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Rock Creek

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There are 3 trip reports for this hike.
Rock Creek, Middle Fork Pasayten River, Tatoosh Buttes, Boundary Trail — Jun 01, 2013 — Loren Drummond
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns
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Spent an amazing week clearing downed logs from trails in the Pasayten Wilderness on my first volunt...
Spent an amazing week clearing downed logs from trails in the Pasayten Wilderness on my first volunteer vacation with WTA. We basecamped at the forest service cabin on the old Pasayten Airstrip at the confluence of the West and Middle Forks of the Pasayten Rivers. We cleared a few miles on several surrounding trails: Rock Creek Trail (473), Boundry Creek Trail (#533), the backside of Tatoosh Buttes (485).

I can't wait to come back and backpack this area later in the year.

Area highlights:

- Stunning views of surrounding peaks.
- Gorgeous sunny warm weather. Lots of water coming down the rivers and creeks. Hardly any snow. This looks to be a warm, early year.
- Spruce, fir and pine forests with a whole different feel than on the wet side.
- We saw lots of (fresh!) bear and moose sign, but mostly spotted smaller wildlife: hares, birds, grouse, frogs and two deer.
- Both a highlight (because it meant lots of great crosscutting experience) and a lowlight (for hikers and stock) was the amount of downed trees. There is a lot of work in store for backcountry forest service trail crews this year.
- Wildflowers were blooming. The balsamroot was on its way out, but the lupine was just coming on. Saw a few chocolate lilies in the burn areas. Higher up the trail we spotted lady slippers and glacier lilies.


Trip highlights:

- My fellow volunteers and the great forest service staff with us. Great people, fun work, good food, a warm fire at night.
- The stars. Wow.
- The hike in and out, while a little challenging, was my first real backpack of the year. Felt good to wake up those muscles again and head out into the woods with a pack on my back.
- We couldn't asked for better weather. A little rainy a few days, but mostly in the 60's during the day, and probably 30's or 40's at night.

Nights sleeping outside: 7
Total nights outside this year: 9
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Tatoosh Buttes, Rock Creek, Windy Pass, Boundary Trail — Jul 01, 2009 — Haijo
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Bugs
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This is my first ever trip report, so please bear with me... I've noticed that there are some inc...
This is my first ever trip report, so please bear with me...

I've noticed that there are some inconsistencies between different maps and trail description sources, so for clarity all references to trails, mileage, elevation, place names, etc., have been taken from the Green Trails map series for this area (Horseshoe Basin - No 21, Coleman Peak - 20, Billy Goat Mtn - No 19, Pasayten Peak - No 18, Jack Mtn - No 17, and Washington Pass - No 50). Milage and elevation gained and lost are my best estimates (i.e. no software to do it for me), and are approximate.

Day 1. 7.6 miles, +1200', -350', total elev.= 1550' (+3 miles and 1100' up and down Armstrong Mtn)
3 of us started from the Iron Gate TH, in perfect weather, on Wed, July 1. The drive to the TH was fine - road a bit rough, but not nearly as bad as some have suggested. Saw a nice, healthy looking black bear right out of the gate, about 3 miles into the trip. A good omen. Made it to camp in Horseshoe Basin (in some trees south of Louden Lake, near a spring) in time for lunch. Mosquitoes were bad in the basin due to all the water - surely this will change as things dry out. Took a late afternoon walk up Armstrong to the border monument. Met Craig Romano, famed guidebook writer, on top.

Day 2. 10.6 miles, +500', -800', total elev.= 1300'
Continued in spotless weather on Trail #533 to Sheelite Pass, our intended camp spot, only to discover that the camping really sucks there. Should have stopped on top of the hill before dropping into the pass. (This early in the season water would not have been a problem.) There is a good camp at Teapot Dome, but it's too close to Horseshoe Basin. Went on another few hundred yards from the pass and found a slabby area to camp, with no views and lots of bugs. During the night a rodent ate through most of the waist belt strapping on my pack, and I had to do an emergency sewing repair in the morning. Lesson learned - keep the pack close at night. The repair wasn't pretty, but held up for the next 8 hiking days.

