Tuesday, October 08, 2013

2013 Wilderness Challenge – Devil’s Dome Loop Day 2

During the first day I mostly imagined hiking fast and making great time on day two. As I started and headed out I realized that this backcountry was the reason for the previous day’s work. It was incredibly beautiful and isolated. I quickly decided that I was going to take my time, savior the incredible beauty and not worry about my pace.

Camp in the Morning
My plan was to hang in my bag and make/eat breakfast from my tent. Nature called me out of the tent and I wasn’t going back in. It had frozen hard the night before and still below freezing when I rolled out of the tent at 7AM. The previous night’s fire had dried my firewood and the morning’s fire started quick and was hot. I cooked by the fire and intermittently packed my gear and watched the sunrise over the eastern peaks. I like camping high in the mountains.

Jack Mtn
I am not sure when I rolled out of camp. I think it was about 8AM. The land was mine. There was nobody for miles around. I was surprised that I hadn’t seen much wildlife and only surmised that they had moved down. Later reports would confirm that I was wrong. Today’s trek was a large circ around the Devil’s Creek drainage and Jack mtn. As I moved South and West across minor drainages I looked back at where I had been the previous day: Devil’s Pass, Devils Dome and then I got a great view of the Picket range. Don Brooks and I had been there a few years back. We had done a circ of the northern Pickets and our last night was sleeping up on the high ridge of Luna Peak. I remember sleeping under the stars and watching a forest fire burn to the East. Near where I was today.

Talless field switchbacks up to the highpoint of the day and lunch
Up and down beautiful country with high alpine meadows and sweet fresh water drainages. When I climbed to the high point of the day up and over a large talles field I stopped for lunch. I took in the whole valley and looked across at Jerry Lakes. What a great remote bushwhack that would be; maybe another day. Lunch was great. I was glad I packed a lot of food. I took my boots off and savored the day’s sun.

From here I hiked down into Devil’s Park and decided that this area would be the week long Boy Scout hike I would lead in 2015. This place is incredible and I would recommend it to anybody reading this. There were campsites scattered throughout and I was thankful that Ras brought me here.

L to R Picketts, Devil's Dome, Hosmean Peaks (double hump that looks like a part of a woman)
One last small uphill to McMillan Park, which was another beautiful spot with many campsites scattered around. Still, I was getting close to the trailhead and this place was slowly losing its wilderness feel. It was truly downhill from here. I was looking forward to the gravity assist. Unfortunately, my legs were not cooperating. What should have been a fun easy jog down turned out to be a painful slog down on sore feet and untrained legs. This section was incredibly like Mt. Si (3,500 feet in 4 miles) and I thought that runners going clockwise would have a great run down to their finish.

As I finally rolled into Canyon creek, I began to notice the marks of man again. First there was a large pit which was about 10ft across and 20ft deep. I tried to understand this. Is it a cave or is there a reason that somebody would dig this hole. Further along I continued to see what looked like road beds but they ran in parallel with deep trenches between them. The hike down Ruby creek was an enjoyable river hike that reminded me of the Lewis River trail. The undulation helped my aching legs

Beautiful Alpine Meadows
As I rolled back toward the East Bank trailhead, I noticed another pit with signs next to it. This is where I learned the history of the area. Many years ago there were thousands of miners here searching for gold. The main town is now below the surface of Ross Lake. The lower road I started on was the way up to the gold fields of Ruby Creek. The holes are all that is left of miner’s claims. The parallel roads and related trenches are the diversion channels that were used to divert water from the creek bed and flush out the gold. These channels were dug by hand by thousands more Chinese laborers. This reminded me of the old stone walls I would find in the woods back east. A man’s life is spent and he is long gone. Some men’s life’s endeavors leave tracks on the Earth which are slowly erased by the passage of time.

Devils' Park Shelter
I think my total time out was 29hrs and 15minutes
I think my total time hiking was about 17:25 (At least that is what my GPS says.
Not sure of the exact mileage because my gps lost satellites in the valleys
Not sure of the elevation change because my watch batteries are dead.

Final shot - GPS a bit short because of drop satellites
But these stats are not important for me. I was not racing for time. I was taking advantage or a great opportunity to share an experience over time. It has been great to read all the other stories and experiences. For me the categories that I compete in include:

Best campsite, Devil’s Pass next to brown sign
Most campfires, 2
Most weight carried over Devil’s Dome, a lot
Longest time out, 29:15

more pics HERE.

Monday, October 07, 2013

2013 Wilderness Challenge – Devil’s Dome Loop Day 1

Ras came up with this great idea, to specify a course, in this case the Devil’s Dome Loop, and then have an open period when anybody could do the loop any how they wanted in any direction. He invited all to do it in whatever form they preferred; ultra-light trail running, fast packing, backpacking or any other means by foot. This fit me really well as I am not in running shape and definitely not in 45 mile running shape but I still want to get out in the backcountry. So I decided to fastback/backpack in two days with an overnight whereas most other participants did it in one day.
Getting ready to start
My life is super busy and my first intention was to do the trek on August 29-30 which was less than a week after returning from an 8 day bike trip. But my wife had had enough of me being gone and I postponed it until September to give her some time to recuperate from her solo watching of the kids. As it turned out, September 18-19 was the only open days I could squeeze in the trip and have my daughter watch the little boys.

After talking to Roger Micheal, I chose to do the loop clockwise for a couple of reasons. First there is about 13 miles along the East bank trail. This trail just winds its way north along the east side of Ross Lake. I have paddled the lake many times and been on parts of this trail. It is not real exciting and I just wanted to bang it out quick with fresh legs on the first day and save the mostly downhill remote section to enjoy on the second day. Finally, with the campsite that Roger suggested, it would be a few miles over half way by going clockwise and it would leave an easy mostly downhill hike for the second day. The campsite selected was Devil’s Pass which had a nearby spring.

