- Day 6, July 20: 12.8 miles, total miles: 257.6 – hiking! some bushwhacking, USFS road, trail, and easy cross country
- Parks, Trails, & Places of Significance: Old Pass Hill (non)road bushwhack, Old Blewett Pass, County Line Trail #1226, Miller Peak
We started off our first day of hiking with a brushy bushwhack on an old logging road. At first bushwhacking was cute and novel. Then we stopped being able to touch the ground and found ourselves negotiating through slide alder and ducking under down logs. Slow going, Cenoathus velutinus resistance training. We started to wonder how far we’d get at this rate on a hot day with no water along the route. (Oh and I lost 1 liter of water in my shaker bottle/dinner bowl in the first 1.5 miles.)
What felt like a good while later, we got to more open terrain and did some cross country walking to detour around a private inholding with a residence near Old Blewett Pass. The rest of the day was a mix of roads, trail, and lovely cross country. A little dusty and plenty warm, but easy going with interesting plant and wildlife sightings to enjoy.
Just before we got to the County Line Trailhead we stopped for a late breakfast in the shade. While on the edge of a gap and thick forest we watched a northern goshawk dive into the woods and deftly navigate between some trees. So cool! A new sighting for Gabriel and me.
Once on the County Line Trail we rolled up and over ridges back into forests along the slopes of Joker, Jester and Iron Bear Peaks. Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine provided shade breaks and in between we strolled through gaps of Cascade asters, mountain ash, and Rocky Mountain vine maple. It felt lovely to be on trail, up close to plants, but easing by them without resistance. It felt like Goldilocks walking, “just right”.
We hiked up and over Miller Peak and descended gentle slopes to the ridge that connects Miller and Freedom Peaks. The County Line Trail faded in and out of sight – but the slopes are open save a for a few cozy wooded saddles so there’s no need for a trail. We took a snack break on one rock outcrop with great views of now distant Lion Rock, Blewett Pass, Tronsen Ridge, and the Kittatas Valley to the southeast and the Stuart Range looming big behind Navaho Peak and Three Brothers. While taking in the splendor and recounting our satisfaction with the day a western tanager flew by (first for the season!).
We made camp in a nice fir grove on a saddle beneath the ridge to Freedom Peak (tomorrow’s breakfast summit!). Close by, we found a rocky bench next to purple flowers of Cascade penstemon and kinnicknick. The bench showcased views of the Stuart Range – an ideal spot for dinner time.
Since I’d “sacrificed” my shaker bottle to the snowbrush at the start of the day – I had to figure out a way to make my dinner (soup re-hydrated with cold water). I realized that my overly large water dipper (a cut in half Platypus bottle) made an ideal holding container for a Ziplock bag full of food and water. Not the most aesthetic of dinnerware – but functional for seven days.
Back at camp, we admired a Clark’s Nutcracker perched in a fir tree above our unfurled sleeping bags. As we drifted off to sleep in the twilight of turquoise sky and dark green tree silhouettes we recounted the day with overall satisfaction: a day of (mostly) nice cross country, mountain traversing trails, wildflowers, butterflies, great bird sightings, and beautiful views. Yep, our first day back on foot was just right.