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Freezout Lake, Castle Pass, Lightning Creek — Aug 27, 2013 — Pie Hole
Features: Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown
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We had planned a six day trip starting at the Lightning Creek Trailhead on Ross Lake, connecting wit...
We had planned a six day trip starting at the Lightning Creek Trailhead on Ross Lake, connecting with the PCT at Castle Pass and then circling back to the East Bank Trailhead. It rained much of the first three days and the trail past the start of the Wenatchee Wilderness is not maintained so we had very slow going over lots of blowdown and through vine maple that had overgrown the trail. It took us about five hours to get from the trailhead to Little Fish shelter (not a shelter)the first day and we had to stop there for the night to dry gear and because we knew we were not going to get all the way to Freezout Lake which was our intended destination. The second day it was also very rough going up to the ridge through lots of blowdown and rainy weather. We only saw a couple campsites the whole way from Little Fish Shelter to Big Face Creek. We could not see much more than a possible animal trail down to Freezeout Lake which is several hundred feet below the trail. It took us most of the day to get from Little Fish Shelter to Big Face Creek which had a good campsite on the far side of the creek. It rained all night so we made a decision to turn around at that point because we did not know if the bad weather and trail conditions (except for PCT) would continue and we were heading into higher elevations along the with colder temperatures and less opportunity to shelter out of the weather. We saw no other hikers past the start of the Wenatchee Wilderness or animals larger than a Marmot. The country was very beautiful despite the hard trail and bad weather so we all felt the trip was worth it and we learned a lot about travel in those conditions. One of our members knew how to start campfires from a little birch bark and wet fir twigs.
PCT- Harts Pass to Holman Pass, Castle Pass, Lightning Creek — Jul 26, 2013 — runtheextrami
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Bugs
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This point to point trip was in the plans for months - a two nighter fast pack from Harts Pass, up t...
This point to point trip was in the plans for months - a two nighter fast pack from Harts Pass, up the legendary section of PCT to Castle Pass, then west over Trail 749. By all Green Trails appearances it looked like a great route. The entire way up the PCT was grand and the trail in great shape. Trail 749 reports unveiled 7 years of unmaintained trail and more descriptive challenges that we knew would only be compounded with time. Armed with this and our gear dutifully packed, we wanted to get through Trail 749 in one day. Lightning Creek camp and the pleasant waters of Ross Lake awaited..
We got to Harts Pass trail head at 8:45am on Friday. We signed in, said our prayers and hit the trail by 9:15. Beginning at 6,200 ft, the grandeur gets right with it. From the start to the end of our first day it was simply incredible. The majority of the time you are running along a slope or a ridge so the flora and views abound in all their incrediblness. Coming off of Lakeview Ridge we descended to Hopkins Pass and stayed the night at the lake. Day one took us just over 26 miles and we made it to camp by 7:45pm. This was the most beautiful camp I've ever stayed at.
After and a bath in the lake, my oats and coffee, we were trailbound by 9. At Castle Pass we hung a left and the overgrowth appeared right away. At 4 miles from Canada this trail is remote and I assume its a challenge to get a work crew out here, but lets not forget why the CCC created this trail to begin with. The trail was scant in some areas and not there at all in others but yet you never felt lost. The hard to follow areas were challenging with overgrowth dropping down to Big Face Creek and we were hit and miss for the next 3 through dense growth. This proved to be actually fun. We were successful in navigating the map description and contours to navigate us up the saddle. It was climbing up the face we encountered our first black bear who bolted as soon as he saw us.
The Hard To Follow section to Freezeout Lake is not bad. You simply follow cairins along the way and enjoy the views. After a few more miles the hard work begins. This was 3 hours of tough navigation, buscwhacking, blowdowns, whacks, pokes and bees. It was no doubt tough, but absolutely worth it! The views along this entire trail left me in awe. Once we got back in the North Cascades Park the trail changed immediately. We were at Lightning Camp in short order. Dinner dockside by 8.
Ross Lake Resort Taxi picked us up at the lake at 9am and we were at the truck in no time. We hammered 54 miles in two days and made it safely. Trail 749 is simply unattended but navigable. Its worth it - just ready up because it will test your chops. Take your time at your leisure because there is a wonderful supply of incredible grandeur along this stretch. Happy times...
