Forum Index > Trip Reports > LaCrosse Basin via Fisher's Notch, 08-25 to 08-28-08 (Olys)
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Ancient Ambler
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 3:43 pm 
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Any way you cut it, it's a long way in to LaCrosse Basin, but it is one of the most scenic areas of the Olympics, as demonstrated in the photo of Hart Lake and Mount Duckabush gracing the cover of the third edition of Wood's Olympic Mountains Trail Guide.  So with my son in town from the far north for enough days to get to LaCrosse and back, decided to head in there via the Dosewallips, Anderson Pass, O'Neill Pass trails, except taking the short cut over Fisher's Notch where the O'Neill Pass trail crosses White Creek.

Having been rained out of the Cascades the week before by an intense storm on a hike with my daughter, I kept a close watch on the weather forecasts.  While the weather was not looking ideal, at least partly sunny skies were forecast for Tuesday.  Some rain was possible Wednesday, but as of early Monday morning when we left, it did not sound like  strong weather systems were aimed at the Olympics during the days we would be there.

Hadn't been up the Dose since the road washout and found the 5.5 mile road walk to be not as annoying as I had feared.  (btw, it's pronounced doe-see, for those not familiar with that).  There are definitely places where the forest is closing in on the road and it has more of the feeling of a trail.  Pounded out the approximately 14 miles to Honeymoon Meadows, appreciating the excellent work done by an ONP trail crew who had their camp site at Diamond Meadows.  Lots of avalanche jackstrawed trees cut away from the trail, lots of rock placement and trail bed restoration, plus a big bonus was extensive removal of brush along the trail so it was possible to proceed without brush transferring gallons of beaded water onto your clothing.  Skies were generally gray, and the rain started about the time we reached Honeymoon Meadows camp, in the trees on the south side of the West Fork of the Dose, whereas the actual meadow in on the north side of the river.  We were the only ones there at first, and were able to get one of the few tent sites that wouldn't turn into a mud puddle in a heavy rain.  A couple arrived later.

Tuesday August 26 broke clear and cold, giving us hope that the weather forecast for decent weather that day would hold.  We did the easy, calf-deep ford of the West Fork.

ford across the West Fork at Honeymoon Meadows
ford across the West Fork at Honeymoon Meadows

Just past the ford, there are a bunch of trees jackstrawed by what must have been some tremendous avalanches last winter that raced down from the slopes of Mt. Anderson.  Out in the meadow itself, you could see big trees sheared off high above the ground on the slopes to the N and NW of the meadows, and it is clear that the avalanched raced down all the way across the river and a fair distance up the SE slope of the valley, knocking trees down and leaving big piles of debris covered snow still there in late August at only 3500 feet elevation.  The trail crews had cleared the way through the mess.  Out in the meadow, we were surprised to find frost on the plants.  It didn't get any warmer by the time we reached aptly named Camp Siberia.  No hikers were taking refuge there.

Camp Siberia
Camp Siberia

Uphill from Camp Siberia, it was evident the skies were not going to be clear, although there were nice displays of late wildflowers on the meadows below Anderson Pass.  I'm speculating that the cool air flowing down from Mt. Anderson creates a microclimate here that fosters late blooiming flowers, but that may be mistaken.

on the trail uphill from Camp Siberia
on the trail uphill from Camp Siberia
late wild flowers, meadows uphill from Camp Siberia
late wild flowers, meadows uphill from Camp Siberia
Anderson Pass trail signs
Anderson Pass trail signs

Heading down the west side of Anderson Pass, we got a glimpse of Fisher's Notch, our prospective route into LaCrosse Basin.  According to Wood, it is named after one of the members of the O'Neill Expedition, and Wood correctly warns that it is appropriate for expierenced mountaineers. I understand that it is also called Ranger Pass, as ONP rangers use it on occasion.

