slope while a trio of flies buzzed around my head and ears. Finally I crossed over to the rocky rib on the far side. It was truly an amazing setting with everything you could want in a remote alpine place: cliffs above, boulders, wildflowers, glaciers, trickling water under the boulders, a brilliant blue lake, and its outlet waterfall. I was relieved to have made it across without incident. I ascended the steep rock rib above the snowfield. Below was a sandy basin with a gorgeous tarn. All around, I could hear gushing water from snow melting on the peaks above and in the distance were views of several glaciers on Clark Mountain.

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Clark Mtn in the distance from High Pass

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Trying to reach the knob on the right

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Cliffs above High Pass. Alternate route?

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Tarn near High Pass

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Tarn near camp

It was only about 2pm, but I had reached my goal for the day so I set up my camp in the basin near the tarn. There were deep tracks in the soft sand which I first thought were goat prints but after following them for the next two days, I realized they were likely llama tracks. I rested and read a book in the tent while the sun passed overhead. It had been a short day, probably less than 10miles hiked, and I had not seen a single person the entire day. I was glad to be in this amazing place.

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Preparing to set up camp

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Looking back toward High Pass

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Rocks, snow, and mountains at High Pass

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Snowmelt at High Pass

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Glacier Peak from Buck Creek Pass

 

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Sunrise in camp

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Sunrise in camp

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Clark Mtn in the distance

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Starting the descent to the Napeequa

After a cold, breezy night with the wind rattling the tent, dawn came, cold and shadowy, the sun barely reaching the basin by the time I had packed up. I had another adventurous day ahead of me. I was still “off trail” in terrain that was not marked by any line on the map, descending into a valley that I had read about in guide books for years, described as a “Shangri La”, both hard to reach and seldom-visited, the Valley of the Napeequa.

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Alpenglow

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Basin at the top of the descent

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Clark and glaciers in the distance

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Watercourses all around

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Light and dark

There was not a true trail but there was only one way down as the land tilted downward into a v-shaped canyon. It angled southward to the left until I had a full-on view of the brilliant white glaciers of  Clark Mtn in the distance. I crossed and re-crossed the creek, looking for footprints and scraps of trail along the banks and among the stunted trees and dewy grasses. There were ice caves in several places from creeks tumbling down from the slopes above, melting the deep snows from beneath. The sun never reached this hanging valley while I was there and the air remained crisp and chilled.

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Snow cave

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Snow bridge

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Descending

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At the top of the falls

Finally I reached the top of the falls and looked about for the route around the falls. As advertised, there was a small gap in the trees across a grassy meadow where the trail started its descent. Soon I was scrambling down a slippery tangled ladder of alder roots. Branches grabbed at my pack as I scraped my way down through the thicket. After a half hour of scratching and clawing my way down through the steep alder, I reached the valley floor and started searching for the valley trail. After several false starts in which I crossed and recrossed the river, scrambling on steep banks and soaking in dewy shoulder-high grasses, I finally found the trail. I was back on a green line on the map. The falls above were impressive and I was grateful there had been a safe way to traverse around it.

I was at a forested end of the Napeequa Valley. Behind me, the valley curved left and upward, more terra incognita. In front, the valley widened and descended slowly. Again as advertised, the trail was overgrown in places and went in and out of alder thickets. In places it scrambled down the river bank and then back up.  The river was always off to the right. More often, it went away from the river to the left side of the valley. Brush scratched my legs as I walked. For the most part the bugs only bothered me if I stopped. I passed the very tall and dramatic Louis Creek falls, crossing in a steep gully. The brush continued all the way to the junction with the Boulder Pass trail. The only section I really remember was a small shaded grassy meadow in a stand of silvery fir trees. If it hadn’t been dew-soaked, I might have lain down and taken a nap there.

