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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14140 | TRs

Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostTue May 26, 2009 8:38 pm 
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I'm overly-nostalgic and I tried to check the purple prose.

Check out WTA’s trip report for Chewuch River, and you’ll see my (Kim & Sarah’s) Memorial weekend trip to the Chewuch on May 26, 2001.  By the time of the next trip report of the Chewuch in July 2002, over 9,000 acres of this forest had burned in a fire orinated at an unattended campfire, and 4 fire fighters had died.
Chewuch River 30 Mile Memorial
Chewuch River 30 Mile Memorial
Chewuch - more gifts at 30 Mile Memorial
Chewuch - more gifts at 30 Mile Memorial
Chewuch - gift left at 30 Mile Memorial
Chewuch - gift left at 30 Mile Memorial
Chewuch - 30 Mile memorial, flags placed where firefighters died
Chewuch - 30 Mile memorial, flags placed where firefighters died
Cheuwch - 30 Mile gift
Cheuwch - 30 Mile gift

I loved this 2001 trip so much, and loved the color of that river so much that when Sarah and I left that day, I dipped my hand in it and told it, “I’ll be back soon!”  It took 8 years, and the river has gone through some hard times, but I finally made good on my promise this past weekend.   
Chewuch River bridge at trailhead (pre fire it there was a car bridge here to the trailhead)
Chewuch River bridge at trailhead (pre fire it there was a car bridge here to the trailhead)
Chewuch River fried sign at original trailhead
Chewuch River fried sign at original trailhead

This caramel colored river still runs through its groove, frothing in its rush during the high snowmelt season, as it has done for eons. 
Chewuch River photo to show the color of the water
Chewuch River photo to show the color of the water

The surrounding forest in this valley is burned, the rocks cracked by the heat, and ghosts wander the slope near the trailhead.  But the river is still that gorgeous color, it’s still digging its gouge in the topography, and still tumbles and falls down the canyon – basically doing what rivers do, regardless of man’s folly or his disappointment in the loss of vegetation.  The river doesn’t care.
Chewuch River viewpoint
Chewuch River viewpoint

The downed trees have created a type of a dam here and there, and the water ponds into a beautiful clear brown pool.  Birds have returned, buck brush and aspens abound, and an occasional young pine dots the hills.  It’s too early for the bulk of wildflowers – the snow is just recently melted.
Chewuch River slough created by logjam post-fire
Chewuch River slough created by logjam post-fire

I stopped at the big bend in the river where in 2001 Sarah and I marveled at a serviceberry in full bloom, though at the time we didn’t know what it was.   
Chewuch River big bend
Chewuch River big bend

We crossed the Wilderness Boundary – the tree where the sign was once nailed is now a burnt snag, but still standing.  The sign is propped on a large rock next to the trail.
Chewuch River no tree left to hang it
Chewuch River no tree left to hang it

I think I spotted the area where Sarah and I had camped in 2001.  Many trees had survived in that area, and Jim and I stopped to have our lunch in the shade – Jim first wringing out the sandwich that had somehow escaped its baggie and went swimming in the meltwater of the ice chest the evening before.
A hiker wrings out his lunch
A hiker wrings out his lunch

What the fire did was open the views.  The river is visible throughout its journey down the canyon – now a far off sliver of whitewater, now a frothy white and brown turrent, now a glassy calm pool.
Chewuch River view from bridge
Chewuch River view from bridge
Chewuch River trail
Chewuch River trail
Chewuch River snag
Chewuch River snag
Chewuch River ridge and river
Chewuch River ridge and river
Chewuch River canyon from trail
1 label
Chewuch River canyon from trail
Chewuch River I just sorta like this photo
Chewuch River I just sorta like this photo

We heard the falls and felt them in our chests before we saw them.  Wow, what an impressive set of falls!  The water is simply gushing through a deep slot in the rock.  There is one live tree at the base of the falls, and we sat there a long time in awe of the power, and of the color – that amazing color of the Chewuch.
Chewuch River lousy photo of falls - damn sun anyway
Chewuch River lousy photo of falls - damn sun anyway
Chewuch River crashpoint at falls
Chewuch River crashpoint at falls
Chewuch River another lousy photo of falls for your enjoyment
Chewuch River another lousy photo of falls for your enjoyment

There was a cool breeze for us, so the heat was definitely not an issue, though without a breeze, it would be very hot – unlike the Methow River trail and the Needles fire damage and recovery, there’s not a lot of vegetation to absorb the heat of the sun – this one is all rock and sand.

