North Cascades National Park

North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #3

It is taking me way longer than expected to update the blog for this trip. My crazy summer schedule combined with the large number of photos is slowing me down. Hopefully these posts will get more frequent, or I’ll be writing until December.

Day #3 of our trip takes us from the Deerlick Backcountry Stock Camp to the Rainbow Point Backcountry/Boat Camp – a total of 11.5 miles with 1600’ of elevation gain. The gps file for the route can be found here.

I also did a Google Earth screenshot of the route.

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In my last post, I said that I did not get any pictures of our campsite at Deerlick. Well, it turns out I did, I just didn’t take one until the next morning.

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We knew that today was going to be a long day, so we were up early and ready to hit the trail. I did not heat up water for breakfast, just had a couple of Clif Bars so we could get on our way. Michelle and Trent were up and ready to go!

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As we started out, we were a bit demoralized from the first day. Kim had big blisters on one of her feet, Michelle’s hips were severely bruised from her pack, and the trail was pretty boring.

At least today didn’t start with an uphill! We went down for the first half mile or so and crossed Lightning Creek. At the bridge, there was a small cabin that wasn’t marked. I couldn’t tell if it was a backcountry ranger shelter or an old artifact. Unfortunately, the pictures I took from this section did not turn out, and I forgot to ask the ranger when I returned our bear canisters after the trip.

From the creek, we started uphill again and climbed along the southeast side of Desolation Peak (6080’). The trail through this section was still in a dense wooded area. We did see some cool moss growing on the trees.

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As we started to come around to the south side of Desolation Peak, the trail started to get more interesting as it moved along a steep hillside, almost cliff-like at times. This also allowed the view to open up a bit, and we could see more of the awesome beauty of this park.

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Some pictures of the trail along the hillside.

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Eventually, we made our way around Desolation Peak and the lake came back into view.

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You could even see a few kayakers out on the lake.

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A big view of a glacier.

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As we approached the lake, we could see the suspension bridge across lightning creek.

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Then we gave up all of the elevation that we had gained, bringing us back down to the lake. Immediately thereafter, we walked across the suspension bridge.

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The view up Lightning Creek was spectacular. It would be so much fun to be up here in a Kayak or Canoe to explore. The water was super clear and there were fish everywhere!

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After the suspension bridge we stopped at the Lightning Creek Stock Camp for lunch. There was a big dock with a picnic table and a fish cleaning station. Since we didn’t really enjoy the first day of hiking, we decided that this would be a better place to start.

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As I mentioned above, there were a ton of fish around! They were thick along the shore the entire hike.

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Trent decided to try to get some spear fishing in…

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While we ate lunch a small sailboat came in to check things out. There was a guy and three kids on board. We were fortunate that they stopped by as we tried to forget our map on the table when we left, and they caught us before we were on the trail again.

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The trail moved away from the lake again, and we came to the most treacherous stream crossing of the trip – a log with no hand rail!

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The trail came down to the lake again, and we crossed another suspension bridge at Devils Creek.

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The estuary for Devils Creek looked like another cool kayaking area.

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From here, the trail followed along the edge of the lake, often times carved out of a cliff. I found this section of the trail to be the highlight of the day (and it was a pretty awesome day to this point).

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We also encountered some more wildlife while along one of the more narrow sections.

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The reason I mention that it was one of the narrow sections – the girls were in front and kinda freaked out about the little snake. I made my way past them to take a picture, and to let them know that it was not going to hurt them. As I walked by, Kim tried to push me over the edge into the water…

There was also a very large frog/toad in the water but I didn’t get a picture. The fish continued to be thick along this section – and quite distracting, I almost walked over the edge because I was too busy looking at the fish.

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Well, 11.5 miles makes for a long day, particularly for the women who were nursing injuries from the previous day. But we did eventually make it to our camp at Rainbow Point. There were three sites at the camp, and the one nearest the docks was already occupied. We picked the middle camp as it had views of the lake in two directions. The camp itself was not that private, but even when the third site was taken, you really didn’t notice the other people. This site also had a picnic table and a bear box, which made it kinda nice.

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Nice mountain view to the south.