Day 3. 8.5 miles, +1300', -600', total elev.= 1900'
Mostly sunny day, temps in the 60s. Continued on Trail #533, past the structures at Tungsten Mine, over Apex Pass (a lovely lunch spot), over Cathedral Pass (the most dramatic of the trip), and down to our camp at Upper Cathedral Lake. A few late afternoon clouds dropped a sprinkle or two, but never amounted to much. Spent the evening watching the light change on the cliffs, swatting at bugs, and making friends with the local population (a group of 16 goats who were very interested in us). This area is all it's cracked up to be. Spectacular.

Day 4. 11.4 miles, +600', -2900', total elev.= 3500'
Another sunny day, temps in the 60s. Opted not to follow Trail #533 as shown on the Green Trails map (past Lower Cathedral Lake, north around knob west of Amphitheater Mtn, etc...) and instead took trail between Amphitheater and said knob to a junction with Trail #565, which then connects with Trail #510 to Spanish Camp. Can't speak for the trail not followed, but our route was beautiful, with awesome views of Remmel Mtn over the high meadowlands. If going this way, make sure you're on the correct path, as there is a parallel path to the east that appears to shortcut with Trail #565 heading SE toward Remmel Creek. Initially we took this path, the first unmarked junction at #533. Advice would be to make sure you've taken the correct turn off of #533 by looking a few hundred yards beyond this first junction. The correct path keeps to the W side of the plateau between Amphitheater and "the knob" (i.e. it hugs close to the "knob"). Upon rejoining Trail #533 at Spanish Creek, the way heads up through more meadows over the NW ridge of Bald Mtn. Trail is a little thin/overgrown on top, but not difficult to follow. Then follows the long descent into the Ashnola River Valley. For some reason there were virtually no mosquitoes down by the River. A welcome reprieve. Good camps on E side of River. The crossing is a log with a single cable, and is intact.

Day 5. 10.9 miles, +2750', -1450', total elev.= 4200'
Partly cloudy, temps in the 50s-60s. Trail #533 tilts up in trees over the next 3.5 miles toward Peeve Pass. Clouds gathering throughout the day. The open slopes E of the pass are beautiful. Skipped the detour to an old miner's cabin. Our intended spot for the night was Quartz Lake, but when we reached the junction it was still early-ish, and we were feeling good. So, we dropped packs, made the short walk to the lake to have a look-see, then went back to our packs and headed for Dean Creek. The trail side-hills around Quartz Mtn, and as had been typical of this trip from the start, presents amazing high, open meadow country with long views to peaks, ridges, and valleys. The trail became noticeably less traveled beyond the Quartz Lake junction - thin and overgrown in spots, but not too difficult to follow. This part of the trail starts to get into some extensively burned areas - not sure if the Tatoosh fire reached all the way to Quartz Mtn or not. Camps at Dean Creek are on the SE side in partially burned-over areas. Saw our 2nd bear of the trip in the flower meadows near the creek. Clouds threatening, and some rain during the night.

Day 6. 9.7 miles, +1050', -3150', total elev.= 4200'
Cool and full cloud cover, some sprinkles in the AM. As we walked up through intermittent meadows and trees toward Bunker Hill, an electrical storm started building. We found a semi-protected area in a fringe of trees near the open upper slopes to wait it out. Thunder, lightening, rain, and hail - seemed quite close. Hunkered down and brewed some tea. After waiting 45 minutes or so, the sky lightened up a bit and we decided to make a dash for it. In less than an hour we were at the top, and the cloud ceiling had lifted a bit to allow some views of surrounding peaks. We snapped a few photos, but didn't linger too long in this amazing place. The Forest Service personnel we had spoken with told us that the section of Trail #533 between the top of Bunker Hill and the Pasayten River was not passable - that since the Tatoosh Fire of 2006 the hundreds (maybe thousands) of blow-downs had yet to be cleared, and that if one did manage to get to the River by this route, the bridge had burned or otherwise been destroyed by the fire. So, we headed toward Hidden Lakes via Trail #458, which descends S down a ridge from the top of Bunker Hill to the E Fk Pasayten River. This trail is fine on top - in the open slopes of the ridge - but is difficult to follow once in the trees. There were about 60-80 blow downs in about 3 miles, and the trail disapears / is severely overgrown in places. Definitely passable (on foot), but must constantly pay attention and keep looking ahead. Once down at the E Fork, we took Trail #451 W to Trail #477, which we took SE to a junction with Trail #485 (Tatoosh Buttes). This junction is in between Big Hidden Lake and Middle Hidden Lake, and is extremely easy to miss as it occurs in a very wet, heavily vegetated area. If you get to the stream you've gone too far. (And, of course, if you get to Middle Hidden Lk you've also gone too far...) Made camp at the base of the climb. Not much in the way of tent space, but works in a pinch.

