September 11, 2017
Day 86, Stehekin to Rainy Pass, miles; 2572-2591
Miles ridden; 20.6, trail time; 6:46, average speed; 3.0, minimum elevation; 1519, maximum elevation; 4864, total ascent; 5195, total descent; 1852
We camped on the edge of a large clearing last night. I was able to hobble the horses and let them graze for a few hours before bed and again this morning. I almost had camp ready to go when the horses having eaten their fill started to wander further between bites. I hurried to get the last of the packing done, but when I looked up again the horses had disappeared. Heading for where I had last seen them I started looking for tracks only to discover this was not trackless wilderness. A local outfitter ran their horses here too. I looked in the direction I thought they might travel, then I looked in the other direction, I looked alongside the road for fresh tracks, then I looked along the other. Eventually I did catch up to them, a lot further away than I thought they should be, given the time they had. Damn horses, I don’t even like horses
Another smoky day in paradise. I stopped at the Ranger Station to take a few pictures, use the toilet and poke around a little. I saw a thousand gallon water tank and pump set up on the ledge behind the cabin, tank was full. Have to pack water from the river – humph.
Bridge Creek campground, five miles from High Bridge, was an interesting spot. An official campsite, with limited permits available. It must have been at least five acres with several buildings and a semi permanent packer station, running water and several vault toilets. It is on the Stehekin Valley Rd, and looks to me to be able to hold a hundred hikers without anyone getting crowded. It is hard to say how many hikers per day come through here; I doubt it is more than 25 today though. Maybe there are more hikers at times other than the first Monday after Labor Day.
The rest of the ride was pretty much through the smoke, not much to see. Rainey Pass is about 3,500 feet higher than the High Bridge Ranger Station on the Stehekin Rd. It is 20 miles of moderate elevation gain, by and large in the trees all day.
I did come across a broken bridge where three Forest Service employees were just getting started building a replacement, all with hand tools. I would have like to stay and help. Moving the support logs into place with hand lines and rigging would be something to see.
Day 87, Rainy Pass to Harts Pass, Miles; 2591-2622
Miles ridden; 31, trail time; 10:10, average speed; 3.0, minimum elevation; 4277, maximum elevation; 6977, total ascent; 6369, total descent; 4828
The road to Harts Pass is closed to vehicles with trailers. I won’t meet the truck and trailer again until the end of the trip at Manning Park in British Columbia in three days. Janis met me tonight at Harts Pass without the trailer. She brought the pack boxes and supplies needed to make it to Manning Park. Because today was such a long day I packed a good ration of hay on Mercedes so the horses could have a good feeding at lunch time. With just that little bit of hay on Mercedes we were able to make good time on a tough day.
In the thirty plus miles ridden today the trail climbed from 4,800 feet at Rainey Pass to nearly 7,000 after Cutthroat Pass. The PCT then drops to 4,300 feet at the Methow River only to climb back to 7,000 feet on Tatie Peak. The last four miles are downhill to Harts Pass at 6,000 feet. I know from past experience that this area rivals the Sierras in raw splendor. Alpine landscape alternates with old growth forests and wild rushing rivers.
I am a little disappointed that this part of the trail, which is so magnificent, was obscured by smoke. On the other hand I am thankful that the trail has not been closed and I was able to continue on my course. Everything east of the PCT is closed, I couldn’t see any flames but I know with that much smoke there are firefighters somewhere at risk.
Big milestone this day, we passed the 2600 mile marker. Summer is coming to a quick ending. Berries that were plumb and juicy yesterday are dry and leathery today. Suddenly, with no warning, the vine maples and tamaracks have turned gold. The end of this journey is close, I will soon be checking off “lasts”, last pack, last camp, last morning trail. Tonight is also a first, the first time Janis and I have cowboy camped the entire trip.
