So, this is the second year in a row the Rainy Pass to Hart’s Pass hike was selected and abandoned at the last minute. Last year was due to my knee blowing out over a Labor Day hike and this year was due to a significant amount of snow in higher elevations (including over 9 inches at Hart’s Pass). We weren’t interested in sleeping in snow so a series of other hikes were researched at the last minute which introduced uncertainty and caused our party to dwindle from a party of 7 (almost 8) to a trio of stout men: Jeff Thompson, Pat Boyer and Me.
For those who missed the hike, it was an all-time great walk in the woods! We covered ~31 miles in four days, caught fish, built massive camp fires, bonded over time honored beverages and experienced one of the most beautiful places in Washington State (the Pasayten Wilderness) on four glorious weather days (cold but crystal clear). The golden larches were popping at tree line, the three passes we traveled over offered amazing views of a whole series of peaks, bear tracks in the snow kept us on-guard, fat pheasants/grouse/ptarmigens stared at us from trees and rocks plus we got a little lost on our way, but it ended up working out JUST FINE thankyouverymuch.
Here’s how it went down.
Jeff picked up Patrick from the airport Weds evening and high tailed it to the Mazama cabin and were welcomed by a large camp fire and a planned power outage at Midnight. Thursday morning was a large breakfast of breakfast tacos made with local bacon and then a load out to the trail head (~1 hour from the cabin). We were surprised by the snow at the trail head as we were only at 4,300 feet. Off we went on our way and almost immediately, missed our trail cut off to Hidden Lakes via Eight Mile Pass. Between the snow, cut back type trail and lack of focus while clomping up a snow covered trail. We realized our mis-direction when three ultra-light hikers caught up to us and asked why we changed hikes – oops! The good news was that we were on a major trail although it was on the North side of Billy Goat peak which meant 4 miles of hiking through beautiful snow in a gorgeous valley. We righted ourselves and kept going, but that added about 4 miles to day 1 that we didn’t expect. So, we camped at Drake Creek at a horse camp – lots of room, big fire, next to a stream, good food (brats, salmon fettuccine, red wine) and a cold night’s sleep.
The next day we kicked into gear for ~9 miles over Lucky Pass, through Diamond Creek, all the way to Cougar Lake where we experienced another wide open camp site. We saw two college guys on the trail, but they kept going to Hidden Lakes so we had Cougar Lake to ourselves. After nine miles with full packs we had no desire to keep going to Hidden Lakes – great future hike! Fishing ensued where Pat caught first and biggest with an Eastern Brook Trout while Jeff hauled in a Rainbow. Scott was skunked, but had fun trying. That night was grilled fish, freeze dried veggies and chili mac.
On Saturday, we slept in, did some more fishing and let camp around noon. Nice and easy. We hiked back to Drake Creek and found a father-daughter team at our site. Jeff/Pat explored and found a COOLER site down the creek that was a bit more wilderness-y with a proper fire ring and the ritual repeated. Bourbon supplies were running low, but we had enough to keep warm and enjoyed another quality camp fire and a well earned night sleep.
Sunday morning was an early pack out and crossing Eight Mile Pass. We exited around noon and had time to hit Three Finger Jacks to watch the last 4 minutes of the Seahawks game (damn!) and get a few beers. We then cleaned up at the cabin before Pat and Jeff took off for the airport.
All in all an adventure trip filled with exploration, incredible scenery, friendship and sore feet. I look forward to next year’s hike. Jeff, where are we going?