Forum Index > Trip Reports > Kelcema Lake/Deer Creek Pass/Helena Mine Trail
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whitebark
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PostWed Aug 07, 2019 2:40 pm 
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I don't know where the Forest Service found the money to do it, but the Deer Creek Road has been repaired, and it is possible to drive all the way to the Kelcema Lake traihead.  That said, the new road bed dips steeply through the landslide site, and it soon may become hard for small, wimpy cars to get through the loose gravel and rock at the bottom of the dip. I can't believe that  they are going to leave the repaired section like that.

Nothing has been done to improve the final mile to the trailhead either, so I had to dodge rocks and scratchy branches to get to the trailhead. But my  little hatchback car made it in the end.

After parking, I headed onto the historic Deer Creek Pass trail to check it out. This trail has not been officially maintained in a long time, but volunteers have cut logs and brush to keep the trail passable. The pass area has some nice old growth forest, but little in the way of views. If you follow the trail a little ways down the Clear Creek side, you will arrive at an area with limited views out to Three Fingers and Liberty Mountain. Beyond that point, the tread is totally lost in brush.

Next I checked out the old Helena Mines trail, which begins at the pass. There is no sign marking its start - just look for a gap in the shrubbery and turn right. Though the trail is rough and brushy, and its tread collapsed to practically nothing in many places, I managed to follow it all the way to the big talus slope where there is a nice view. This spot is a good destination for a shorter hike, although somewhat spoiled by an overabundance of black flies. It appeared that the route was getting some use, despite the poor condition of the trail. I did some brush clipping along the way,  which will help future hikers.

Next time I come here, I'll try to make it all the way to the mine site.
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Chief Joseph
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PostWed Aug 07, 2019 3:18 pm 
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Yes, I am surprised that they repaired the road and I doubt they will leave that  dip-low spot of which you referenced. On the last section I hit a pretty large rock with my low clearance Toyota Celica, but no apparent damage was done. We spent the day rafting fishing in Kelcema lake and spent the night. 


Bugs were strangely non existent except for the small biting flies. The fishing was also sub par, likely due to the lack of bugs. Glad they repaired the road but I will avoid the place like the plague on weekends.

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Go placidly amid the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
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Jeff
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PostWed Aug 07, 2019 3:44 pm 
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Yay! Maybe I can ski it now without having to walk the washout! As long as the creek crossing is filled with enough snow of course.
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Backpacker Joe
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PostWed Aug 07, 2019 3:53 pm 
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Pictures pictures ppppiiiiiiiiiccccccccccccctttttttuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeesssssssss.

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"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

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fourteen410
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PostWed Aug 07, 2019 4:23 pm 
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Good to know about the road to Kelcema - last I heard, it was supposed to be some time before the FS fixed it.

I know the person who posts as "CP" on WTA did some work on the trail last year. Thanks for helping out  up.gif
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whitebark
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PostFri Sep 20, 2019 11:12 am 
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Returned on the 19th to clear brush on the Helena Mines trail past the talus slope. I didn't get all the way to the mine area that day, but I got pretty close.  Per Backpack Joe's request, here is a pic from the talus slope, which has a nice view of Three Fingers:


The miners created a rough trail across the talus by piling rocks into the cracks and crevices, creating a slightly smoother path.
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Sculpin
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PostSat Sep 21, 2019 7:20 am 
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Missed the report that came out in August, was starting a six day backpack that day.

I can't believe the road was re-opened!   breakdance.gif

All three of the washouts were very impressive, and it seemed the ridge to the east was just too steep to have a road at its base.  Of course, a giant yellow machine that can pick up rocks the size of cars could clear a route across the first two washouts in a day or two.  The blown-out bridge across Deer Creek was another story, that one had a massive concrete apron to protect it, until a big tree (I presume) blocked the culvert and the apron was undercut.  I'm thinking no bridge will go in there and it will be re-graded every year.

I followed the original Whitebark post on the Helena Mines and was able to stay on the trail all the way to the mines.  That was after starting below the first washout.  The view from the mine site is very good, with views of the backsides of lots of craggy peaks that are rarely seen.  And there are hardly any other trails in the area.  I am considering going back with a shovel and loppers.

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Even my best friends, they don't know, that my job is turning lead into gold. When you hear that engine drone, I'm on the road again, and I'm searching for the philosopher's stone - Van Morrison
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whitebark
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PostSat Sep 21, 2019 1:42 pm 
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Bring a nice sharp pick mattock  to repair the tread and a huge chainsaw, too smile.gif
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Jimbo
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PostTue Sep 24, 2019 10:37 am 
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Out standing news, looks like we will do a fall return trip #4. That pass trail I tried to help years ago and flagged it to the other side when it pops out on a road. I'm sure all that has been stripped by snow.

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Sculpin
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PostWed Sep 25, 2019 7:09 am 
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Jimbo wrote:
That pass trail I tried to help years ago and flagged it to the other side when it pops out on a road.

I tried to follow it down a ways.   frown.gif

Just past where the mine trail takes off at the pass, there is a lot of really large deadfall piled up like matchsticks in a swampy area.  It was absolutely the worst Cascade terrain for travel.  Clambering up and down through thick brush, I made it about 100 feet in the first ten minutes and decided that was not how I wanted to spend my day.  It must get better a little farther on, it couldn't get any worse!   shakehead.gif

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Even my best friends, they don't know, that my job is turning lead into gold. When you hear that engine drone, I'm on the road again, and I'm searching for the philosopher's stone - Van Morrison
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Jimbo
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PostWed Sep 25, 2019 9:18 am 
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I have a post ono that trip here some place. From memory, There was a huge pile up of dead fall. I had to drop down left and around and through. Was about to bail out but pushed on. And back up to find the trail. Then it was OK to the road bed. Good thing I flagged it so I could get out. I bet now it's a patch of Hell.

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