View of Fisher's Notch from west side of Anderson Pass
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View of Fisher's Notch from west side of Anderson Pass

Also on the west side of Anderson Pass, we got some nice views of the waterfall down from Anderson, but the higher peaks all around were shrouded in clouds.  I had hoped to get some good views over toward the Burke Range but they were totally socked in too.

waterfall off of Anderson, from west side of Anderson Pass
waterfall off of Anderson, from west side of Anderson Pass
waterfall off of Anderson
waterfall off of Anderson

We met and talked briefly with a solo hiker at the intersection of the Enchanted Valley trail and the O'Neill Pass trail, then headed up the O'Neill Pass trail, regaining elevation we had dropped coming down Anderson Pass.  We soon neared White Creek meadows and got a zoom photo of Fisher's Notch.

nearing White Creek meadows
nearing White Creek meadows
zoom shot of Fisher's Notch from White Creek meadows
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zoom shot of Fisher's Notch from White Creek meadows

We crossed White Creek, and about 20 yards past that crossing, found the open slope we would follow up toward Fisher's Notch.

son crossing White Creek
son crossing White Creek
peaks west of White Mountain
peaks west of White Mountain
route up toward Fisher's Notch past White Creek
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route up toward Fisher's Notch past White Creek

The lower portions of this route are not very intimidating, but this is not a route for the inexperienced.  There is basically no boot path to follow.  You need to know alpine routefinding, and you need to be able to travel on hard snow and then on very steep loose scree and loose rock on the final ascent to the Notch.

fisher's notch route topo
fisher's notch route topo
nearing upper basin
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nearing upper basin
upper basin below Fisher's Notch
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upper basin below Fisher's Notch

As we ascended the Notch, the views got better, although the clouds were thickening.  With full packs, it was a real grind going up to the Notch, and there were so many loose rocks in the final couple of hundred yards that it was important to have horizontal separation to avoid rolling rocks.

Anderson socked in, Diamond Peak in background
Anderson socked in, Diamond Peak in background
Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak
Anderson Pass from route up Fisher's Notch
Anderson Pass from route up Fisher's Notch
View N from Fisher's Notch, weather socking in
View N from Fisher's Notch, weather socking in

From the Notch itself, there were fine views down to White Creek meadow and spectacular views into LaCrosse Basin.

View N toward White Creek Meadow from top of Fisher's Notch
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View N toward White Creek Meadow from top of Fisher's Notch
LaCrosse Basin and Lake LaCrosse from Fisher's Notch
LaCrosse Basin and Lake LaCrosse from Fisher's Notch
Tarn NW of Lake LaCrosse
Tarn NW of Lake LaCrosse

The wind was picking up and it was cold.  We soon started the descent toward Lake LaCrosse.

LaCrosse basin heading down from Fisher's Notch
LaCrosse basin heading down from Fisher's Notch
Mount Duckabush
Mount Duckabush
Lake LaCrosse looking north
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Lake LaCrosse looking north

Our goal was Hart Lake, not too far south of Lake LaCrosse, and on our way there heading south on the trail we were surprised to see a large black bear walking northbound and parallel to us, about 40 feet west of the trail.  Thankfully, the big guy just glanced at us a couple of times and kept on moving north.

Bear ignoring us
Bear ignoring us
Bear about 40 feet away northbound
Bear about 40 feet away northbound
Bear travelling north while we're heading south
Bear travelling north while we're heading south

We continued south across the basin, looking back on occasion for some unfathomable reason, and soon reached the turnoff to Hart Lake.
Looking N toward Lake LaCrosse and Fisher's Notch
Looking N toward Lake LaCrosse and Fisher's Notch
Nearing turnoff to Hart Lake
Nearing turnoff to Hart Lake

We found Hart Lake to be a very beautiful spot, but it definitely was not blessed with the blue skies Wood captured on the cover photo of his book.  It was evident bad weather was on its way in.

Son at Hart Lake
Son at Hart Lake
Hart Lake
Hart Lake
Hart Lake, Mt. Duckabush
Hart Lake, Mt. Duckabush
Hart Lake
Hart Lake

There was one couple already at the lake when we got there, and they soon came over and talked with us about their experience coming in to Hart Lake via the O'Neil Pass trail the same day.  They had run into 25 bears during the day, with many close encounters of big black bears very close to the trail.  As we spoke, the wife pointed out a couple more black bears descending steep slopes on the west side of the lake.  We watched as they clambered down the slope, nearing the lake, then split up, with one bear heading south and the other north.  It would have been fun to just sit there watching, but I didn't like the looks of the clouds and figured we better get out tent set up and dinner out of the way.