September 13 & 14, 2017
Day 88 and 89, Harts Pass to Manning Park, miles; 2622-2660
Miles ridden; 38.1, trail time; 9:41, moving average; 3.9, minimum elevation; 3850, maximum elevation; 7076, total ascent; 5918, total descent; 8320
Getting ready to leave Harts Pass I was feeling a little excitement as the Washington part of the trip was coming to a close.
Morning broke to a foggy day with no smell of smoke in the air. I was of mixed feelings as the fog restricted visibility but might help with retarding the wild fires spread. As I rode along the trail I wondered when the fog lifted whether the smoke would return. Riding in the fog the miles seem so long, you just go along without any sense of going anywhere, my world extended no further than the few hundred feet I could see. As it turned out the smoke did seem less thick as the fog cleared, especially at the higher elevations and some of the grandeur of the area was exposed to my view.
I began to pass hikers returning from Border Monument 78. These people had chosen not to enter Canada and were returning to Harts Pass in hopes of catching a ride back to civilization. Congratulations were offered to and from those who had completed their goal and those who were within a few miles of completing theirs as well. Several of the hikers were those who I had met earlier in the trip, some from as far back as Southern California two thousand miles before. Among the hikers I passed still going north the excitement and joviality was palpable, “Meet you at the border” was the cry of the day.
Initially I planned to camp at Hopkins Lake, 25 miles from Harts Pass, ending my ride the next day with a 15 mile ride to the road in Manning Park. When I got to the lake there were several tents already pitched, as it was only 4:00 in the afternoon more people were sure to stop as well. The no-seeums were thick by the lake so I decided to ride the six miles to the monument where there was reportedly a nice camp with a stock corral and good creek water. The horses were feeling good, making good time down the hill towards the border; we made the six miles in just a bit over an hour.
At the monument I met some day hikers, the Moroccos, who took pictures of Mercedes, BG and me at the memorial. They questioned me about the Klickitat Trek sweatshirt I was wearing as they have been to that endurance ride as well. John rides a Tennessee Walker in endurance and was pleased to see how well Mercedes and BG had held up on our trip.
Another quarter mile and we were at camp, the first ones in for the evening. Mercedes and BG appreciated the corral and not having to be tied all night. There was a little grass for them to eat as well as the feed I had packed for them. As dark approached another ten or so people set up camp nearby. Despite their high spirits by 9:00 all were turned in for the evening. About 3:00 the horses put up quite a fuss, squealing and snorting. I got up to see what was going on, but couldn’t see what had set them off. I went ahead and gave them their morning hay and went back to bed. The next morning I couldn’t find one of the nose bags for their grain. There is a bear box at this camp for people to store their food in; I put the horse’s grain ration in it as well. As I was walking to the box I happened across the missing nose bag a good 25 yard from where I had left it. It was soaking wet, as if it had been dunked in the creek. Later as I walked around the back side of the corral I saw fresh bear scat which had not been there the night before, oh that’s what got the horses stirred up.
At Harts Pass the trail starts out at 6,200 feet and for the next 28 miles does not drop below 5,000. Much of this trail is one spectacular view after another from narrow rocky trails that go up and down from one ridge to another. Many of the landmarks had fine back country names, Devil’s Backbone, Foggy Pass, Three Fools, Rock and Woody Pass to name but a few. There is an eight mile descent from Devil’s Stairway, 7,100’, to the Canadian Border, 4,200’, from which the views of Canadian forests and peaks are near constant. On the Canadian side of the border you go up and over one ridge, 5,100’, before ending the trip in Manning Park, 3,800’.
The first four miles of the trail into Canada gave me a whole new appreciation for the job people have done on the US side on trail maintenance. The horses punched through rotten board walks, scrambled over sloughed off trail, jumped over washed out spots and sank in boggy places. I had to cut a couple logs out that must have fallen after someone, fairly recently – there was still chainsaw sawdust, had cut other windfalls out. I was really worried that after all this way that one of the horses was going to get hurt. But at the halfway point the trail conditions improved dramatically, really nice going the rest of the way. Now all that remains is back to California and the Sierras.