Milk Creek — Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015
Just hiked the Milk Creek Trail and I would not recommend it for a first date. As the Milk Creek Bridge washed out years ago, we had to cross the Suiattle by other means and chose to do so on a log at the Suiattle River Trail Parking Lot, after which we bushwhacked upstream along the south side until we found the old bridge crossing, taking little more than an hour. From there we found and followed the old trail which was visible for the most part although overgrown with moss and covered with fallen material; brush and blowdowns were not much of a problem in the lower reaches. The trail was obliterated by a slide about 50 yards wide and was very difficult to cross around where it turns into the Milk Creek valley; I'm guessing it was around the 2100 foot contour. After that, it leveled off as it entered the valley forest, which was fine at first, but we ran into a patch of low growth that obscured the trail. What came in handy was a GPS tracker, and although it didn't completely agree with where we actually had been on the trail with what was shown on the maps, it was close enough to be reliable. So, utilizing that, we traipsed through the brush and found we were right on the trail when we got to the other side of it. It was not long before the trail left the forest and entered a large field of ferns that were about 5 feet tall. Impossible to see the trail, but we could feel the well worn trough until it turned to enter a sizable grove composed of Avalanche Alder, Vine Maple and Red Osier Dogwood. (I've been in stuff like this know I wasn't looking forward to this) It was at this point that life as we knew it ended. We completely lost the trail in that thicket even though the GPS tracking device showed us to be right on it, and it probably took a half an hour to go about 200 yards. But when we eventually reached the forest on the other side of the thicket and then Milk Creek, we could see the old log bridge was still functional. After crossing the bridge, we again found the trail, but it was much less obvious now and again we completely lost it even though we were in deep forest; the accumulation of blowdowns and normal forest droppings over the last dozen years total obscured it. Relying solely on the GPS tracker now, we alternately went through patches of low growth brush (with nettles), a few patches of deep forest, and sizable swaths of huge blowdowns. It was not until we were less than a half mile from the PCT that we spotted the trail and were able it to follow it to the PCT. Most of that we had to machete through massive fern thickets. The total time on this section was about 8.5 hours. The rest of our trip was to Mica Lake and then back on the PCT and out the Suiattle Trail. It was rather routine; weather and scenery were great and there was little in the way of bugs.