By 6 PM on Tuesday August 26, it was raining.  It was cold and got colder, and it didn't stop raining all night.  The wind came up, and all during the night the tent was pounded by powerful gusts.  It was still raining and blowing at 8AM, but by 9 the rain had stopped.  It was still windy, but we were in the clouds and couldn't see far at all.  We had made it through the night fine although without the soundest sleep, and our sleeping bags and clothing were still dry, so we had no hypothermia issues.  However, given that we were about 27 miles by regular trail from where the car was and there was no way of knowing what the weather was going to throw at us next, I didn't see any percentage in staying in LaCrosse Basin.  With all the rain overnight, there was no way I would exit via Fisher's Notch, but the  Hart Lake way trail offered a decent exit option.  I went over to the other couple at the lake to see how they'd done, and they also were fine.  We decided to head out via the Hart Lake way trail as a group of four.

The Hart Lake way trail leaves the northeast side of Hart Lake and is easily followed uphill from there to the ridge crest, although there are a couple of spots where some routefinding skill helps.  From the top of the ridge it plunges down the steep slopes toward the O'Neill Pass trail, crossing some residual snow at one point.  Vegetation belays come in handy on occasion.  Nearing the O'Neill Pass trail, the slope gentles and ground becomes marshy, obscuring the way trail; the way trail is very difficult to see from the O'Neill Pass trail because of this.  Someone has placed a small cairn at the spot where the Hart Lake way trail intersects with the O'Neill Pass trail, but it would still be easy to miss from the O'Neill Pass trail.  Here's a topo image of the approximate trail location, plus a photo taken before the storm hit to show approximately where the Hart Lake way trail goes.

hart lake way trail topo
hart lake way trail topo
Hart Lake looking NW
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Hart Lake looking NW

We hiked together with the couple out to White Creek, coming across a couple more black bears along the way.  One was on the trail, scooted offtrail about 10 feet, then rose on his hind legs and looked at us over some brush about 30 feet away, before before moving another 15 feet or so off trail.  If you want to see black bears up close, LaCrosse Basin is the place, at least for now.  I had buried my camera in plastic bags inside my pack against the rain, so got no more photos till we were farther along on our way out.

My son and I left the couple at White Creek and proceeded over Anderson Pass again, past Camp Siberia and Honeymoon Meadows and on down to the Diamond Meadows where fires are allowed.  We got a big hot one going and warmed up before hitting the tent again.  There was more rain overnight, but just a few sprinkles.  We left around 8:30 on Thursday, August 28, and made it to the Dose high bridge before taking a break.

bridge over the West Fork
bridge over the West Fork
taking a break on the way out
taking a break on the way out

Not too much later we passed now dormant Dose Ranger Station and campground.

Dose ranger station
Dose ranger station
languishing Dose campground
languishing Dose campground

Lack of access for road maintenance is slowly destroying the Dose Road at the steep hill next to the cascades, where a lot of road bed has dropped away.
Dose road erosion near the cascades
Dose road erosion near the cascades

We passed the Constance Lake TH.

start of Constance Lake trail
start of Constance Lake trail

Not long after that we ran into nwhiker HJT and spent a pleasant few minutes chatting.  He was on his way up to Lake Constance for a traverse through Avalanche Valley over toward Warrior, down to the trail and on over Marmot Pass with his dad, who would be arriving the next day.  Looking today at the very nasty mountain weather forecast for the weekend, I hope he and his dad have a safe and enjoyable time up there.

Further down the closed road, we went by signs indicative of the recreational assets that are precluded from the general public by the road closure.

Sign near Elkhorn camp
Sign near Elkhorn camp
deteriorating Forest Service sign
deteriorating Forest Service sign

We finally reached the last uphill section of our journey, the "up and over" trail that bypasses the Dose road washout itself.  Arrived back at the car around 1:15, completing a very satifying adventure with my son in the Olympics.

