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.

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