Day 7. 11.8 miles, +3100', -3000', total elev.= 6100'
Cloudy and cool. The trail (#485) up is mostly good. A few blow downs in the lower section (a dozen or so), but otherwise good. Once over the top, the trail heads one way and the cairns and stakes, taking a higher route, suggest a different way. We followed the cairns, and did fine. Once beyond Tamarack Ridge the full extent of the Tatoosh Fire becomes apparent. The trail stays high for several miles, and too bad it couldn't stay that way, because once it drops off into the Lease Creek Canyon, it gets really crappy. The trail sees minimal use anyway, and since the fire it seems as though the bare minimum has been done to maintain it. It is steep, crumbly, and thin. And when one gets to the flats, it all but disappears. I would not want to go up this way. Crossed Lease Creek on a log jam, crossed the bridge @ Middle Fk Pasayten to Trail #498, crossed the bridge @ W Fk Pasayten, then met up with Trail #478 which took us to the Rock Creek crossing, where we made camp in a great spot on the N side, just over the bridge.

Day 8. (4 miles +/- day trip to airstrip)
Cloudy and cool. We had not planned on being here this early, and weren't scheduled to meet some friends coming up from Hart's Pass until the following day, so we took that rarest of things, the non-emergency, non-weather-related, non-fatigue-related, unplanned rest day. Did some laundry and washing, made the 4 mile (+/-) RT walk to the FS airstrip (highly recommended) and Soda Creek in the afternoon, ate a bunch of extra food, and played some rummy.

Day 9. 6.3 miles, +1650'
Sunny in the AM, with thunderheads rapidly building after 10. After meeting up with the rest of our group (we now numbered 7) in the early afternoon, we headed up the Rock Creek Trail (#473). The day before, the backcountry ranger we met told us that this valley may have the highest resident bear concentration in all of the Pasayten. We didn't manage to see any of the animals themselves, but we sure saw a lot of tracks and scat. By 2:30 the thunder was again overhead, with the accompanying rain and hail. Didn't last too long, but all the brush was wet (and there is A LOT of brush on this section) so by the time we arrived at Coney Basin my feet were sloshing around inside my boots - gaiters would have helped. Nice camp spot at Coney Basin, and another about a mile further on at the PCT junction.

Day 10. 11.2 miles (?), +2300', -2100', total elev.= 4400'
Spotless, sunny, bug-free morning. After leaving Coney Basin, Trail #473 joins the PCT (Trail #2000). The trail goes down in switchbacks before contouring around the head of the Rock Creek Valley and climbing in long switchbacks to Rock Pass. (It looks as though there is a path that stays mostly on contour all the way from the PCT junction to Rock Pass, but as it crosses steep terrain and snow slopes, and we now had some less experienced members of our group to think about, and as some in the group didn't have poles, much less ice axes, we opted to stay on the main trail.) At Rock Pass the world opens up to the west side peaks. Down the other side in open meadows, then trees to Holman Pass (camps, but a hike for water). After climbing out of Holman Pass, we passed one good camp with water before coming up on Shaw Creek, which seemed much closer than the mileage indicated on the map (by as much as 2 miles). We had intended to continue only to Shaw Creek (good camps with water here), but once there decided to continue over Devil's Backbone to Jim Pass / Oregon Basin. As we were unsure of the water situation ahead, we filtered and filled all available containers at Shaw Creek - a good move, it turned out. Camps at Jim Pass / Oregon Basin are wonderful, but dry.

Day 11. 5.5 miles, +1000, -400', total elev.= 1400'
Sunny and clear. The last bit from Jim Pass / Oregon Basin to Hart's Pass has, I'm sure, been covered many times before, and needs little description. Suffice to say, it is glory-walking at its best. Visibility was excellent - all the peaks were out.

