North Cascades National Park, Washington
North Cascades - See it the way a mule sees it!
Ten of my friends from the Texins Outdoor Club and I completed a tour of North Cascades and Olympic National Parks in Washington State. Our group consisted of: Mike Mastin, Ray Aldridge, Brian Ray, Paula Thurston, Eric Evans, Tom Slater, Lee Bollinger, Pat Kocurek, Joe Shaeffer, Madhu Parameswaran, and Neil Kierman.
Saturday - August 5, 2000
Our group left bright and early this morning from DFW traveling to Seattle via Houston. The short flight to Houston provided an excellent opportunity for the stewardesses to practice their two minute drill. Throwing pretzels and drinks at you and then forcing you to gulp them down in a hurry; it was pretty comical. In Seattle, our plane was placed into a holding pattern circling Mt. Rainier for almost 30 minutes. After landing, we gathered our luggage and headed to pick up our transportation for the week: a huge van. Paula was supposed to meet us at the rental agency, but, she was running late so we decided to get a bite to eat at Wendys. After eating, the group drove from Seattle to the North Cascades National Park. We would finally meet up with Paula at the Wilderness Information Center at Marblemount - the place for securing our backcountry permits. It was there that we met the pretty ranger Ingrid who helped us to make all of our trip plans. It must have been the ranger hat, but, we decided that the "9.2 mile (2200ft climb/descent) day carrying packs over Easy Pass on the final day of our trip" would be no trouble at all! Note: Let it be known that I asked for the helicopter tour! As we were leaving, the rangers told us that we could not pee on any vegetive materials in the park since the area wildlife was very salt-starved and the plants would be quickly eaten. Being a technically adept group, we decided that a portable "pee rock" would insure our compliance to this rule. We even talked about designing a multi-use pee rock, bear alarm, signaling device. Of course, Paula would have to tote the contraption for us! :) We camped out at a Forest Service campsite outside of North Cascades National Park after eating an expensive supper in town.
Sunday - August 6, 2000
We broke camp early and ate a good breakfast at the Log House Inn in Marblemount, WA. After breakfast, we drove to the Colonial Creek campground on Diablo Lake and dropped the group off at the Thunder Creek trailhead. Since we had planned a to complete a shuttle hike this week, Brian, Paula and I drove on to the Easy Pass trailhead to drop off the van. As we were driving back to the Thunder Creek trailhead I was wondering whether the gout-like pain in my left foot would go away before we started our hike. I was sweating bullets; fortunately the pain would subside a short distance down the trail. Back at the trailhead, we took a group photo and then started our hike into the park. About a mile into the park, we stopped on the Thunder Creek suspension bridge crossing to snap a few photos and to admire the aqua color water. As we continued along the trail, we stopped for our second roup photo inside the carved out trunk of a very big tree. This section of the trail traversed an ancient forest of of cedar and fir trees and rose gradually to McAllister campsite, our first backcountry destination. We made it to McAllister in a little over 3 hours and setup camp. Some of us explored the campground area after setting up camp. I took a few photos of the forest and wildflowers and found the outhouse. The soil in this park was not compacted at all - you could sense an echo everytime the ground was hit hard. We ate supper and sat around and talked. We met and talked with a college coed who was leading a group of Seattle kids into the backcountry. I never knew that you could play tennis around a campfire: no tennis balls and rackets required.
Monday - August 7, 2000
Everyone ate a quick breakfast and broke camp. As I was eating, I discovered that some varmint had chewed a hole in my food bag yesterday and had started to munch on my trail mix. What a crappy way to start a morning! We hiked today from McAllister campsite to Skagit Queen campsite. The trail was not really steep until we approached the Junction area. The switchbacks there were terrible; On our return trip we couldn't believe what we had ascended. Not surprisingly, we were bushed when we arrived to Skagit Queen. After getting water, I napped in the tent until Paula delivered my food to me around 7PM tonight. After eating supper, we found trees to hang our food/backpacks. All of the deer surrounding our campsite would be dissappointed tonight.