Not too many trees across the trail – it’s been fairly recently logged out, but of course there always will be trees across the trail, so be prepared to hitch up & over or scurry under.

This is a gorgeous hike, and extremely interesting to see the forest recover.

I’ll be back.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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raising3hikers
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PostTue May 26, 2009 8:48 pm 
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Thanks for the TR, it makes me remember one of the guys I knew that died in that fire.  RIP TCraven
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostTue May 26, 2009 8:57 pm 
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His picture is the one at the end in the photo I posted.  The oldest man, at 30; old for a fireman, but if I recall, it was something he always wanted to do, and this was his first summer as  a forest firefighter.

I always thought I'd like to try it for a summer, but I don't like the heat.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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BeyondLost
Crazy Bob



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BeyondLost
Crazy Bob
PostTue May 26, 2009 9:11 pm 
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This place is very special. I still have trouble going there as do many in the valley. One of my sons was a fire fighter in Montana years ago (wildlife biologist now). I was always worried when he was on a fire.
Thanks for the TR.
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Sore Feet
Random Quippy Bit



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
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Sore Feet
Random Quippy Bit
PostTue May 26, 2009 9:31 pm 
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Kimmy, that is the first picture I've ever seen of Chewuch Falls.  I was beginning to think it didn't really exist.  Good on you.  flowers.gif

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Bryan Swan
Pictures - http://www.flickr.com/photos/bryanswan
Waterfalls - www.waterfallsnorthwest.com
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14140 | TRs

Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostTue May 26, 2009 9:40 pm 
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Well, thanks, SF - they're only impressive during runoff; otherwise they're not really a falls I think.  But now the falls really are better than the pics show.  Bigger, prettier.  If I'm not too lazy tomorrow, I'll post a vid of the falls and maybe try to re-tweak those pics I have (I'm not good at photoshop).  JimK got pics and video as well, so maybe his turned out better than mine.

My video is sorta wacky 'cause I forgot to turn the camera off and I have vid of the ground, a burned log, my foot and stupid dialog is in the background.  I think we were discussing why carrots are orange, or some damn unreverent thing. (irreverent?  non reverent? )

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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JimK
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PostTue May 26, 2009 9:41 pm 
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Here is Quark where we climbed down to the middle of the falls. It sits in a deep and narrow chasm.

631_Big
631_Big

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Hiking Northwest
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14140 | TRs

Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostTue May 26, 2009 9:44 pm 
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this pic is the falls in the deep, long chasm.  they look small, but I was a fair distance away when I snapped the photo.

Chewuch River canyon from trail
1 label
Chewuch River canyon from trail

Jim's photo shows better perspective, especially if you know how large my ass is - then you can guesstimate the size of the falls.  (notice he named the photo "Big" huh.gif )

I labled the place where I'm standing in his photo in my photo above (does that make any sense at all?)

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Magellan
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome
PostWed May 27, 2009 11:04 am 
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Thanks Kim.  The day I visited the memorial was quiet.  Very quiet.  Too quiet.  I did not want to be the one to disturb, so my visit was fairly short.  God bless the men and women who put themselves in harms way.
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Traildad
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PostWed May 27, 2009 11:30 am 
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I was in Winthrop awhile back for a big Smokejumper reunion at NCSB and a group went up to the memorial site on a Sunday morning.  It was a sad and solemn visit.
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14140 | TRs

Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostWed May 27, 2009 12:05 pm 
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I remember when this fire and the Libby fire were burning.  It went on and on, and actually was in the Seattle paper each day, which is unusual – the Seattle papers cater more toward the malls, fashion and restaurant type of reader.

