September 3, 2017
Day 79, Repeat Stevens Pass to Smithbrook TH, miles; 2164-2171
Miles ridden; 8.6, trail time; 2:23, average speed; 3.6, minimum elevation; 3806, maximum elevation; 5080, total ascent; 1500, total descent; 1548
Janis drove me back to Stevens Pass this afternoon so we could resume our journey after a week of R&R at home. Janis thought that if I rode a short 8½ miles to the Smithbrook trailhead today make it to the North Fork of the Saulk tomorrow. This plan avoided the need for a pack horse, an excellent plan.
The trail is relatively level the first few mile, until the BG crash site. From there it climbs until it reaches the high point for the day on the ridge above Lake Valhalla. In the next two miles to Union Gap, the Junction of the Smithbrook trail, the trail drops a gradual 500 feet.
The side trail down to Smithbrook reinforced my theory that feeder trails that do not lead to equestrian facilities of some sort are likely to be somewhat less than delightful. Steep, rocky, rooted and rutted this trail was blessedly short. The trail head parking was packed. Janis barely had enough room to get the truck turned around. We are parked in the road, there is barely enough room for the horses to stand on the passenger side and barely enough room for vehicles to get by on the driver’s side. This spot wins the award for least desirable camp. We will get up early and get on our way to minimize being a roadblock any longer than necessary.
I am looking forward to getting some miles behind me tomorrow.
September 4, 2017
Day 80, Smithbrook TH to Cady Creek TH, miles; 2469-2487
Miles ridden; 24.7, trail time; 9:10, average speed; 2.7, minimum elevation; 2989, maximum elevation; 5578, total ascent; 5205, total descent; 6012
Janis’s idea of breaking up the Stevens Pass to Cady Creek ride was a really good one, this is tough country, a 25 mile day is ever so much more pleasant than a 30 plus. We are starting to climb up towards the north Cascades with new views around every corner.
This part of the trail goes through the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness which like wildernesses everywhere is getting more and more use. One thing the Wenatchee National Forest has done in an effort to minimize human impact is build miniature vault toilets near the more popular camp spots. I’m all for it, something to sit on, no shovel required.
The PCT stays within, approximately, a 1500 foot elevation range. On the lower end of the scale, 4,000 feet, one rides through deep forests. At the upper end, around 5,500 feet, one is approaching the alpine zone this far north. It is a striking country, resplendent with crystal clear creeks and lakes framed by rugged rock pinnacles. I took the Cady Pass trail down to the Little Wenatchee trailhead, at 3,000 feet, for tonight’s camp.
September 5, 2017
Day 81, Cady Creek to N Fork Sauk River, miles; 2490-2502
Miles ridden; 22, trail time; 7:56, average speed; 2.8, minimum elevation; 2131, maximum elevation; 5969, total ascent; 4426, total descent; 5333
Yesterday afternoon coming down the Cady Creek trail we rode through some pretty thick vegetation, ferns and thimble berries thick against the Mercedes sides. The trail along the Little Wenatchee River to the PCT was choked too, some places so thick BG disappeared. At length we did rise above the lowland flora to the high meadows and long views I so enjoy.
As we came to White Pass two large donkeys emerged from the shadows of trailside evergreens, trotting toward BG and me. Having never seen a donkey before and now with two charging at her BG was on the nervous side, but she did stand for me to dismount. A man emerged from the shadows as well getting to us about the same time the donkeys finished sniffing BG, pronouncing her uninteresting, before wandering off a few feet, perhaps looking for some greens to eat.
The owner, who I found out was named Darrell, and to whom I refer to now as “Darrell Two Donkeys”, wanders the trails around the state clearing logs and other trail maintenance chores as he sees fit, seeking no praise, recognition or profit. At the time we spoke I believe he said he had been out for three weeks, was running out of supplies and was getting ready to exit the wilderness. Anyway – he asked me what I was doing and I went into my stock spiel, meeting my wife, blah blah, thru riding the PCT, blah blah. At which point Darrell interrupted me saying “who do you think you are, Gary Pegg?” To which I replied, a bit flustered, “Well, yes I am.” Apparently the PCTA guy that walks the trail documenting what and where attention is needed had told Darrell about me the day before. So much for my 15 minutes of fame. I was two miles down the trail before I realized I had no photographic evidence.
We rode up the Little Wenatchee River trail to the PCT this morning. Once there, we stayed between five and six thousand feet the rest of the day, staying in the land of the big views, until we started down the N. Fork Sauk River trail to tonight’s camp at the trailhead. The trail down was steep and rocky with tight switchbacks for the first three miles before it flattens out, somewhat, following the river down through an old growth cedar forest and across the occasional avalanche swath. After the bright and windy ridge tops the valley, covered in moss and ferns, seems eerily dark and quiet, Bigfoot country.
Today I rode 15 side trail miles to make 12 PCT miles. It is becoming obvious that I am going to have to start packing as the side trails get longer, then nonexistent the further north we go. Time to get tough or die!