Lightning Creek, Three Fools Creek, Devil's Ridge, East Bank Ross Lake — Jul 24, 2011 — jim
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Snow on trail
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Ross Lake Pasayten Wilderness Loop The trip plan was to park at Ross Dam trailhead, hike down and...
Ross Lake Pasayten Wilderness Loop
The trip plan was to park at Ross Dam trailhead, hike down and get on a pre-arranged water taxi (with Ross Lake Resort), get dropped off at Lightening Creek, hike the Lightening Creek trail to the Three Fools trail (749), hit the PCT at Castle Pass, hike South on the PCT to Sky Pilot Pass, hang a right on the Devil’s Dome Trail (no 752), and hike to Devil’s Junction Camp to play in Ross Lake and hang out on the dock in the sunshine for an afternoon before heading back out on the East Bank Trail, getting to Hwy 20 at Ruby Creek trailhead, and hitching a ride back to the car.
Unfortunately, there is still snow covering pretty much everything above 6000 feet and down to 4500 feet in some places. While it’s possible to hike this loop in the snow, it doesn’t sound all that fun. So, my friend Pawel and I decided to get permits to stay at Lightening Creek and Devils Junction and just hike in towards Castle Pass and check out the trail and snow conditions, come back out and then hike towards Sky Pilot Pass to check out that trail.
On the first day, we picked up our permit for our visit to the Ross Lake National Park at the ranger station in Marblemount. The permit is free but required. We got dropped off at Lightening Creek by the water taxi as planned, around 1pm and hiked up the Three Fools to hopefully find a camp site along Three Fools Creek just before the trail starts a steep ascent.
The Three Fools trail is not maintained. As soon as you leave the National Park boundary you start encountering downed trees. The trail is faint and overgrown. In some places the downed trees completely obliterate the trail. We did some trail maintenance as we went, breaking back trees and branches and clearing the trail off so it should be easier for anyone hiking the trail later this year. For this section of the trail it is helpful to have long pants, gators, and decent boots. We got to a nice campsite along the river and decided to clear it out and camp for the night.
The next morning we set out for Big Face Creek. About a mile up the trail we encountered a Y in the trail. We followed the Y to the right, curious as to where it might lead, and in about ¼ mile came to Little Fish Shelter. There is no “shelter” at Little Fish Shelter, but it is a nice large camp site. We headed back down the trail and took the Y to the left, following a trail that was again, covered in downed trees, faint, and overgrown. Again we did some trail maintenance as we hiked along. There were several places where the trail was obliterated by downed trees and we needed to route find to get back on the trail. After getting to about 4900 feet the trail starts getting easier to follow and the downed trees decrease. As we gained the ridge, we began encountering snow and soon the trail was completely under the snow. There were no signs that anyone had passed through on this trail this year yet. Route finding was required for several sections of the ridge due to the snow, but where the trail was clear (generally on the southern exposures) the trail was clear and easy to follow. The Green Trails maps mark the high sections of this trail as “hard to follow” but we found the lower elevation sections much more difficult.
This section of the trail consists of beautiful ridge top walking and we were surrounded by glacier lilies and acres of anemones, the flowers that become “mouse on a stick”. We soon were walking in nothing but snow again and unfortunately a dense fog surrounded us, our views were gone but, more importantly, we were in a whiteout without a trail to follow, so we had to do some serious route finding to stay on track. We soon began descending from the high point at 6600 feet above Freezeout lake and dropped into a snow covered bowl. The snow was hard and icy so we used ice axes and micro spikes to safely traverse steep portions of the trail before plunge stepping our way down the valley. We began seeing the trail again crossing back and forth the stream and numerous avalanches as we continued descending. Finally the “trail” took off towards the left, traversing the side of the hill and slowly descending toward the valley that Big Face Creek flows out of. It was raining at this point and this section of the trail is completely overgrown whenever the trail is not in forest. Again, route finding is required. We found the head of the valley we intended to camp in completely covered in avalanches so we ended up creating a camp site along the trail, just before it crosses the stream.