Panther Creek coming into Ruby Creek
I had hoped to hike with a friend but I couldn’t get any schedules to fit so it was going to be a solo trip. This led me to bring a little more gear than just my minimal fast packing kit. And since I was carrying a little extra weight, a little heavier good food would be in order as well. My plan was to leave my house at 4AM and hit the trail at 8 but that wasn’t to be. Life kept me busy late the night before and I was only able to leave the house a 7AM and hit the trail at 11:45. This proved a bit problematic later on. I left from the Eastbank trailhead. The rules stipulated that you could start anywhere in the loop as long as you finished in the same spot. The first few miles were easy and mostly downhill to the Eastbank trail on an old road bed. I was a bit surprised to be on a road bed but would learn the history later on.

Bridge Over Devil's Creek
I made the turn onto the Eastbank trail put my head down and pushed fast. Along the way I ran into a group from WWU heading back in. They were a bit surprised to learn that at 2 in the afternoon my destination was Devil’s Pass. I quickly passed many of the campsites I have paddle in the past; Roland Creek, Little Jerusalem Island, May Creek, and Rainbow point fell to my pace. I carried very little water. It was raining and there was lots of fresh water around. I didn’t treat my water with anything during the whole trip. At about 4PM I reached the devils pass trail. I had a nice meal before heading up the trail and leaving the lake. The trail was nice and easy going until I got to the wilderness boundary.

This was a hard climb. Climbing out of the valley I could see the weather filtering through the drainages that fed Ross Lake and the upper Skagit drainage. I was soaking wet. The trail tread has collapsed and the brush has not been trimmed in a long time. This is the result of being a wilderness trail. In a few years it will be gone. Little use, no maintenance, just a scratch on the earth. My sons’ will probably never be able to hike this trail. This is the ultimate goal of those who propose wilderness: A land without humans. This will be an unfortunate loss.
My heavy pack and extra girth around my middle weighed on me as I climbed up to and over Devils Dome. The day was long and I reached the top at 7PM. I carried very little water up the hill wanting to conserve weight. However, there was no water down on the east side of the dome heading down to the pass. Around 7:30 I found an incredible campsite high on a ridge but with no water I had to push on. At this point my headlamp was on, along with every piece of clothing I had.

Stormy skies all week
I arrived at my camp on devil’s Pass at 8:45PM. I was wishing that I was there three hours earlier as planned but now I was cold, wet, hungry, and thirsty. On the hike in I went through my priorities, water, stove/food, fire, shelter. I hiked the short bit to the spring and filled my bottle and bladder. When I arrived back I fired up my whisper light and started cooking dinner. As it cooked I gathered firewood. Everything was wet from the day’s rain. The wind was blowing the clouds sideways through the pass collecting every drop of moisture that passed like a sieve. I gathered as much dry wood as possible and lit the fire with my fire starter nursing it to life. I piled on as much wood as I could find building up a large bonfire that served to heat and dry both me and the surrounding firewood.

Devil's Dome
The hot meal was good and warmed my bones. As I set up my tent, the clouds cleared and the temperature dropped. My bonfire raged and I went to bed happy that I packed heavy and wasn’t in a bivy sac. Coyotes lulled me to sleep.

more Pics HERE.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Day 8 August 23th West of Port Angeles

Logging Trucks
Wow it was the last day and we felt it. SR104 is a small double lane secondary highway. This means that it has steeps, no shoulders, and lots of logging trucks. While it is great to see loggers working on state lands, it is a bit scary having logging trucks bearing down on us constantly and nowhere to go. A number of times we just put it in the ditch and sometimes we couldn’t. In all cases the trucks were courteous and just doing their jobs the best they could. I waved as much as possible in hopes that they would radio our position to other truckers. I am afraid that my goofy Seattle sign I put on the back of my trailer may have made me stood out in a bad way.
Elwah river

Just over 60 miles to go

Cool old general store along the way
As we continued on, we went up and down from the Straight up into the hills and back. Our legs were not conditioned for this. Further progress meant fewer logging trucks. We lunched in a park in East Clallam Bay and as we left the rain began to fall. It only got harder the further West we rode. As we approached Neah Bay, locals stopped to talk to us. There was a festival going on and it was too bad we couldn’t stay for it. We rode through and onlookers congratulated us for making it. But we were not done yet.
Not much room here to get out of the way

Lunch in east clallum bay
We pushed on for the last few miles west on Cape Flattery road. As the rain and wind were driving in our face, it was getting close to 4, our appointed pick up time and there was no sign of our ride. We pushed onto the beach, took some pictures in the rain and looked for shelter. This was very anticlimactic. I am used to finishing the race with at least somebody to cheer you on but there was nothing but a cold driving rain.
Nice riding along the water

And the rain begins

entering the Res
We found a bus shelter on the side of the road and huddled inside near hypothermic. We put on every piece of clothing we had and fired up the stove. After a while we had to make a choice, set up the tent and get in our sleeping bags or try to make it back to Neah Bay where there were hotels, shelter and fire. Before we could make this choice our ride arrived at 5:45. I wasn’t in a very good mood and kind of tainted the atmosphere. The ride was over. We had done what we set out to accomplish. It seemed that every day there was a problem to overcome which seemed insurmountable but we worked through it.
End of the line

Found a friend to take a pic
Stats for the day72 miles 555 for trip
2,900ft ascent/3400ft descent
9hr 21min total time
more pic HERE