Lonesome trails to cache-mass

  • Day 8, July 22: 14.1 miles, total miles: 283.6 hiking, some trails harder to follow, short stretch of gravel road between trailheads
  • Parks, Trails, & Places of Significance: Boulder-DeRoux Trail 1392, DeRoux Spur Trail 1392.1, Middle Fork Teanaway Trail 1393, Paris Creek Trail 1393.1, Davis Peak Trail 1324, cache #2

New day. New marmot. It felt refreshingly chilly near the North Fork Teanaway River as we packed up our camp. Heading up the trail toward Koppen Mountain, we transitioned from cool spruce forest along the river to hillsides of Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine, and up into a grove of mountain hemlock. Light filtering through to the forest floor in varied shades of green: huckleberries, false azalea, pink wintergreens. Abundant shades of green. A reminder that with each mile we are closer to the Cascade Crest and greater rainfall that lends to increasing lushness in forests and meadows.

We dropped into the Middle Fork Teanaway drainage and were delighted by the meadows full of wildflowers and their pollinators. Fritillaries, checkerspots, blue butterflies, and policeman’s car moths all winging about and landing on cow parsnips, asters, lupines, paintbrush, harebells, and other wildflowers. The meadows reminded me of one of my all time favorite movie quotes: “What happens in a meadow at dusk?”… “EVERYTHING!” Indeed.

Compared to the trails in the North Fork and Stafford Creek – this area feels lonesome. Less signs of hikers and people camping, which surprises me given the access and peaks nearby. Though perhaps this lonely perception has more to do with us being here on a Sunday morning before 10:30 am, early in the day compared to the activity patterns of the motorized dirt bike riders and mountain bikers who may pass through the area later in the day.

While our trip is not a systematic assessment of the places on our route, I’m curious to observe where and when we see other recreationists out and about. Front-country trails? The PCT? The places most recently featured in Backpacker magazine? What is the heat map for recreation evolving to look like at this present time and how does that use impact wildlife, plants, and budgets for infrastructure maintenance? Oh, it’s so easy to toss out questions. So much harder to get good answers.

So far today, we’ve crossed paths with one horseback rider and his dog, horse, and pack mule. That feels like a nice rate of interaction.

The Middle Fork trail weaves through forest thickets, subalpine parks, passes old mines, edges lovely bumps that invite ambling exploration, and then it steeply ascends up to the ridgetop divide between the Teanaway and Cle Elum drainages. This is a pretty little spot within the Teanaway. It is home to peaks I’m keen to roam up sometime, I can see coming back here for a night or so to go up mountains and sit in the meadow at dusk. But today, is a day for shuffling on to get to the next cache that is full of food(!).

From the Teanaway we descended into the Big Boulder Creek drainage on Trail 1393.1. Gabriel and I had unfinished business with this particular trail. In late spring a few years ago we went up Jolly, Skookum, and DeRoux. After finishing the traverse of the peaks, we’d planned to take this here Trail 1393.1 over to the Jolly Mountain Trail. That was the plan anyway. Instead, what happened was we descended from the last peak of the trip and got tangled in a slippery descent of snow, brush, and little sign of supposed Trail 1393.1 (later when we looked at a Green Trails map we saw the note that it can be hard to follow… agreed!). So after losing the way we’d hiked out the Boulder-DeRoux Trail instead and had a hot, dusty walk back toward our car with extra miles. Today it was time to make amends.

The 1393.1 trail is steep, eroding in places, covered in down trees, and little sign of recent use. Without snow, it was reasonable to follow hints of the old foot bed, but you need to be thinking like a trail to stick with it. Near a pocket meadow there’s a falling apart framework of poles for an old hunting camp, one of few signs of recent people activity in the area. The trail seems to be fading away. Maybe this here little spot of thick forest is being reclaimed by fishers, martens, and wolverines? Not such a bad thing.

As we ascended out of the Big Boulder drainage into the Paris Creek drainage – I was reminded of hills along the CDT between Lemhi and Chief Joseph Passes. Steep grades that burned the calves. It felt fun to be on trails like those again weaving around a divide and now I’m daydreaming of where to return to on the CDT. Once on the Paris side of the drainage, the steepness continued and the upper portion of the trail was hard to follow.

