August 16, 2017
Day 70, Williams Mine TH to Midway Guard Shack, miles; 2230-2253
Miles ridden; 23.6, trail time; 6:45, average speed; 3.5, minimum elevation; 4031, maximum elevation; 6121, total ascent; 3632, total descent; 3215
Today was a beautiful day in the Mt Adams Wilderness. While we were in the trees most of the day they were burnt, short or dead and there were lots of alpine meadows so we were in the sun and had lots of views. It seems funny that after the last two months of high heat when any little shade was welcome that now a short week later I spend most of the day in multiple sweatshirts and an insulated vest looking forward to riding in the sun.
This section of trail is in remarkably good condition. High on the side of Mt Adams, where the trail is often washed out at the Mutton Creek and the Lewis River making for dicey fords, it was all smooth sailing. From north of Killen Creek almost to Potato Hill a lot work has been done on the tread to eliminate the deep ruts. The windfall had been all cleared as well, sweet.
After the initial climb from the 23 road to the Round the Mountain trail the trail stayed up high on the mountain flank. The trail is about three miles from the peak as it skirts the mountain’s top crossing numerous creeks and rivers that have their beginning in Adam’s glaciers. I had my share of vistas today. I got my first good look at Mt Rainier and the Goat Rocks today as well as Mt Hood and Jefferson on my back trail. I am enjoying being in totally familiar country which will continue into the next few days. No need to check a map to verify I am on the right trail or how far I have to go. Tonight’s camp is at the Midway Guard Station. All that remains of this historic site is the garage and the lovely little clearing it sets in, making it one of my favorite stops.
August 17, 2017
Day, 71 Midway Guard Station to Chambers Lake, miles; 2253-2274
Miles ridden; 26.7, trail time; 8:04, average speed; 3.3, minimum elevation; 4492, maximum elevation; 6446, total ascent; 4069, total descent; 3928
Leaving Midway the trail steadily, gradually climbs all the way to the day’s high point, 6400’+, at Cispus Pass. From there it was a steady decline to tonights camp at Chambers Lake TH.
It was cold and misty this morning, the calendar says the middle of August, the weather says fall. I was so bundled up that I’m not sure I could have gotten back up if I’d fallen down. The mist bothered me a little bit, I was afraid it wouldn’t burn off before I reached the Klickitat Bowl. If you have been through the Goat Rocks you know what I mean, if you haven’t I am certain that my poor words will fail to convey the pure majesty of the place. I don’t know how many times I have approached the Klickitat Bowl, either after riding through the Cispus Bowl or from over Horseshoe Ridge saddle, more than a dozen less than fifty, still that first view forces me to say “wow”.
I need not have worried as the sun burned through while the morning was still young. On the stretch of trail between Midway and Coleman Weedpatch that lies outside the wilderness boundary dozens of logs had been freshly cut making for very pleasant riding. Once we got past the Walupt Creek trail the PCT started to climb up out of the trees opening up panoramas in all directions. Passing Nannie Ridge the trail starts exposing the traveler to the views for which the Goat Rocks are famous. Lakeview and Horse Mountains, Klickton Divide, Petross Sidehill, Gilbert Peak, Goat Rock, Ives Peak are not ten miles away or even three, you are right on their shoulders looking them in the face.
Cispus Bowl follows Klickitat Bowl and is just as spectacular in it’s own way. Half a dozen streams add their water to the beginnings of the Cispus River and rush off down the valley in search of more contributions. There were more wildflowers this year than I have seen in some time. Even the grass couldn’t be contained at ankle depth, in places it reached Mercedes knees. A side trail down to the Chamber’s Lake trailhead drops sharply at first through meadows and across more creeks before leveling out down through the forest.
Arriving at the trailhead I found not only Janis but several Back Country Horsemen (and woman) who had volunteered to pack a large PCTA trail maintenance crew in to the Cispus Bowl to make some much needed repairs to the trail. Included on their list of stuff to do was fill in a huge washout, one large enough to easily swallow Janis’s truck and trailer with room to spare. This repair will use some trail engineering and hardware to form a crib which will then be backfilled to the original tread level. This repair should keep the washout from propagating in future years. Back home this would be a couple day project with the use of a backhoe and dump truck, it is nearly inconceivable to me that seven or eight volunteers will provide all the labor to get this project done in less than a week. My hat is off to these people who donate their time to provide a trail that I, or you, can wander down at will, they have certainly earned my continued financial support and I hope yours as well. You can contribute at PCTA.org
August 18, 2017
Day 72, Chambers Lake to White Pass or The Knife’s Edge, miles; 2274-2295
Miles ridden; 26.2, trail time; 6:47, average speed; 3.9, minimum elevation; 4440, maximum elevation; 7221, total ascent; 5976, total descent; 6197
Big picture day, as in quantity if not quality. I tried to cull them down to a manageable number, more than a hundred didn’t make the cut, however there are still a lot of them. I thought about making the Knife’s Edge a separate post, but many of the pictures there really belong here so, like this sentence, you are getting one long post.
From the Chambers Lake trailhead one must climb about 2,000 feet in five miles to regain the PCT. As the Snowgrass Flats trail approaches the PCT it emerges from the trees into alpine meadows thick with wildflowers. As the PCT continues the climb the additional 1,000 feet, to the Knife’s Edge, the meadows dry out and the flowers grow closer to the ground before disappearing all together. I have come to the conclusion that getting up to the Knife’s Edge is harder than the crossing; it is a long, steep, rocky, snowy climb. The reward is in the spectacular views to which one is exposed. Nearly every step brings another Kodak moment.
Packwood Glacier is the last obstacle before one reaches the Knife’s Edge. Like all of the glaciers in the Cascades, it has receded these past years, exposing rock for most of the traverse except for two short sections of icy snow. This rock is made up from the thin layers that make up the face of Old Snowy and are now gradually falling down the slope towards the Packwood Valley. Some of the rocks are coffee table size, though with the passing of so many feet the rocks in the trail are rarely larger than a dinner plate. If your horse is steel shod, as mine are, their feet make the rocks ring, treating the rider to a sound not unlike wind chimes.
The trail across the exposed rock is in poor condition. Slides from above covered parts of it, other parts have slid away. At the end of the second snow section there was a eight foot near vertical climb up the ice to get back on trail. I looked at those first slides and decided to lead BG across that section. When I got across I decided to lead her down the first steep section of the Knife’s Edge, then I led her across the next section. At some point I decided I didn’t need the extra stress so I just kept on leading her until we got off the solid rock portion. BG wasn’t having any problems, not once did she slip, stumble or have the trail give beneath her. I was the one with the problem, it is a long ways down should one fall, with no chance of arresting oneself should a misstep be taken. The biggest advantage to walking is also the biggest disadvantage; pictures demand to be taken, lots of them.
Eventually we made it to Elk Pass and rode down through the McCall basin and back into the trees and pretty good trail until we got to Hogback Ridge, where there were more good views and rocky trails. From there it was all downhill to the White Pass Horse Camp.