Forum Index > Trip Reports > Chancellor/Hells Basin/Jackita Ridge, Aug 27-28, 2011
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KarlK
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PostTue Aug 30, 2011 6:45 pm 
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On Saturday and Sunday, August 27 and 28, 2011, I thoroughly enjoyed a loop hike linking the Chancellor / Canyon Creek trail, the long-abandoned Hells Basin / Anacortes Crossing trail, an off-trail climb over Jackita Ridge, and the Jackita Ridge / Devils Park trail back to the Canyon Creek trailhead.

The weather was spectacular, and not only favored an excellent trip on my part, but also provided my wife with ideal conditions for painting the shed in my absence. (Seriously, she likes to paint things and knows that if I do not go hiking when the conditions for hiking are spectacular, I get grumpy almost beyond redemption).

The Chancellor / Canyon Creek trail was in mostly good to very good condition, and thanks to recent WTA work afforded safe footing across several previously dangerous passages with one notable exception: a very sketchy sloughed section immediately north of the Cedar Crossing bridge at ~6.7 miles (the picture was taken this past June). Iíve hiked this trail more than a dozen times in the past several years, and the Cedar Crossing hazard seemed worse than on prior trips. Do not slip off here. The land managers for this area should direct resources to mitigate this bit of potential treachery. The Chancellor trail is an important link between SR 20 and the heart of the western region of the Pasayten Wilderness, including Holman Pass on the Crest Trail. Various fire scenarios could make it a vital escape route.

Sketchy Section N. of Cedar Crossing, 061811
Sketchy Section N. of Cedar Crossing, 061811

From the Chancellor bridge, located just shy of 9 miles from the Canyon Creek trailhead, I headed north on what starts as an obvious trail towards Center Mountain. After perhaps four tenths of a  mile, the trail intersects the bank of Canyon Creek, and here mostly vanishes for a half-mile stretch owing to intense flood activity over the past 15 years.


Careful maneuvering along the tangled left bank of the N. Fork of Canyon Creek leads to a (recent) cairn marking a scramble up a steep dirt bank to where the historic Anacortes Crossing trail begins its rising traverse towards Cascade Creek. My GPS placed the cairn at 662104 mE, 5404123 nN at 3109' elevation. The distance was 0.92 miles past the Chancellor bridge.

Map
Map
Log tangle, N. Fork Canyon Cr. 2007
Log tangle, N. Fork Canyon Cr. 2007
Cairn
Cairn

The Anacortes Crossing trail provided access to the Anacortes group of mines in Hells Basin, an area that was worked from 1891 to the late 1930s and which yielded considerable gold.

A short distance later, a sign announces entry into the Pasayten Wilderness.

Wilderness Boundary
Wilderness Boundary

Following this, the way traverses several angle-of-repose debris-flow sections via minimal wildlife-etched paths. Boots with good edges are recommended here, as is an ice axe. On this trip, I managed reasonably well with trail running shoes and hiking poles, but having done this trail both ways, I can attest to the marked superiority of my Zamberlan boots and an ice axe for such work.
Angle of repose section
Angle of repose section

After a couple of switchbacks , the tread improved markedly, revealing the remains of the historic narrow gauge road that once conveyed miners, machines, liquor, ladies and supplies to and from the extensive Anacortes workings. The trail currently features alternating sections of deadfall gymnastics and easy traveling on a verdant carpet of moss amid towering old growth. I love old growth.

Deadfall section
Deadfall section
Clear Section
Clear Section

I encountered the 2 mile marker at 2.13 miles from Chancellor (661215 mE, 5404530 mN, 3893 feet elevation). A tenth of a mile past this, the trail enters a very brushy section (661087 mE, 5404539 mN, 4000'). The Devils club was of prize-winning proportions this year owing to the persistent rains, and since I could scarcely see my feet for the next quarter of a mile, I used the hiker's version of the Braille method to sort out the way.

