August 6, 2011

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Hiker report to North Cascades National Park rangers re the Holden Village to Agnes Creek (Stehekin Rd.)portion:
Patchy snow after leaving Holden, route finding needed to cross both Cloudy and Suiattle passes, solid snow at, and above Upper Lyman Lake, solid snow in the basin above Hemlock Camp, then snow free(!) down to Agnes Creek and the Stehekin Rd. at High Bridge. Then from High Bridge north – northeast to Bridge Creek and out the last 12 miles to Hwy 20, snowfree, cleared and logged out, easy going, with lovely wildflowers right now. Numerous bears active, so PLEASE hang food!

August 3, 2011

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On August 1st I was going to check to see if the trail was clear of snow. From I-90 to the Kendall Katwalk, about 6 miles, I saw 26 downed trees that the Forest Service had recently cleared in the first two miles of the Trail. It looked like they blasted two of them.

After entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness I counted 43 downed trees blocking the trail and almost all of them I could either step over or crawl under. Not these big guys. There were two large clusters or log jams of downed trees blocking the trail about 6 miles in on the trail in the Wilderness area.

I ran into occasional snow patches on my way to the Kendall Katwalk but nothing that needed my ice axe to traverse.

After reaching the Kendall Katwalk, the trail was buried under 2 to 5 feet of snow. I could see the impressions of where Gravel Lake and Ridge Lakes were, but they were also buried in snow. I used my ice axe in the steeper areas on my way to these buried lakes, but trekking poles would be OK if you stayed in the step impressions.

Looking across at the traverse toward Needle Sight Gap, I could see that the trail was free of snow except for a couple of small snowfields. I returned to the I-90 after hiking about 9 miles in.

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July 29th to August 2nd hiked White Pass to Chinook Pass. Hit snow at Sand Lk. and lost trail found it off and on until Cramer Pass. No markers, no tags but lots of cut logs. Blow downs cut only a few miles in but no huge blow downs to speak of that caused big problems. Camped at Pipe Lake and ate with the bugs.

Next day made hard 10+ miles over snow choked wilderness. We had only map, compass and altimeter. Got to Panther Creek/Red Rx pass tired. No need for crampons, but ax is comforting. Snow mostly soft except in morning, of course and under trees (lots of trees!) Recommend getting Cougar Lake topo. White out conditions morning of July 30th clearing somewhat in late morning. I recommend using the Nat’l Park/Nat’l Forest boundary markers to track as the trail runs alongside or crosses at points.
We spent a lot of time trying to find the trail when going overland heading for known points worked best. No problem with water. One creek crossing was tricky, but Bumping River had a great log just upstream from the trail.

Lucky enough to find dry camps each night, but no other humans except on the first day. Maybe one bear scat, lots of elk and deer. Very few little critters. We did a lot of traversing some steep slopes, but we’ve seen worse. The last mile or so from Chinook was the most dangerous as the run out was very bad on the northeast slope leading to the road and the now destroyed bridge over 410. We did have tracks from Dewey Lk. which was very wet.

The whole NW is like some huge ice cube melting very slowly, snow very compact and nights are colder than usual. Experienced off trail backcountry navigation skills a must. Not sure how much more time gained by a GPS as moving on snow is slow going and the trail can lead you to some pretty hairy exposed spots. Ice ax, poles, gaiters and visual. Remember too that there is some discrepancies on elevations given on the various maps and quides available. Compass work a must. Actually if you weren’t worried about being on the trail and the tiredness factor it is a great exercise in backcountry work and did I mention it was beautiful, serene quiet splendor the whole way!!

July 31, 2011

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On 7/30/2011, I attempted to hike from Steven’s Pass to Snoqualmie Pass. I spent the first hour of the trip looking for the trail head. Found the registration booth on the North side of the highway when the trail I wanted was on the South side. Once on trail, crested the first major ridge and headed down the backside still in the ski area. Snow was minimal.

Part way down the back side and heading east, I checked my map, I then double checked my GPS. Both my map and GPS had the trail almost half a mile to the South of me. Neither showed the trail I was on to exist. I then hiked back up to the ridge and headed South only to not find the trail (there is something there that has rocks that make a path, but it isn’t the trail), just dirt roads under the power lines which weren’t on the maps. I spent 2.5 hours searching for the trail under the power lines. Once I found it, again my map and my GPS had the trail some 200 feet away from my location.

I followed the trail through the woods and it turned into a snow field. All snow and trees. It would have been perfect for snow shoeing. So, I chose to turn around.

Following the trail out, I found it on the North side of the power lines. It had the first sign on trail that I’d seen that day. Following it up to the top of the ridge (where the chair lifts are at for Steven’s) I discovered this was the first trail I was on earlier when my map and my GPS told me the trail was half a mile to the South of me.

My GPS is very accurate in telling me my location, just the map on the GPS was incorrect. My paper map I was using, I’d downloaded and printed that day from the PCTA website. [Editors note: The PCTA website does not have maps to download and print. Not sure what is being referred to here.]

General opinion about hiking the trail right now, wait 2-3 weeks. Trail isn’t well marked, my maps were incorrect, but the biggest issue is there is too much snow. So, much that it is a guessing game when hiking out there.

Within the first mile of the trip I’d passed ~12 hikers in different groups coming down. They’d all said they’d gone to Lake Josephine, none of them had heard of Lake Susan Jane. My guess is, they all wen’t to Susan Jane thinking it was Josephine. Any case, they all stated the same, past the lake was all snow and boulders.

July 25, 2011

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7/15/11 to 7/20/11 My girlfriend and I hiked from Bridge of the Gods to Road 60. The trail was nearly perfect. The trail has been recently maintained with only a few blowdowns left to cross. However, we also attempted to enter the Indian Heavens at road 60. Not the best idea. Immediately the trail went from snow patches to 3 to +5 feet of complete snow coverage. We managed to hike to Green Lake, but decided it was best to turn around. If you plan on doing this section be prepared for the snow, but most importantly bring maps, compass, and GPS. The trail really isn’t marked well enough to follow in the deep snow. In addition, we met a few other hikers who also stopped at Rd 60 and they said that the Stabler’s Store off Wind River Road is now closed, but the neighbors were holding all the mailed packages.

July 22, 2011

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On July 18 2011, I did an overnight on a trail that links up with the PCT about ten miles south of Stevens Pass. I was heading south on the Surpirse Creek Trail which intersectes with the PCT at Surprise Lake. At Surprise and Glacier Lakes there is still 5-6 ft of snow and possible even more at Piepers Pass. Looks like another 2 weeks untill this section will be melted out enough to find patchy sections of trail. I thought the PCTers coming from the south could use an update considering they may have a challenging summer coming upon them as they make their way north. Good luck to you all.

July 20, 2011

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The Glacier Peak area is still holding significant snow pack. Sections of the trail above 4,000′ should be expected to have steep snow slopes and route finding challanges. Higher passes will probably be holding significant snow into late August.

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7/16/2011 Hiked from Cascade Locks (2155 mi NB) to Rd#23 (2240 mi NB) Hitched out to Trout Lake. Snow cover still heavy above 4,500ft within trees. Did not attempt trail beyond Rd#23 since elevation increases sharply to approximately 6,000 ft and heavy snow completely covers the trail.