In summary, a fantastic trip, and highly recommended for those looking for high, open, dramatic, lonesome country. We went 3 days without seeing another person. We saw only 3 other people in 5 days, and one was a FS ranger. The trail is a bit "sporting" in places, so have a good map and compass and be able to use them. Pay attention to the trail, and where you think a trail "ought to go", as the track disappears in places, there is very little in the way of signage, and it is so little used in places that nature and the after-affects of fire are taking it back. This is all good if you're looking for a bit of solitude and some adventure. Bugs were bad, mostly toward the beginning of the trip. This will change as the season progresses. However, the corollary to this is the availability of water. In most cases this can be managed. We found plentiful water up until we joined the PCT. The burned areas might put some people off, but I found them to be beautiful in their own way. The whole way, especially in the burns, is covered in wildflowers. As for wildlife, there is plenty. In addition to the bears and goats, we saw many signs of deer, elk, and even moose(!!!). The bird life was great as well - thrushes, woodpeckers, bluebirds, hummingbirds, a bald eagle at Cathedral Lake (on July 3rd), and many others. Go now, before the trail gets the attention (and traffic) it deserves by its listing as a National Scenic Trail (the Boundary Trail is coincident with the newly created Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT))! A truly great mid-distance trip.
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Pacific Crest (North Cascades) #2000,Rock Creek #473,Buckskin Ridge #498 — Aug 28, 2006 — Nina's Crew
Day hike
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Slate Pass Roundtrip via Buckskin Ridge August 27th thru September 1st, 2006 Our original destinat...

Slate Pass Roundtrip via Buckskin Ridge

August 27th thru September 1st, 2006

Our original destination was the PCT near Mt Daniel, but threatening weather sent us scurrying over another pass and beyond to our favorite area, the Pasayten wilderness.

Fires were scattered around eastern Washington this year, but once we fearlessly drove thru the smoke in the Mazama valley, the skies cleared for us at the Slate Pass trailhead (4.5 hours from Edmonds, WA).

Day 1: Slate Pass to Shaw Creek (8 miles)

Slate Pass to Windy Pass on the PCT is gentle traverse with grand views of the glaciers on Jack Mtn to the west. We also see a plume of smoke from a fire burning northeast of us.

The trail is very dry - no water until we reach the camps below Windy Pass where there is a small stream, but it is too soon to camp so we hike up and over the ridge and continue down the valley losing a few hundred feet of elevation. This stretch of the trail is all in trees. We hike along looking for the horse camps that are supposed to be situated north and south of Jim Peak. Eventually we find the north side camp with what remains of a dried up Shaw creek – just a little sandy bottom hole filled with water – but it was the “only drink in town” so we were glad for it.

Day 2: Shaw Creek to Holman Spring (7.5 miles)

A late start up to Holman Pass takes just 2 hours and still no water or camps. We continue north to the dry outlet below Goat Lakes and have a quick lunch. In another ¾ miles, the trail takes us up to the extensive meadows of the horse camp below Holman Peak. The camps are fine with spectacular views, year round clear spring water and lots of company in the form of furry little pikas. More than I have ever seen! A fantastic place to camp for the night.

Day 3: Holman Spring to Pasayten River (10.5 miles plus 1 mile side trip)

We start early today so that we can ascend Rock and Woody Pass in the morning hours while it is still cool. Overnight, clouds have moved in obscuring the distant views and lopping off the top of the peaks across the valley. It is also much cooler. No time at all to Rock Pass, but then we drop down 600’ or so and back up 400’ to Woody Pass. We chat awhile with the first hikers we’ve seen so far who started at Hart’s Pass and are exiting at Ross Lake. They also name the fire that we spotted a few valleys over to the north east. The Tatoosh Butte fire has flared up overnight, but still appears several drainages over from us.

Woody Pass is slightly below the actual high point. We dropped our packs and hiked up the PCT to have a look at what was ahead. More traverses along lots of mountains, although the terrain looked a bit less rugged than the immediate surroundings.

After the 1 hour side trip, we shouldered our packs and left the PCT, heading down the Rock Creek trail. After about 35 minutes, we crossed the largest creek we had seen so far. (This is notable in that there was a small dry camp at Woody pass that might serve a northbound hiker if they knew water was relatively close.)

Continuing on the Rock Creek trail, more creeks and eventually, a very nice camp! The trail is well graded, mostly through meadows and very lush. It resembles the west side of the cascades with frequent streams but no new camps. There are intermittent views in and out of old growth spruce forests and extensive avalanche chutes.

