Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 139-140 - The Last Big Mountain

Wednesday's hike toward Glacier Peak was a lot of high, wide open views of big valleys and far off ridges.  In order to get into the town of Stehekin at a decent time on Friday, I planned for a couple big days for Wed/Thur. There was a decent amount of climbing, but nothing major and I made good time. I did think about how this area would be if it was still covered in snow, fairly tough I'd imagine. And I bet most of this year's southbound hikers had to get through here across some snow. Some of the switchbacks, while not real steep on the trail, go up VERY steep, tree-covered slopes. If you couldn't follow a trail and had to blaze your own up the slope it would be very slow going. It'd be real pretty though, if only a bit intimidating. Glacier Peak has some serious glaciers on it.
I passes a couple women camped a few miles short of a lake I planned to stop at. They mentioned passing a decent campsite just north of the lake. It was about 7:00 then. I charged up to the top of the pass above the lake and had a snack while darkness settled in. I didn't see anywhere to camp around the lake, which was still mostly frozen over. I followed the creek flowing out of it for a ways, looking for the site the women mentioned. When I found it there were a couple other people camped there and the grassy area didn't look very flat. So against my better judgement I pressed on. The next stretch of trail was down the side of one of those very steep slopes, tons of switchbacks and not a square foot of flat ground. I got lucky though and found the only flat-ish area big enough for a tent off the end of a switchback, about halfway to the bottom of the valley. If not for that site it would have been another hour or more down, fighting through overgrown brush at the bottom and sleeping on the bridge. It was about 10:00 by the time I got my tent up. I didn't really need a tent that night, but I wanted something keeping me from sliding off the hill during the night. The day was longer than planned at about 36 miles.

Thrusday I continued down the switchbacks to the bottom of the valley, through the most overgrown section of the entire trail, across a fairly new bridge (rebuilt a mile downstream from where the trail used to cross) and up the other side, which was just as un-flat as the side I came down in the dark. I noticed later that my trail guidebook mention there was no place to camp in this area, guess I should have been reading that a bit closer.

The trail swung around the top of another valley that gave me my only view of Mt Baker, way off to the west. Then it dropped down into a third valley. This one also had its bridge wash out during some flooding a few years ago. The new bridge was rebuilt 3 miles downstream from the original crossing. So at the bottom there was a wide, newly made trail following the glacial stream down to the new bridge, where it met a pre-existing trail on the other side and went all the way back upstream. I learned later that there was a log still across at the old crossing, but it sounded pretty sketchy. It would have saved me 4 or so miles of hiking overall, but this wasn't the sort of stream you'd want to fall into. Only a couple feet deep, but freezing, concrete-colored water rushing over big rocks. Even with the 4 extra miles I still stayed ahead of the hikers just behind me who took the log. A casual 26-mile day.
At the bottom of these valleys are areas where you are suddenly surrounded by massive trees, growing in areas that don't get ripped to shreds by avalanches.


  1. You could tie your sleeping bag to a tree and climb inside so you don't roll down the steep terrain! Is 36 miles your record distance covered in one day?

    1. 36 tied my record at that point, did even more a few days later!