August 29, 2016, Mile 2607: Over the First Passes

At Brush Creek, mile 2607

Today’s goal was Brush Creek 2607. This was part of our Scout troop’s 2010 backpacking trip; the uphill section will be tomorrow.

Just 1.5 miles up the trail from my campsite was Cutthroat Pass 2594. The views were stunning, and I had more Ansel Adams moments. Wow!

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From there, it’s a 2.5 mile traverse across steep slopes, hundreds or more feet high, to Granite Pass 2596. This is pretty typical for the North Cascades, and slumped portions made me a titch nervous. But I met a USFS crew out working on the trail, and as I found out later, a North 350 Blades crew had just completed a full week on this section. The North 350 Blades are one of a handful of volunteer trail maintenance groups, and they have my undying gratitude.

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It’s near impossible to see the trail on the traverse, even after the work parties had been through. This is why trail maintenance is critical

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During the descent from Cutthroat to Granite, my right shin started hurting. I had been using a short step, to prevent skids on the scree (small rocks), but I think I tweaked something in the process. It’s mostly sore on the downhills, with the uphills being fine. I popped some Vitamin I, and I’ll have to watch it as I continue.

The trail continued on, but it was no longer as steep. It wound around a ridge and landed in the trees again.

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Just after Methow Pass, I hit mile 2600! As I’ve mentioned, hikers will often mark big milestones on the trail. Sure enough, there was a 2600 scratched into the dirt. Getting close!

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And speaking of trail crews, there has been a *lot* of work in Section L. In June, there was a work crew logging out just north of Rainy Pass. In just half a mile, a volunteer crew from North 350 Blades cleared 41 blowdowns. And north of that, they could walk from log to log to log, without ever touching the ground. I encounter their work every day, and I am incredibly grateful.

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There was lots of overgrowth in the Brush Creek area…go figure. I reached the campsite around six, and over the next couple of hours probably ten hikers showed up. They ended up camping in tight quarters, slinging hammocks wherever, and just plain throwing down tents. I had a decent tent site, but there was only one barely flat spot.

The other hikers were headed in both directions. I talked with one who was flipping: jumping ahead to a section with the plan of hiking back to the jumpoff point. As a Washingtonian who is passing familiar with the weather and terrain around here, I tell flippers that they’re really doing a wise thing. Unless you’ve got a relatively quick pace, you won’t reach Washington before September. And we’ve had nasty storms as early as mid-month. Case in point: in 2013, we had a storm with 6-ish feet of snow in the third week. But if a hiker is in, say, Northern California, and then they jump north to the border and go south, they skip that risk. When I talk with flippers about that, they look almost relieved, as if they feel like they have been cheating. Not a chance, in my (not so) humble opinion.

 

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