The rain was coming down steadily as we set up camp and we decided to store our bear canisters and cook about 100 feet from the camp site down the trail. I noticed a big deer grazing on the hill across the creek from us. Then a large ginger colored bear appeared and began slowly wandering down the hill towards us, grazing on something. The deer bolted off as the bear approached. As the bear came closer and closer to us we could see it much more clearly and noticed the characteristic hump behind the shoulders of the grizzly bear. The way it moved, the width of its head, the size and shape of its dinner plate sized paws, all indicators that this was a brown bear. We decided to head towards the stream to get water for dinner. At this point the bear was about 300 feet away. We walked directly toward the bear down to the stream. The bear noticed and came charging straight at us, quickly scrambling down the hillside. We stopped. The bear stopped and looked at us. We decided to move diagonally up valley toward the water instead of walking straight at the bear. This seemed to be less threatening to the bear and it went back to grazing. We had our dinner, made sure our camp site was clean and all items with scent (like toothpaste) were in the bear canisters and went to sleep in pouring rain. We were woken up occasionally by large crashing sounds (clearly made by the bear) but other than that slept well and woke up to more rain and mist.
At that point we decided we’d had enough fun on this trail. If there were no snow, this would be the point at which there would be nothing but beautiful high country walking and the hard part would be behind us. But instead, we decided to do the loop another time when it was free of snow and we could enjoy it and we did the hard part all over again, heading back the way we’d come, doing more trail maintenance, and spending the night at Little Fish Shelter where we were able to start drying out boots and socks out.
The next day we headed out to Ross Lake, again doing trail maintenance as we went and walked to our designated camp location at Devil’s Junction. We first arrived at Devil’s Camp. There were signs saying “hiker + stock” and “boat camp”. The boat camp, it turns out, is actually called “Devil’s Junction”, which is what our permit was for. The hiker camp is specifically designated on the permit. Unfortunately we didn’t know this and so first set up our camp site several hundred feet above the lake at the hiker’s camp. Later we moved it to the nice lakeside camp at Devil’s Junction when other hikers showed us there permits and told us about the difference.
The next day we hiked up the Devil’s Dome trail to near Devil’s Dome. This trail had been maintained last year but had some downed trees (from avalanche, age, and wind) across the trail from this last season. The trail was easy to follow and the downed trees were pretty easy to get around. There are some parts of the trail that are overgrown and below the brush, in some places, there are holes in the trail so be careful.
There was snow starting at about 5900 feet, deep in some places depending on exposure. We found it easier to just walk on the ridge top. Ice axes are not required up to Devil’s Dome but micro spikes and ice axe made walking easier. When you get to Dry Creek Pass, there is a trail that heads up the ridge to the left (west). There are nice views from that ridge, the Devil’s Dome trail however heads to the right, pushing east towards the PCT. About half a mile past the pass a trail leads off to the left (north). The main trail continues straight toward Devil’s Dome.
We took the trail to the left hoping to follow a spur that leads to the edge of a north facing ridge at 6500 feet. The trail crosses in front of a very nice shelter. The shelter had a book, old Swiss army knife, old canteen, an old saw blade, four bunks, and a table. There is a nice campsite nearby. We continued following what we thought was the spur trail but it soon stopped near a stream, we headed straight up hill and found the spur trail, but decided instead to just keep going cross country, heading straight up the mountainside to a nice little off trail hanging valley with nice rocks to sit on. We ate lunch in the sunshine and enjoyed incredible views of Jack Mountain with all its glaciers and views across all the mountains to the south, east, and up to the Picket Range in the north.
We hiked back down to our lakeside luxury camp, went swimming, washed out our clothes and hung them to dry, laid out on the dock in the sun, built a nice fire and enjoyed being able to sit down to a meal at a picnic table.
The next day we broke camp early and headed out along the East Bank trail toward Hwy 20. This trail is easy walking and very well built. Some of the trail along the shore line was blasted out of rock and in many places sits on top of giant cribs. We are very lucky to be able to enjoy this park, with all its amenities, for free.
The only thing notable about the East Bank trail is a stream crossing that requires either fording the creek in calf deep water or walking about 40 feet on top of a log that is above the trail about 200 feet and about 10 feet above the stream bed. It is much safer and just as fast to ford the creek if you have crocks, sandals, or light weight fast drying camp shoes available.
We met a father and son from Ohio who had come out to hike up to Desolation peak as we hiked out. Again, we felt lucky to have resources and beauty like this right in our back yard. They gave us a ride back to the Ross Dam trailhead and we headed back to Seattle, a little wiser and more experienced than when we left.