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Headwall of the Napeequa

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Emerging in the valley

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Crossing the creek

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Trying to find the main trail

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Inviting meadow in the Napeequa Valley

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Looking back toward High Pass

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Giant waterfall on Louis Creek

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Glaciers on Clark Mtn

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Brushy trail in the Napeequa Valley

As I got closer to the junction with the Boulder Pass trail, the valley seemed to deepen. The valley walls got higher and steeper and the valley started bending to the right so it seemed there was a massive headwall in front of me. In disbelief, I saw a faint zigzagging trail ascending the nearly treeless slope. This is the trail to Little Giant Pass, which Spring and Manning say in their book has scattered bones of sheep and horses that did not survive the traverse. The Napeequa Valley continues meandering to the southeast but eventually becomes unnavigable by trail. The map shows that the canyon narrows and then quickly loses 1500 ft.

It was time to leave the Napeequa Valley but first I had to cross the river. The river had been out of sight for most of the 5 miles through the valley and when I got to the trail junction, I looked for a spot to cross. Near the river, the flies and mosquitoes swarmed. The river was milky blue with rock flour and ran steady and deep. I could not see the bottom so I followed the bank about 100 yards downstream and found a spot where I could see ripples in the surface hinting that it was perhaps not so deep at that point. I swapped boots for sandals and carefully stepped into the river. Facing upstream with my pack unbuckled, I gingerly placed each foot, searching for stable rocks with my feet while ice-cold water numbed my legs and toes. Your brain sees the water rushing at you and your eyes try to find a spot to focus and you have to fight off vertigo. At the center the water reached mid-thigh. Flies swarmed and bit but finally I reached the far bank. I gave a whoop! and set about drying off and rebooting before the flies drained all of my blood. With the river crossing complete, all of the treacherous parts of the hike were now behind me.

The Boulder Pass trail started upward immediately. The forest was hot at midday and the trail switchbacked endlessly. Flies and mosquitoes continued to swarm and I finally decided to get out my bug spray and try to get some relief. I took the cap off the bottle and removed my glasses so I wouldn’t get spray on them. I pointed the nozzle at my arm and pressed down on the sprayer. Suddenly I felt an intense burning in my eye. I had mis-pointed the nozzle and the repellent had gone directly into my eye. In disbelief, I waited for the pain to subside. Meanwhile the flies sensed their opportunity and moved in for the kill. After a wash from my water bottle, I was finally able to finish the job and get moving but I still could not see or even open my right eye and I had a sickening feeling that this was going to be so serious that I would have to abandon the hike. I figured I was about 15miles and a day away from the bailout at Wenatchee River Road so all I could do was hike and hope for my eye to improve.

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Ridge near Little Giant Pass

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Ridge near Little Giant Pass

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Looking back at Napeequa and Little Giant Pass

The trudge to Boulder Pass took over an hour. The views grew, overlooking the Napeequa Valley and Little Giant Pass. There were even more switchbacks above a lovely basin. The pass was nondescript and little more than a notch. The descent down the south side zigzagged through meadows in full bloom. I wanted to camp high again so I stopped at the first flattish spot I came to, a sloping basin above a creek. Several waterfalls plunged downward from the cliffs above, completing the scene.

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Lovely basin below Boulder Pass

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Looking back toward High Pass

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Below Boulder Pass

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Ridge above Little Giant Pass

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Poet Ridge

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Boulder Pass

It was mid-afternoon and the sun seemed to stop in the sky. There was no shade except for my tent, so I climbed inside and napped and read for the remainder of the afternoon. It had been another short day, only about 10 miles, but I had visited more amazing places and passed a second straight day in complete solitude.

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Mt Daniel and Mt Hinman in the distance

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Morning alpenglow from campsite

I got an early start, hitting the trail by 6:30am. I knew I needed to make time today. Two short days had put my daily average well below the 15 or so miles per day needed to complete the trip in a week. But I was not dissatisfied because I had completed all of the off-trail sections and cleared all the difficulties mostly without incident. My eye still bothered me and I was not sure if I had done long-term damage to it but I could open it and see with it and it found its place among the background noise of little aches and pains and bothers.

