July 24-26, 2017
Distance: 19.5 mi (31.4 km)
Elevation Gain: 3018 ft (920 m)
Highest Point: 9078 ft (2767 m)
After Lake Solitude on Tuesday, we headed back down the canyon toward the fork. Our mission was to locate a tributary of Cascade Creek that originated from a rock glacier.
We only got a few miles down the canyon when we got hit by a storm. We were prepared for rain, so it wasn’t too big of a problem to get sprinkled on a bit. But the weather took a pretty sharp turn and it started pouring. So, change of plans…
Madelyn and I took shelter at a ranger station directly off the trail and, by coincidence, at the mouth of the tributary. We dried off, ate lunch, and waited out the storm. When the rain finally slowed, we headed back out to climb uphill. We bushwhacked for a quarter mile or so, following the stream up through some pretty steep terrain. By this point, it was about 5pm, so we had about 4 more hours of daylight to make it up the mountain and back down.
But, the heavy rains had weakened the topsoil quite a bit – there were places where boulders were sliding downhill and trees were loosening their holds on the ground. (This was also partly due to the heavier than average snow this year, which meant heavier than average melt coming down the mountain.)
To make matters worse the tributary, which was usually a trickling stream, was rushing down the mountain in rapids, taking plants and large chunks of soil with it. So, after careful consideration, we turned back and decided the uphill route wasn’t safe to navigate this time around. And it turned out to be the right decision because it started storming again about an hour later – a point at which we would have struggled with the decision to go further up the mountain or come back down.
When we reached the trail, we headed to the fork and then took the south route to camp. It was raining lightly on and off during the hike up and the clouds hung precariously above us, but it was mostly a nice walk.
There were a few…unsettling…bridges.
Maybe even worse than that…I think the second one without the handrail was particularly treacherous. But, hey. We didn’t fall into the rapids, so yeah.
And if the crossing doesn’t look that bad, maybe it isn’t. But I didn’t really want to join the debris flowing down the river, so we didn’t mess around.
About a mile and a half in, we started seeing signs for campsites. The first site was occupied, so we moved on to the next group. When we arrived, the site was completely covered in debris, so we moved on even further. The third site was closed for rehabilitation, so we skipped that one. Finally, we set up at the fourth site just before the storm made its way toward us.
We set up the tent with the rain fly and secured it with boulders, just in case we got heavy wind. Since we’d had a little rain the night before (nothing great, just a sprinkle), our tent and sleeping bags weren’t completely dry – luck wasn’t really on our side for those few hours.
We slept soundly, regardless of the rain, and woke up the next morning at sunlight. We packed up and decided it was best to make it back down the canyon as quickly as possible – the weather was looking worse and worse as the hours progressed.
So, we pretty much ran…
With 30-40 pound bags, hiking poles, and little energy, we booked it down that mountain in record time. When we made it down, a storm overtook the entire range, so I guess we had a little luck saved up for the final hour.