Tuesday - August 8, 2000
Everyone dayhiked from Skagit Queen campsite to the Park Creek Pass area. First stop was ruins of an old mining operation. Trail was grown up with pretty wildflowers and ferns; it was almost a bushwack in places. Most disgusting thing was the flies. 10 to 20 light on you when you stop. Mountain scenery was very pretty once we got above the forest. Eric and I stopped a little past the waterfall that we passed on the trail nd told Lee and Joe that we were heading back. It really wasnt worth the added uphill to get to the pass for me. Joe, Lee, Pat and Brian continued on to the pass. Joe and Lee happened upon a black bear in the forest. On return trip Eric and I discussed taking an easier way out of the park than Easy Pass. We didn't think that we were up to the last day's hike. At camp, we discussed it with the others and we all decided that we would go back the way that we came. When Brian returned to camp, he was very thirsty. We asked him if he had seen the other on the trail. He knew Pat was still exploring the pass area, but, he hadn't seen Joe or Lee anywhere. This was quite disconcerting, however, before we had a chance to plan a nighttime rescue, both Joe and Lee made it back to camp. Pat would eventually make it back to camp. Group ate dinner, played Hearts on the bridge leading into Skagit Queen campsite and listened to Joe and Lee tell about their bear encounter close to Park Creek Pass.
Wednesday - August 9, 2000
We woke up today and headed out of Skagit Queen campsite destined for the junction of Fisher Creek and Thunder Creek trails. The further away from Skagit Queen that we traveled the more we craved returning to the Thunder Creek trailhead and modern transportation. The lure - the possibility of continuing our trip in the Olympic peninsula exploring Olympic National Park and the Pacific coast. At the junction, we stopped and voted to travel back to the Thunder Creek trailhead. We arrived at the trailhead late in the afternoon. The daylong trek of 14 miles walking with our packs on had reminded most of us of our frailties. We really didn't care; seeing the park the way a mule would see it was exciting in and of itself. Paula and Brian made it to the van first; they drove to pick up our van at the Easy Pass trailhead. After eating trail food for 3 days, all of us were craving pizza. At the local restaurant, we had to compromise; their oven would only cook one pizza at a time. The hamburgers were very good in any case. We would have liked to camped at the restaurant for the night, but couldn't, so we returned to the forest service campsite where we had spent our first night in Washington.
Thursday - August 10, 2000
Ate breakfast at a local restaurant in Concrete, WA. After we arrived back to Seattle, we had to swap our van due to a squeeking noise that we had noticed. After loading up in the new van, we drove to the Seattle harbor area and rode the ferry boat to the Olympic peninsula. While the others were enjoying a brief ride, I was really succumbing to BO, so, I decided to take a sponge bath in the ferry restrooms. Much better. We drove to the Port Angeles visitor center for information and continued to Hurricane Ridge for impressive views in all directions. Several dayhiked around the visitor center; I went for a much needed shave then rambled around a trail close to the van. We drove back down from Hurricane Ridge and camped at a park campsite. After supper, we went to see the ranger-lead talk on Biodiversity. This talk was very informative to me until she mentioned that "the Golden Bear is extinct in California." I thought to myself and then asked Mike "When did Jack Nicklaus die?" Both of us laughed until it hurt. I had to leave the amphitheatre; I just couldn't stop laughing.
Friday - August 11, 2000
Drove to Sol-Duc falls and then over to Rialto Beach. Ate burgers at a local restaurant then drove to the Hoh Rain Forest. Hiked the two Nature Trails there and headed back to Rialto Beach. We wanted to have a cookout so we stopped at a local supermarket and got our hot dogs and chips. Most of the group had never heard any Roy Mercer tunes, so, we had purchase his greatest fits CD at the supermarket also. Cooked out on the beach and returned to camp.
Saturday - August 12, 2000
Drove from Rialto Beach to Seattle airport area. Ate lunch at a big, big, hamburger place. Ferry delay forced us to run back to the van after using the restrooms. Checked into the Red Roof Inn at the airport and enjoyed cleaning up. Group rode mass transportation from the Airport to downtown Seattle. A real interesting experience. Ate Chinese food and walked the streets of Seattle. Back to motel; Some went to see "Space Cowboys" movie; I went to bed.
Sunday - August 13, 2000
Flight from Seattle to Dallas via Houston. Most of our group slept for most of the way. Delay in Dallas. Arrived at Nashville ready for a rest.