Final uphill on the "up and over" trail near road end
Final uphill on the "up and over" trail near road end
Dose road washout
Dose road washout
Trail's end, or beginning
Trail's end, or beginning
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Dayhike Mike
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 4:07 pm 
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up.gif up.gif Nice trip...

I've also looked at the pass NNE of Buck Lake and wondered if it was a passable route to get over from the White Creek drainage.

Anyone know if it goes? Sure looks doable on the Topo...

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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 4:59 pm 
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Fantastic trip, report, and pics!  Well done!  up.gif
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goats gone wild
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 5:01 pm 
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Great TR, AA.   up.gif  up.gif  up.gif  This is the first time Fisher's Notch has  been included in a TR (to my knowledge.)  Good job providing the beta.   up.gif  Did you carry an ice axe, or feel one was needed?

Have you been to LaCrosse Basin before?  And were you just looking to take a new route and do some exploring with your son?  Sounds like a great way to spend some time together.

Gosh, I think I have more questions but don't want to inundate you with them all at once.   lol.gif  I am curious to see if anyone knows the answer to DHM question.  We wondered the same thing when we were last at LaCrosse.

I imagine you boys enjoyed your fire at Diamond Meadows after all that rain.   campfire.gif  hockeygrin.gif

Good you ran into HJT, too.  He was going to do his trip solo and then his dad offered to meet up with him.  I was thinking his dad must be in great shape to do the route HJT had planned out.  KUDOs for that!

Thanks again for the great TR.   up.gif  up.gif

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.....leaving me wanting to return over and over in what ever capacity that may be, even if one day my knees are too old and I can only see the mountains from my porch.

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bobbi
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 7:12 pm 
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what a summer for you, AA. up.gif

hiking with your daughter, then your son.   biggrin.gif

that was some nasty rain tuesday evening.

my buddies and i hiked the heather park trail to lake angeles trail then out on tuesday.  great 12+ mile loop. TR  we got to the parking lot, the sprinkles started, then by evening, downpour! shakehead.gif

i can only imagine what you and your son had to endure that evening of wind and rain.  glad to hear that your tent/sleeping bags survived, too. agree.gif

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Flower Sniffer
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 8:04 pm 
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What a wild week!  We saw 26 bears, 50 elk, hawks, chipmunks, squirrels, black beetles, frogs, fish, and these guys....


winksmile.gif

It was a pleasure meeting you and your son Ancient Ambler!  We'd be happy to hike with you anytime.  What an amazing trip.   We finally saw our elk in the woods along the Quinault.  There were about 50 of them laying about 50 feet off the trail.  They were so beautiful!  Anyway, glad to see you made it home safely.


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If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
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Bloated Chipmunk
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 8:26 pm 
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Flower Sniffer wrote:
We saw 26 bears,

WTF?!  confused.gif That's crazy!  Lucky you.  Now I know where to go to see lots-o-wildlife... up.gif

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ScottM
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 9:13 pm 
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Ancient Ambler, I always look for your trip reports because they do not disappoint.  Too bad about the weather but it looks like you had a decent trip anyway.  Can you believe it's August.  Lost power in Port Angeles today.  A tree blew over and took out a power line.
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bobbi
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PostFri Aug 29, 2008 9:18 pm 
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so that's what happened as i am in port angeles, too!  thanks for the info, ScottM!

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Ancient Ambler
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PostSat Aug 30, 2008 12:26 pm 
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Thanks for the kind comments, all.  Have been away from the computer since submitting the TR yesterday.

DHM:  I was hoping for good weather in LaCrosse Basin on Wedenesday so we could go up to Buck Lake and then on to the smaller Pocket Lake above Buck and climb White Mountain to scope out the high traverse  over to LaCrosse pass.  Route 3 in the Climbers Guide has one drop down from Pocket Lake to the north side of the small glacier and then head east from there up to the summit of White.  It's rated as class 2 up to White using this route.  I don't see why a person couldn't ascend up the White Creek drainage to the notch just above Pocket Lake and then head in that way, but clouds veiled this area when we were ascending Fisher's Notch, so I can't be sure.  You should be able to get an idea about the lower portions of your desired route from the following photos:

view toward headwaters of White Creek
view toward headwaters of White Creek
White Mountain from route up Fisher's Notch
White Mountain from route up Fisher's Notch