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Trent and Michelle relaxing on the dock.

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We had a deer sneaking through camp right before dinner…this was the best picture.

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after dinner Michelle went down to the lake on the north side of the point, and saw a fire in the distance. Later I found out that this was caused by a lightning strike in a very remote area of the park.

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Today proved to be another tough day. The hiking was much more interesting than our first day, but the bugs, bruises, and blisters had taken their toll. As a group, we decided to stop when we reached Highway 20. My Dad was planning to resupply us for the second half of the trip, so I coordinated with him over an InReach SE (I was testing it for him on this trip) to make sure he brought his truck to bail us out instead.

We all went to bed that night knowing that tomorrow would be our last day on the trail, but not the last day of our epic adventure…

North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #1
North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #2

 

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North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #2

Day #2 was our first day of actual backpacking. The route for the day was to go from Hozomeen to the Deerlick backcountry stock camp (GPS route can be found here), the entire day was away from Ross Lake.

Here is a 3D screenshot from Google Earth. It shows how rugged the terrain around us was, but doesn’t really give a good idea of our total elevation gain for the day (about 1800′).

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We were all up early – a bit after 5a. I fired up my Jetboil and made some yummy maple-brown sugar oatmeal for breakfast and then we broke camp to start off on our adventure.

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The trailhead was about 1/2 mile from the campsite. About halfway there, Michelle asked for the time. I reached down for my Fitbit to check the clock, and it was gone! So, I walked back to the campsite and started to search. After making two loops around the site, the outhouse, and the water spigot I gave up. No step counting for me Sad smile.

Like all hikes in Washington, it started by going uphill Smile. The very beginning of the trail was lightly wooded through exposed granite, which I thought was pretty cool. This rapidly turned into a thick forest without much of a view.

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We did pass a tree that looked like the victim of a lightning strike.

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The trail was clear all the way to the first intersection. This was a large tree that had been recently cleared. I should have put something in the picture to give a better reference to the size.

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The intersection to the Hozomeen Lake trail was about 3 miles in. Just prior to this intersection, we passed a group of about 10 kids heading back to Hozomeen. These were the only people we saw the entire day…In the picture below, everyone is still happy and having fun at this point.

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The first of many trees that we needed to crawl over.

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The first stream crossing.

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I was in the back while we were hiking along. Sometimes I got to hear interesting conversations like:

“What was that?” followed by “Don’t turn around!” and “Get out the bear spray” then a bush next to the trail erupting while a grouse took off. I guess Michelle wanted to add some pepper flavor for dinner…

Did I mention that the bugs were nasty so far? This was the intersection that went off to the Willow Lake Campsite. The bugs were the worst along Willow Lake – we went through half of our bug spray by this point. I can’t imagine staying at this camp…would have had to hide in the tent the entire time.

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The trail along the lake, this was typical of most of the day. trees everywhere and not much to see.

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View of Willow Lake through the trees. This was the best view of the lake from the trail. Still pretty tough to see.

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Trent at a quick rest break.

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We are now about 5 miles into the hike and the girls are ready to be done. Here they are voting against continuing after our resupply point when we cross highway 20. They were already coming up with a plan for sun bathing back at Lake Chelan.

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Navigating over one of the larger logs in the trail.

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We all found the hike for this day to be pretty boring. Most of the time we were in the woods that were very thick and unable to see much. As we descended from Willow Lake, we did hit a very cool section of trail that went along the outlet stream from the lake. This short section went through a narrow valley with several small waterfalls.

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We were all carrying bear canisters for holding all of our scented items. I had mine strapped on the bottom of my pack, and it kept falling out, making for endless Donkey Kong jokes.

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Nightmare Camp was the next site we passed along the way. The bugs were starting to thin out at this point. It would have made a nice place to spend the night.

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Crossing Lightning Creek.

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Lightning Creek.

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For some reason, I did not get any pictures at the campsite. There were 2 sites and an area for horses – one of the sites had some makeshift benches, but did not have a good area for our tents. Being the only group at the campsite, we used this one for dinner, and set the tents up at the better site. To get our water, we had to hike 100 yards down a steep hill to a creek. We spent part of the afternoon hanging out on a gravel bar. It was hot outside, and the creek was very cold.

