1890ft gain/127ft loss. 7.6 miles. You would think, spending the entire day hiking along a river basin, that the day would be relatively smooth, with little gain, or loss in elevation. But, please remember where you are…North Cascades…You should see the elevation profile. The chart looks like a wild day on the stock market, with gains and losses measured in the 100’s within minutes of each other, only this chart is measured in feet, not points. Looks like the spiky back of a Stegosaurus, A real roller-coaster, and, as we’ve discovered on this hike, there are innumerable ups and downs to keep things, well… Interesting. Yep. You guessed it…Freakin’ North Cascades…
Packing camp, and hoping against all hope that we get another site that serves us so well, with an ample supply of dry wood, we begin our sojourn again, and within minutes we come to a roaring creek crossing. This time, there will be no tootsie dunking, as there is a cool suspended foot bridge over the rapids here, giving you a bird’s eye view of the source of all the noise, a very pretty waterfall churning down through a tumbled boulder field, the spray of water creating moss on the rocks.
“…I resist the urge to run across, fearing I’ll be pitched overboard, like a used up apple core, tossed carelessly out a car window…”
Greg ventures out first, and it’s a heart sinking first drop, as you step onto the bridge, your foot sinks almost a foot, as the bridge yields to your weight. It’s an odd feeling, let me tell you, and the bridge sways to and fro, urging you to hang on for dear life…Watching Greg cross over, it reminds me of the college years, for it looks as if he’s in a drunken stupor, careening from one side to the next, holding onto the wire railing, until he’s safely on the other bank…It’s my turn, and the bridge seems to groan under my weight, and I resist the urge to run across, fearing I’ll be pitched overboard, like a used up apple core, tossed carelessly out a car window…Feet firmly on the other side, we see the reason for the “lively” walk.
One of the turnbuckles, that helps steady the footbridge is so loose it moves up and down at least six inches…Nope, not gonna say it this time….You know what I was thinking… Still, we’re happy to cross with dry feet. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, one thing I’m used to, is rain forest, especially since I’m a coastie, and this meander through old growth reminds me of home. And why I like being above treeline…
There’s not much to see other than old growth giants, some of the biggest cedars I’ve seen in some time. It doesn’t take long until I’m bored, so I look down, instead of up, and I start looking for the illusive wild mushroom, the tasty, savory, kind. As a youngster, we spent many a rainy afternoon looking for prized delicacies, like the Hedgehog, Chanterelle, King Boletus, and several others that thinking about now make my mouth water. Sure enough, all the wet, moss covered, thick duff, create an awesome spawning ground for the magical fruit…Unfortunately, there are tons of mushrooms that aren’t good to eat, and I’ve seen few of the variety that I’m looking for, but no matter…It’s something that keeps my mind occupied, as we ride the roller-coaster trail.
Occasionally, we get a clearing, and the weather is, for the moment, giving us a break, and we can look uphill towards Copper Ridge, and see the terrain we crossed over yesterday, before plunging back into the folds of forest. The sound of rushing water can be heard once again as we approach Brush Creek. There’s a nice footbridge over the creek, and we’re constantly surprised to see them, given what we’ve been over and through already.
Much of the trail, as soon as it enters a clearing, is overgrown with huckleberry brush, and in some places, the trail seems almost non-existent, almost as if it were an afterthought. Brush Creek is pretty, and seems to fit this place well, as it’s boulders are large and moss covered, with fallen trees jammed between the rocks in places, like someone breaking a toothpick off between teeth. Another tree covered mile, and we come to a trail junction, and turn left to use the cable car. We have read about this, and decide we’d like to try it, instead of the river ford. It’s something neither one of us have yet seen on a trail, and it has platforms built out of large beams, that create a launch and landing pad on either side of the river, with the aluminum trolley car riding on a steel cable stretched from one side to the other.To operate it, you pull yourself across with a nylon rope on a pulley system. As soon as one arrives on the other side, then you pull the empty car back and launch yourself. The cable is about 30-35 feet off the river’s surface, and we both have fun pulling ourselves across, stopping in the middle to take pictures and gawk. A nice respite from the view blocking trees.
Finally!!! We see something worth having! A fresh combs tooth mushroom! It looks like a coral, but has spiny teeth on it, and it’s a beautiful white color, devoid of bugs. I can’t believe our luck! These are incredibly tasty, and we pick it to add to our dinner for later…The hours of looking and looking finally pay off! It’s not long, and we find a couple more specimens, still about the size of a child’s fist, but added together, we have close to a pound of delectables! I can’t wait…
Further along the trail, we come to a very ambitious, and busy Beaver. In fact, he has to be a regular lumber jack, the size of tree that he’s been working on next to the trail is over 20” in diameter! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a beaver tackle a tree this size. It’s still standing, but there is a noticeable lean going on. We can see his lodge in the small pond he’s created here by the river. It’s amazing, because there’s no way he’s going to haul this monster tree down to his dam. If anything, when this 60 foot tree falls, it’s going to smash everything in its path on the way to the ground. We wonder what in the world he’s up to…It’s near the trailhead to US camp, on the banks of the Chilliwack river.
Shortly past this camp, we reach the site that we’ve “reserved” for the night, at Copper Creek. Again, we’re the only people here, and we’ve not seen a soul now for two days. I can’t imagine why…We set about camp chores, setting up the tent and tarp, then collecting wood for another welcome fire. We arrive early enough today, to wander down the Copper Creek drainage to the Chilliwack River, but here, near it’s headwaters, it’s not much more than a small stream. We’ve brought a fishing pole with us to try out for the first time, and we make a few half-hearted attempts at some of the thigh deep holes here, but, it seems obvious that there are no fish here.
“…Add a little wind to drive some of the rain in below the edge of our hastily thrown tarp, and, well…We got North Cascaded again…”
Back at camp, we start our blaze, and prepare a nice meal, creamy noodles with chicken chunks, and wild mushroom. What an awesome flavor they brought to our humble little meal. Dinner is barely over, and the rains set back in, and spoil our reverie near the fire. Add a little wind to drive some of the rain in below the edge of our hastily thrown tarp, and, well…We got North Cascaded again. Drat! Reluctantly, we turn in a little earlier than planned, for another rain filled night.