Goats:  I had not been to LaCrosse Basin before, I'm sorry to say.  I'd had other priorities for the number of days away that it takes to get there, but having been there, I'll be going back.  The Fisher's Notch route was intriguiging, and I really wanted to get up to Buck Lake and Pocket Lake as well and scope out the feasibility of later doing a high traverse from LaCrosse Basin over to LaCrosse Pass.  I'll have to scope that out some other time.  We did bring ice axes and used them.  There was still some very hard, slippery snow to cross before getting to the scree and rock slope up Fisher's Notch.  A fall and slide on the snow would put you into the rocks below, as this photo, looking down from the the scree/rock slope shows:

snow slope below Fisher's Notch
snow slope below Fisher's Notch

Shacknasty Jim:  Sounds like we share an appreciation for Robert Wood.  I bought his Trail Country book on the Olympics when it came out in 1968 and spent many winter hours reading it and dreaming of summer hikes in the Olympics back then.  It was very enjoyable to hike with my son into an area Wood appreciated so much.

bc:  Yes, I've been very fortunate this summer to be able to go out hiking with my kids when they've come back from their distant homes.  I'm lucky they've been willing to spend as much time as they have with their "old" man.

Flower Sniffer:  Who knew you guys were in nwhikers?  I should have guessed, because it's pretty obvious nwhikers has got the best areas in the mountains covered.  We very much enjoyed meeting the two of you and hiking out from LaCrosse Basin with you.  Thanks for taking and posting the picture of us; my son and I will treasure it.  We'd certainly be happy to hike with you again.

ScottM:  The August weather has been troublesome, but at least we've been able to get out.  I'm hoping we'll have a great September for some late summer hikes; maybe you'll be able to get up to Muncaster then.

Bloated Chipmunk:  Give the Olympics a try if you want to see bears.  People see a lot of bears in the Enchanted Valley earlier in the summer.  The berries are out in the high country (although not as ripe as usual), and I think the bears that are down in the Enchanted Valley earlier in the summer have now moved high onto to slopes above Enchanted Valley and into LaCrosse Basin to put on fat for winter.
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reststep
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PostSat Aug 30, 2008 4:10 pm 
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I really enoyed your report AA.

Edit: and thanks for the pictures of Fisher's Notch.  That sure would be a much shorter route than taking the trail that winds around on the side of the ridge.

That wind tuesday night must have been state wide.  We were camped in the Enchantments that night and the wind was going through there like a freight train all night and the next day.  I was not sure the tent was going to survive but it did.

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"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
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Mark Griffith
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PostSun Aug 31, 2008 10:39 pm 
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Great trip report!  Ever since seeing photos of that region its been "on my list", thanks for the great info on some additional ways in and out of the region.
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rpgoldsmith
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PostFri Oct 10, 2008 11:20 am 
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Did this in early Sept.  I hadn't seen your post.  Glorious weather, but small wildlife (I bear close up, 1 elk bugler)  Will post pix when I get free time
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Pliny
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PostSat Apr 01, 2017 11:39 am 
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A couple of us old guys (very experienced, but getting older and slower) are planning a trip up the Dose and out the Duck and doing the Fisher's Notch in the process.  Thanks for you pictures and description. This sort of thing makes the internet valuable.  One of the few things I think sometimes.   Pliny
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RodF
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PostSat Apr 01, 2017 1:56 pm 
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Pliny, be aware the Duckabush Trail has not been cleared since 2014 and has three winters accumulation of windfall trees down across it.   Park Trail Conditions reports "90 trees down between Ten-Mile Camp and Upper Duckabush, 10/26/16".  The total number of windfall above the Park boundary is likely double that number or more.  This will make it slow going.

A cluster of windfall just below 5 Mile Camp blocked stock access for the past two years, so Park trail crews were unable to get into the Duck.  USFS finally cleared this cluster late last fall.  Hopefully the Park may be able to clear the Duck sometime in the 2017 work season.

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"of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" - John Muir
"the wild is not the opposite of cultivated.  It is the opposite of the captivated” - Vandana Shiva
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