If you plan on doing this hike some day, I recommend you bring a bear canister for storing your food, high gators for bush whacking the Three Fools Trail, a good compass and maps along with the knowledge on how to navigate, and a GPS as a backup navigation aid. You will probably hike 2 to three times slower than you normally hike on this trail. Be very careful as you cross the downed trees. The broken off branches of old trees harden into steel spikes that could cause serious injury. As careful as I was I’m still covered in numerous cuts and gashes.
If you plan on doing this in the snow, an ice axe (and knowing how to use it) is required for safe travel. The micro spikes were very helpful as well and if we’d have planned on actually doing the loop in snow conditions we’d have taken mountaineering boots. The “water proof”, Gortex lined Vasque boots (closeouts China) I took were totally inadequate (and filled with water on the snow).
Thunder Creek, Big Beaver, Little Beaver Creek, Lightning Creek — Oct 06, 2010 — kamchatka
Features: Fall foliage
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I'm posting this report for two reasons: 1) this was a great backpacking trip facilitated by public ...
I'm posting this report for two reasons: 1) this was a great backpacking trip facilitated by public transportation (no car required!), and 2) it makes a nice alternative to the northern segment of the PCT (not that there's anything wrong with the PCT, but this route has more glaciers and rain-forest).
--took the train from Seattle to Wenatchee (beautiful ride along the Skykomish), and camped at the mouth of the Wenatchee River
--caught an early bus to Chelan, then the boat to Stehekin, and the shuttle to High Bridge
--walked up the road and wagon trail to Park Creek campground and camped
--hiked up Park Creek to Park Creek Pass (magnificent views of Buckner et al, and a bear feasting on berries near the pass)
--headed down Thunder Creek (more views of peaks and glaciers), and camped at Junction Camp.
--continued down Thunder Creek (beautiful forest, a few more glimpses of peaks and glaciers) to Colonial Creek Campground. From here I luckily caught a ride to Ross Dam trailhead (it would have been a 4.5 mile highway walk)
--walked across Ross Dam, stopped off at Ross Lake Resort to arrange a water taxi for a few days later
--continued hiking to Big Beaver Creek, and up the creek (truly magnificent forest) to 39mile camp, where I camped
--on up to Beaver Pass (a few glimpses of the Picket Range as clouds moved in), through enchanted forest every step of the way
--descended to Little Beaver Creek, a spectacular glacial torrent
--hiked down Little Beaver Valley, camped at Perry Creek (heard an elk bugling in the early morning as it walked by on the trail)
--continued to Ross Lake (you ascend quite a bit to get up over the gorge at the mouth of Little Beaver--- great views of Nohokomeen Glacier, and of Hozomeen once you reach the lake)
--took my scheduled water-taxi (expensive but worth it) across to Lightning Creek
Now, from here my original plan was to go up Lightning Creek to Freezeout Ridge. I would follow the ridge to Castle Pass, then follow the PCT to Manning Park, where I could catch the bus to Vancouver. However, snow levels were forecast to drop, and I feared the trail on Freezeout would disappear beneath the snow, and I would find myself lost in a white-out, in a place I've never been and where no one ever goes. So I altered my plans (but I still think the original plan would make an excellent journey, in better conditions):
---up Lightning Creek to the Willow Creek Junction
---up the beautiful but very strange (I can't say exactly how) valley in the shadow of Desolation Peak, to "Nightmare Camp."
--continued north, then west, through beautiful rain-drenched forest (it was raining heavily), finally emerging again at the north end of Ross Lake.
--from here I began walking up the 38-mile road towards the town of Hope. It's a beautiful road, but I was glad when after ten miles someone gave me a lift.
From Hope I caught a bus to Vancouver; hobbled around the city for two days, then caught the train back to Seattle.
All trails in excellent condition!
Hozomeen Lake,East Bank,Willow Lake,Lightning Creek #425 — Jul 27, 2008 — PNA
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I did a one day hike from Hozomeen to Lightning Creek Camp, and then headed on to Devil's Dome (anot...
I did a one day hike from Hozomeen to Lightning Creek Camp, and then headed on to Devil's Dome (another report). I'm not sure why most of these trail names are not in the WTA trail list.