The word for the day was “brush”. This would not be a day for high country wanderings. Instead, the route descended along Boulder Creek, to the White River. I would follow the low-elevation White River for a few miles, then cross over on a bridge at the White River Falls campground and follow Indian Creek on a sloping plain in a broad valley. Eventually the trail would climb Indian Head Pass and make a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I had a goal to make at least 15 miles, perhaps making a camp midway along the Indian Creek trail but all was undiscovered country for me. My only chance to camp high again would be if I could reach the PCT.

I had a choice of routes for the westbound leg of the trip and neither choice had gotten any praise on hiking forums. The White River trail leading to White Pass on the PCT was listed as abandoned by the forest service and the only report I found described it as a nightmare of brush and washouts. Reports for Indian Creek were little better but at least the forest service reported that it was open, even if it receives little maintenance. The Indian Creek route was a few miles longer and I hoped it would make a nice walk along a creek and give some views of the Poet Range.

I saw my first hiker in two days as I neared the ford of Boulder Creek. He was doing the same hike but in the opposite direction. It was his first full day on the trail. I gave him info on the fires and how to find the alder thicket to get around the falls on the way to High Pass.

It was a very dewy morning and the trail was quite overgrown. Soon my pants and boots were soaked. It reminded me a lot of the descent down from Meander Meadows I had done with the Ns last year except that we had done that on a dry, sunny day. I encountered two bear hunters heading up to scope out the prospects. The trail alternated between dark forest and brushy, wet slide alder. Eventually I reached the end of the hanging valley and started a descent which zigzagged downward through the woods. I was able to dry out a little and change socks.

I reached the White River Trail at about 8:30 and hesitated a moment before affirming my original plans and continued the long flat walk through the woods to the White River Falls trailhead, reaching the bridge over the White River at 10:30am with 9 miles covered. I had been to this trailhead several years earlier when I did a day-hike of Mt. David. There was only one car in the parking lot because the road was closed 4miles downstream due to a washout.

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Bridge over the White River

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View from the bridge

It was again very warm in the piney forest. I hiked slowly to minimize sweating but made good time and enjoyed the feeling of steady motion. After 2 miles on the Indian Creek Trail, I crossed the creek on a footbridge and had lunch in the shade by the rushing creek. Unfortunately, this was the last I would see of Indian Creek because the trail is consistently more than 100 yards from the creek for the entire way up to the pass. Thick brush overgrows that trail starting about 4 miles from the bridge. The trail alternates between short sections of forest, grassy meadows, and scratchy brush. There were many blueberry groves leading in and out of the forests and I grazed constantly and never had to dig into my stash of snacks. It was wonderful.

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Brush along the Indian Creek trail

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Brush and forest

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More brush

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and more brush

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Meadow below Indian Head Peak

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Miles of brush

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Poet Ridge

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Sun and shade

In all, I saw 4 hikers along the Indian Creek trail including one old timer who was preparing to hike to Airplane Lake and summit Mt. Saul. He had quite a day of brushwacking ahead of him. I saw 4 ptarmigan and a few squirrels, but surpisingly no bears. There were occasional views of the peaks of the Poet Range, the most dramatic being Mt. Whittier and Longfellow. There was a general feeling of isolation in an area unlike any I had ever been in the Cascades. I had never hiked through endless brushy meadows in a sloping plain and it was so different from the usual patterns of terrain we are used to in our mountains.

Finally around 5pm, the trail started to ascend to the pass in earnest. I still had not passed any creeks as the trail was on the north side of the creek and all the south facing slopes above the trail were sun-bathed and bone dry. I talked to one hiker descending the pass and he said there were a few creeks near the pass so I hoped to pump some water before setting up camp near the pass. The only creek I found was barely a trickle and I continued upward in hopes of something more plentiful but I reached the pass and didn’t find any water. I backtracked to the ruins of an old cabin in the woods and set up my camp there before heading back down the trail to replenish my water supplies.

It was a very quiet night and I had no trouble falling asleep after a 20+ mile day.

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