837ft gain/37118ft loss. 7.6 miles. What goes up, must come down. Down, like a meteor streaking earthward from the heavens, down. Like falling off the top of the Empire State building, down like a runaway freight train off a cliff, down…You get the picture. We awake to a crisp 38 degree day, shrouded in clouds again, and the drenching from last night has soaked all the brush here on ridge line. It may not be raining right now, but might as well be, for walking through the wet huckleberry and heather that lines the trail, no, encroaches upon it, is the same as turning a garden hose on, and spraying yourself with it. Beating the brush with the trekking poles helps, and every time you take a whack at it, you are rewarded with a large spray of soaking water. Real nice.
“With my outlook meter pegged at “bleak”, we continue the up and down then up and down as the trail follows the top of ridge line…”
The likelihood that this is going to improve my outlook any at all has approached the million to one shot now. With my outlook meter pegged at “bleak”, we continue the up and down then up and down as the trail follows the top of ridge line, me hacking at brush with every step. Thanks, North Cascades… Rounding a point on the ridge, we drop down into heather and rock filled meadows, very pretty even in the gathering fog and mist. Reminds me of pictures that I’ve seen of the Scottish Moors….
As soon as we reach it, we are rewarded with a quick break in the clouds that allows us views of Bear and Indian Mt. We continue our descent to the river bottom, and before we reach the switchbacks that will carry us to the rivers’ edge, we hear something large going through the brush in front of us. Crossing the trail about 30 yards in front , a large black bear goes crashing through the wet brush, heading pell-mell downhill like a runaway steam roller, water flying in the air as the underbrush gives way to his headlong descent. No time to take a picture, he’s gone within seconds…Well, at least we got to see him.
“Nope. Not to be. Freakin’ North Cascades!”
The constant switchbacks get us to the river about as quickly as possible. Seems the only way quicker to the bottom would be a toboggan run…Knees and ankles complaining more than me, it’s a relief to see something flat for a change, even if it is river bottom. The trail ends unceremoniously at the river’s edge, and there is foot prints leading left and right from here, probably looking for a dry way across. Nope. Not to be. Freakin’ North Cascades! So, we pull off our boots, (Almost crossed with boots on, our feet were already so damp from beating the wet brush), and crossed in bare feet.
It looked shallow here, and fairly narrow, but in bare feet in ice cold water, the rocks underfoot seemed sharp and pointed, intent on drawing blood and pain from our tender soles. That “short” walk seemed to go on forever, and it was a welcome relief to finally reach the opposite banks. Pulling wet socks and boots back on, we go another 100 yards or so, and…Another river crossing??!!! Are you kidding me??! North Cascades!!! This time, there is a little bit more intent on finding a way across that does not include bare feet. It’s at this point, after studying the water a little more closely, that we spot several salmon that have arrived to spawn, their sides a scarlet red. Very pretty, against the blue water.
“…looking every bit like one of those sliding, scratching, trying to hang on before hitting the drink type of skid marks….”
Greg and I both find ways across the river, and the log that I take has several bear claw grooves, looking every bit like one of those sliding, scratching, trying to hang on before hitting the drink type of skid marks. Safely across, it’s not long before we reach our next camp at Indian Creek, and we are the only ones here. We pick the best spot, and set about finding firewood, as it’s permissible to build small campfires in the provided fire rings. A welcome relief it will be to get warm, and dry wet boots and clothes by the fire. Within 45 minutes we have enough tinder for the evening, and set about building a nice fire. Later, we would build a drying rack for our soggy belongings. Dinner, then a relaxing time spent around a warm fire before turning in. It was so nice to be near a fire and get dry after two soaking days. The camp here along the river basin is set in old growth forest, so there’s not much to see. At least, there are no mice here to bother us…