Eventually we got down to a more regularly used stretch of trail along Paris Creek and walked out to the trailhead. We crossed the road and strolled into the brush to find our second cache. Gabriel had picked a really good spot for it! Near water, away from the road. If we’d needed to, there would have been comfy camping in the forest. Instead we delighted in new food and fresh socks. (I double counted and I have plenty of food for 5 nights to go from here to North Bend. Phew!) Cache organized. We headed out.

We stopped at the Cle Elum River to get water for the next 20 hours. Now our packs felt properly loaded with 6 litters of water apiece, 5 days of food, and scrambling gear. That’s not wicked heavy, but the next action on our itinerary was a 3,900 foot grind up Davis Mountain. Time to embrace the Pole! Pole! mantra of our friends Danny and Lodrick. Slowly, surely, up we went on the Davis Peak trail. We knew just when to take our breaks as we’d been up this way a month earlier to scramble Davis and Goat peaks with friends.

The heat of the day faded as we gained elevation and expansive views. After somewhat dreading the climb while standing in the hot sun at the trailhead; instead we found the hike up was lovely. It was fun to observe the vegetation changes in a month’s time, the lush vanilla leaf and coltsfoot gardens of late June are now dried to a crisp here in late July. A few lupines hold on to their last flowers while the vine maple has started to flare red at its tips. Summer is happening now!

We made it to the campsite a few hundred feet (about half a mile) below the lookout and set up for the night amid a little grove of mountain hemlocks with nice rock outcrops for a dining room. Such a different finish, compared to the day before. Yesterday we’d ended the day with 1,800 feet of downhill, light packs, and me in a marmota malaise. Tonight we went up 3,000 feet with a heavy pack, and I was still bounding around camp. Back to being Marmot once more!

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“Brrr.” Gabriel is ready to start walking. It sure felt luxurious to have a picnic table in camp last night.

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North Fork of the Teanaway River – the first big waterway on our route since biking over the Yakima River in Ellensburg.

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The rolling bumps and high meadows of DeRoux Peak brought back pleasant memories of a visit to them a few years back. This time, we opted to take the trails that wind beneath the ridge tops.

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Impressive wind-sculpted Douglas-fir on the flanks of Koppen and DeRoux along the North Fork and Middle Fork Teanaway divide.

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Police-car moth on cow parsnip flower. Note the fuzzy “branches” along the length of its antennae.

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False hellebore in a lush meadow of paintbrush, larkspur, and bog orchid.

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Showy Jacob’s ladder – a cheery flower who I have FINALLY learned to recognize this year. Its leaflets look like little steps up a ladder.

 

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A well established camp in the upper meadows of the Middle Fork Teanaway. No one was home. Figure this must be the setup of the local outfitter.

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From the ridgetop dividing the Middle Fork Teanaway and Boulder Creek – looking SE back toward Koppen Mountain and Iron Mountain – where we started hiking from this morning. From here we’re leaving the Teanaway watershed and entering the Cle Elum basin.
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Broadleaf arnica along Trail 1393.1 in Upper Paris Creek.

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Cache-mass! Cache-mess! Gabriel and Mukmuk are happy to be eating Tasty Bites (Indian food in a bag) and mandarin oranges from little lunch cups. Because this is critter country, we stashed our food in bear canisters and our gear in 5-gallon buckets. Gosh, 5 days of food and scramble gear looks bulky. I hope it doesn’t make our packs weigh more.

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Hiking up the slopes of Davis Peak. Tall grasses and sun loving Douglas-fir trees.

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Looking south to Lake Cle Elum, Red Mountain, and the Cabin Mountain peaks. This area was burned during the 2006 Polallie Fire.

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Hiking up through the silver forest. We timed our walk up Davis, pretty ideally. By the time we got to this area – which can be a real scorcher – the sun was getting low and the stroll up felt pleasant – even with 6 liters of water, 5 days of food, and scramble gear.

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Dinner time! We are clearly getting close to the westside of the Cascades. We needed bug nets to keep the mosquitoes from bothering us while we ate. Definitely a night we are glad to have packed a tent.

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