There was supposed to be a camp as you approach the valley bottom, but we never spotted it. The trail doesn’t appear to get much use, so any camp trails may be overgrown by the meadows.

Eventually we reach the intersection marked Soda Creek (N) and Slate Peak (S). After hiking south for about ½ mile, we come across a nice camp on the creek with the water access way, way below. We kept hiking to the intersection with the Robinson Pass trail and dropped down to an extremely comfortable horse camp about 300 feet from the Pasayten River.

Day 4: Pasayten River to Buckskin Lake (4-5 miles)

It showers off and on overnight and we wake up to cloudy but calm skies. Another early start this morning because there is some uncertainty as to the actual distance to Buckskin Lake. The possibilities based on maps and WTA trip reports range from 4 to 7 miles on a fairly steep trail up the ridge. We continue for a short bit on the Robinson Pass trail meandering through pine forests for one mile to the Buckskin Ridge trail intersection. The trail starts out brushy but with good tread as it ascends the lower part of the ridge through spruce forests. Eventually, we reach the switchbacks and begin ascending in earnest. We see the Tatoosh Butte fire across the valley and it looks tamped down in the moist, cool weather. We reach the very pretty Buckskin Lake in just 4 hours of unhurried hiking. We estimate 4 or so miles versus the 7 miles stated on the GT map. By the time we had set up the tent, the intermittent showers had changed from rain to snow. So typical for the Pasayten in September!

Day 5: Buckskin Lake to Silver Lake (5-6 miles)

Overnight, the skies cleared and the temperature dropped. We were thrilled as we didn’t want to do this next section with bad weather conditions. The valleys were fog/smoke filled and we could smell the fire for the first time. We spent some time enjoying the lake views before breaking camp. This would be a lovely destination in the fall when the larches are changing, but there is only one large camp so one would have to be lucky and find it unoccupied as it was for us.

This next part of our route had some mystery to it. We had no first hand knowledge of its condition and the map indicated stretches of unmaintained trail and “steep and dangerous” areas. There was also a question as to its actual length. The trail passes through beautiful larch and spruce stands and lovely meadows as it winds its way around the base of Buckskin ridge. The valley views, although smoky, are widescreen quality, framing Mt. Rolo and Osceola Peak. After about 1 mile, we enter a box canyon and begin ascending up a steep but well switchbacked trail to Buckskin Pass. We reach the pass 2 hours from camp and enjoy the views of Jack Mtn, Glacier Pk and Mt Baker. Unfortunately, the views are shrouded by smoke which only encourages us to return another time when the skies are clearer.

We now descend steeply on fairly good trail and then down some more to go around the end of a small ridge. You then must regain some of the elevation you just lost and here begins the portion of the unmaintained trail. It traverses across very steep meadows with a few areas that make you think about what you’re doing so you don’t tumble down the slopes like a boxcar. This concerns us a bit because we have yet to reach the “steep and dangerous” section. When we finally do reach that section, we find that it is steep but not dangerous, plunging down the meadows to the valley bottom. We’re glad to go down this section rather than up! The remaining 2 plus miles to Silver Lake consists of going up and down over a series of passes. Again, we are amazed at the verdant green of the area. There are a few small camps and several streams and we stop frequently to browse the biggest, juiciest blue huckleberries seen in many years.

Six hours from Buckskin Lake we reach Silver Lake and find a yellow tape across the trail barring access to Buckskin Ridge from the south due to the Tatoosh Butte fire. Although the lake looks well used, we once again have it all to ourselves and find a nice camp at the far end.

Day 6: Silver Lake to Slate Peak (5-6 miles)

Our last day starts off a bit smoky. We start early anticipating the long drive back to town. The trail appears to just traverse the ridgeline on the map but in reality it is once again up and down repeatedly. The views across the valley are lovely and consistent the entire length of the trail. As we approach Slate Peak, we encounter a ranger who informs us that the entire trail system we had hiked had been closed due to fire danger sometime after we began (except for the PCT, which would be closed a few days later). We mulled over our fortunate timing as we hiked up the last bit of trail to Slate Peak. We had unfettered access to the spectacular backcountry of the Pasayten wilderness with hardly another human soul to be found. One of our top five backpacks!

Nina’s Crew

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WTA worked here!
2011, 2013
Location
Rock Creek (#473)
North Cascades -- East Slope

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