When Sarah and I were there that May, we both commented on how dry it was - the wood in our campfire kept burning so quickly that we were exausted trying to continue feeding it, so we gave up and doused it (2 or 3 times, to be sure).

When Washington wildfires appear on the InciWeb, I read the daily reports and try to catch the analysis after it’s done.

There is a lot written about the Thirtymile Fire – I won’t post it here because it was local and too sad – and I feel for the Incident Commander.  The USFS’s official assessment is available.  It takes you minute-by-minute through the fire suppression efforts and analyzes what went wrong or right.

My dad was a fireman downtown Detroit.  Fire is scary; it’s like a live monster.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Traildad
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PostWed May 27, 2009 12:48 pm 
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Nightime on the fireline of a big fire starting to crown is an experience I have never been able to adequately describe.  The energy and power is almost beyond belief.
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Backpackapalooza
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PostThu May 28, 2009 7:18 am 
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A very haunting and beautiful place. We were there in early August last year, hiking up to Cathedral lake. A few pics are here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9751986@N04/sets/72157606581124171/
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yew
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yew
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PostFri May 29, 2009 7:15 pm 
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Thanks for this TR. Good to see the memorial. And some vegetative regrowth.  Our crew was dispatched to this fire 2 days after the fatalities.  We mopped up a few areas south of the site along the road.  Managers did not fight the fire aggressively after the fatalities of course.  Fire camp at 8 Mile Ranch was quite somber.
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JimK
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PostFri May 29, 2009 8:11 pm 
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Third and last installment of our weekend in the Methow area.

All 35 photos area at: Chewuch River Photos


Memorial Day was the third and final day of our Methow Valley trip. I was up at 7:30 and the sun crept over the ridge soon after. Kim and I took our time at breakfast and it was 9:30 by the time we packed up camp and headed up the Chewuch Valley. There is a lot of white water as the river drops rapidly in many places. It has a dark green color unlike most rivers I've seen. Our goal for the day was the Chewuch River Trail at the end of the road. That was ten miles from our camp and thirty miles from Winthrop. The valley was rapidly emptying as folks began to head home from the holiday weekend. We passed many open campsites.

The road remains paved beyond our campsite and only the last half dozen or so miles are gravel. Lake and Andrew Creeks are now nearly the size of rivers themselves. Back in July of 2001 the Thirtymile Fire swept through the upper valley. It was a huge fire that blackened 9,300 acres and took the lives of four firefighters. Driving up the road we began to see partly blackened trees. That gave way to a silvered forest. Kim had hiked this trail before the fire. Again, like Driveway Butte, she would have the chance to compare before to after.

Kim picked out a boulder covered with Tweedy's lewisia. We saw much more of it along the uphill side of the road. The valley opened up a bit and the river widened when we reached the firefighters memorial. It is at the place where they lost their lives. Many items have been left there be loved ones and strangers. It's a sobering place to visit. After our visit we headed on to the end of the road. There are very few trees left beyond the memorial. There is green grass and brush but it will be awhile before forest returns.

Chewuch At Memorial
Chewuch At Memorial
Firefighters Memorial
Firefighters Memorial

At the end of the road is a big parking lot much used by horsemen. This trail is one that travels deep into the Pasayten Wilderness. Maps show the current trailhead as the Thirtymile Campground and the trailhead across the river. The old car bridge burned up and the new bridge is for hikers and horses only. Just before the lot is a creek. The creek goes across the road. In fact the "puddle" it creates is at least 100' across. It's hard to tell how deep it is but Kim has a truck and we started on through. We had no trouble but I wouldn't try it with a car at this time. I'm guessing it was 8-10 inches deep.

With our stops it was near 10:30 when we got started. No early morning starts for us. It was warm and getting warmer but there was a cool breeze that helped a lot.We crossed the bridge and started up the trail. Soon we reached a grassy spot that must have been the old trailhead. There is a sign still standing though the words have been burned off. A hole has also burned right through the sign. The trail ascends at a gentle rate. At first we climbed well above the creek then maintained 50 - 100 feet above it most of the day. The first section is no meandering stream. It is all crazy white water spitting out lots of noise.