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Along one side of the gravel bar there was a nice slow channel. Trent and I took a quick dip in it.

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Dinner was the usual freeze dried fare. We ate and then were off to bed relatively early. It was an early start to the day and the 10ish miles we hiked took a bit out of everyone.

North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #1
North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #3

North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #1

Last fall, Kim and I got together with our friends Trent and Michelle and talked about hiking the Wonderland Trail this summer. We spent tons of time planning our route, watching conditions in the mountains over the winter and spring, buying the latest and greatest equipment, and filling out our permit application. Needless to say, we were severely disappointed when we did not get permits.

After being bummed for a bit, Michelle came up with a more awesome alternative – an epic hike in the North Cascades. (check out the map here to make things easer to follow along). The plan – take a seaplane from the town of Chelan to the north end of Ross Lake, backpack 80 miles through North Cascades National Park to Stehekin, relax for a night in a lodge at Stehekin, and then float plane back to Chelan. Oh yeah – get all of this done in 7 days of hiking.

At 5:30a on July 23rd, Kim and I drove to Bellevue to pick up Trent and Michelle to begin our great adventure. Our early departure got us in Chelan an hour before our flight was scheduled to take off, so we found a café in town to have our last “real” food for the next week.

After our “last breakfast”, we made our way over to Chelan Seaplanes to load up our backpacks.

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Warming up the plane.

Here is the crew getting ready for takeoff.

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Once the plane was warmed up, it was time to go!

Our pilot has only been flying in the Chelan area for the last couple of years. Prior to flying down here, he was a bush pilot up in Alaska. He still did a great job of pointing out the sites for us. At one point, he tried to point out some Bighorn Sheep, but none of us actually saw them.

A view of the orchards along the NE side of Lake Chelan.

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Cruising up Lake Chelan

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Along the way, the mountains are already starting to look rugged…it is gonna be a tough hike!

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We also got a little peek at Glacier Peak (10,520’) – the jagged snow cap barely in the picture.

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Occasionally our pilot would “dip” one of the wings to give us a better view of something. A couple of times, he did this without warning, and kinda freaked us out!

We also got some awesome views of Mount Baker (10,760’)!

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Hwy 20 cutting through the park…ok, technically this part of the highway is already outside the park.

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Rainy Lake is on the right, Ann Lake is on the left. You can see a trail on the hillside above Ann Lake. Rainy Pass on Hwy 20 is the leftmost portion of the road in the picture.

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Ross Lake Dam

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Waterfall coming off of Jack Mountain

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Suspension bridge over Lightning Creek. The dock at the bottom is the Lightning Creek Stock Camp. We had lunch there on our 3rd day – it was a very cool camp.DSC01853

Almost there. The small hill at the end of the ridge is Little Jackass Mountain (4387’), the jagged peak near the middle is Hozomeen Mountain (8066’), and just off our wing and out of the picture is Desolation Peak (6102’). Our first day of hiking is the valley between Hozomeen Mountain and the ridge in the foreground.DSC01857

Hozomeen Mountain

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Our approach to the campground. As we clear Little Jackass Mountain, you can see the boat launch dock where we were dropped off.

Plane landing.

Plane pulling into the boat launch at Hozomeen.

The seaplane leaving us! Only one way home now!

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Once we were done with the flight, we hung out at the Hozomeen Campground for the the day. It was warm, and Trent decided it was a good idea to get in the water, sneak up on Michelle, and splash her while she was sun bathing on the dock.

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Had to get a picture of a good looking blog author.

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Lunch at the Hozomeen Boat Launch. We tried to stay near the lake to avoid the mosquitos. Unfortunately, the campsites weren’t near the lake Sad smile

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Our campsite was a nice grassy area near the bathrooms, but there were a ton of mosquitos! We chewed through our bug spray.

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We did get to have a campfire to help keep the bugs away.DSC01880

This ended up being a long but very spectacular day. Everyone crashed before it was even dark outside (which was the theme for the trip).

North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #2
North Cascades Backpacking Trip Day #3