Upriver From Bridge
Upriver From Bridge
Spiral Tree
Spiral Tree
Many Color River
Many Color River

Forest must have blocked much of the views at one time. Now the river and the surrounding ridges are wide open. As with the other trails we hiked this weekend logs have not yet been cut out. We clambered up and over or around probably 30 logs on our trip. The trail seems wide enough to have been a road at one time. In some places time and slides have narrowed the tread substantially though it is never too narrow. Logs down in the narrow spots would make this trail impossible for horses until some cutting is done.

90 Degree Turn
90 Degree Turn
Sharp Turn
Sharp Turn

As we ascended the river makes an abrupt turn of more than 90 degrees. Lots of white water here. Around the bend the river changes character and becomes a wide and very slow moving. It's a bit of a scramble but one could get down to the shore here. The river soon bends and the trail turns to the right. Along here was another surprise. Logs have fallen and blocked much of the river flow. A big lake has been created. Silvered trees stand deep in the water. It takes a good imagination to see a narrow river running through a deep green forest. Now it's a lake with branchless silver spires standing in the water.

A Few Clouds
A Few Clouds
Dammed Lake
Dammed Lake

A patch of surviviing evergreens made for a shady lunch spot. The old road drops down towards the river here. The trail continues mostly level. The narrow valley widens here. Just ahead Kim tried to imagine where she had camped near the river in a flat area. Just a jumple of silve logs and spires now with the river as wide as a lake. When Kim visited she went ahead to Chewuch Falls though the water level was not high. This day it was plenty high. We decided to go ahead a little longer and look for the falls.

Rocks & Logs
Rocks & Logs

There were half a dozen downed logs in one spot and we considered turning around. We chose to go a little further. The river narrows to a slot gorge and the trail climbs above. We could now hear the loud noise of cascading water but could not see much. It was not too tough to crawl over logs to reach the mouth of the gorge. We decided to go up to the start of the gorge. We left the trail where the white water began and climbed down to the start of the fun. You could feel the power of the water. It was too loud to talk more than a few feet apart. What a spot! This too was forest a few years ago. Now just grass and silvered old trees.

Closer Look
Closer Look

The gorge is not very wide. All that water was packed into the narrow chasm. The water was green and white and yellow. Kim was filming a movie when I looked up and saw a couple of hikers coming down. What are the odds? The only people we saw all day and it was off trail. We dropped down alongside the river to a great viewing spot. The only live evergreen tree on our side of the river was right there. Some shade and a flat spot to view the angry river. This spot was well worth the hike in. I guesstimate that our turn around point at the falls was a little less than three miles up the trail.

Zoomed Middle Falls
Zoomed Middle Falls
Kim At Top Of Falls
Kim At Top Of Falls
Middle Falls
Middle Falls
Roiling & Boiling
Roiling & Boiling
Kim At Middle Falls
Kim At Middle Falls

After nearly an hour at the falls we had to leave. We still had to drive all the way back to Seattle. As I started out I saw a metal box. It was sealed with no openings. Heavy metal and maybe 10" x 8" x 6". There was a "t" shaped piece of metal next to it that looked like it was meant to be driven into the ground. I have no idea what it is. The hike back was mostly at a gentle downhill grade. The sun was getting to me a bit but it was not that far to the truck. There were no cars in the lot. The one couple were the only folks we saw all day.

View Through Sign
View Through Sign
Creek Over Road
Creek Over Road

That big puddle across the road proved to be a great spot to clean up. Lots of cool clean water without having to clmib down to the river. It was late enough in the day that we had no holday traffic problems. Dinner was at the Marblemount Diner. They stayed open late as we did not arrive until 7:15 pm. I was home by 10:30. This was a fun weekend. We had a summit and some elevation gain on day one. Two river walks on day two. One in a burn and one in a living forest. Day three was a both wild and placid river though one huge burn. Throw in a powerful falls and you have quite a day. Best of all, all four trails were new for me. I love to get out and hike areas I had not visited. All in all, a great Memorial Day Weekend.

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Hiking Northwest
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