At 2.74 miles from Chancellor, the trail reaches the Cascade Creek crossing (660580 mE, 5404510 mN, 4312'). Shortly beyond this, it turns sharply left and heads upstream to where it turns sharply right at 3.1 miles (660101 mE, 5404478 mN, 4576').
2 Mile Mark
2 Mile Mark
Cascade Creek
Cascade Creek
Trail Past Cascade Creek
Trail Past Cascade Creek
Orange Flagging
Orange Flagging

The 3 mile marker was at 3.5 miles from Chancellor (659905 mE, 5404643 mN, 4804'). The trail turns left at 3.73 miles (660213 mE, 5404845 mN, 4972'), and crosses below a mine adit at 3.8 miles (660013 mE, 5404824 mN, 5037'). My sense is that some fool has enlarged the adit opening and extracted some ore samples, examples of which are scattered below the adit.

3 Mile Mark
3 Mile Mark
Ore Cart
Ore Cart
Adit
Adit

The old mill site is at 4.07 miles (659739 mE, 5404798 mN, 5200'). I continued past this to the next switchback and here headed straight up for about 150 feet of elevation gain, and then turned left into a meadow on the left (west) flank of the well-defined ridge upon which the trail reaches the top of the Anacortes Crossing. I then contoured leftward across the astonishingly lush meadow to a built trail remnant that enters woods at 659194 mE, 5404863 mN (4.62 miles from Chancellor, 5651').

Mill Site
Mill Site
Meadow on left flank of Anacortes ridge
Meadow on left flank of Anacortes ridge
Built Trail @ 5650'
Built Trail @ 5650'

The trail remnant leads easily to a meadow below point 7024 on Jackita Ridge (it is marked as such on maps). From there, I climbed up open slopes to point 7200+ on Jackita Ridge (658219 mE, 5405007 mN, 7223', 5.75 miles from Chancellor). This was home for the night, and a spectacular one given the outstanding weather.

Anacortes Peak on Jackita Ridge and Center Mountain beyond
Anacortes Peak on Jackita Ridge and Center Mountain beyond
Sunset
Sunset
Morning
Morning

In the morning, I hiked down a spectacular ridge that trends W-NW to an intersection with the Jackita Ridge trail, and a short time after turning left encountered a couple of fine fellows, Tim and Reese, at a campsite located at 5800 feet. They traded a good cup of fresh coffee for some information about the area. I then hiked back to the Canyon Creek trailhead via Bad Stock Pass (my name for it; it is known to have been lethal for horses and is marked "bad for stock" on the Green Trails map).

Tim & Reese
Tim & Reese
Bad Stock Pass
Bad Stock Pass
Descending to Devils Park
Descending to Devils Park
Devils Shelter
Devils Shelter

Summary Statistics: Saturday: about 15 miles and about 7000' of total elevation gain; Sunday: about 13 miles with perhaps 1800' of total elevation gain and a lot of elevation loss.

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Karl J Kaiyala
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Foist
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PostWed Aug 31, 2011 5:24 pm 
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Really neat and informative.   up.gif   
We camped last week at that spot where the "spectacular ridge" you decided meets the Jackita Ridge trail.

That's interesting that they put a Pasayten Wilderness sign on that trail.  Does that mean that it was a maintained trail at some point after it was a mining access road?
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KarlK
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PostWed Aug 31, 2011 6:12 pm 
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A couple of minor corrections to my post:

1) Where the trail switchbacks up the steep scree slope NW of Point 7248 on Jackita Ridge is labeled "difficult for stock" on the Green Trails map, not "bad for stock." My bad. But I did once encounter a horse for whom that section was very bad indeed.

2) The meadow I vectored into from the Anacortes Crossing trail lies S-SW rather than W of the ridge crest that carries the trail to the Anacortes Crossing proper.

Small details, I suppose, but details matter.

I also wanted to remark that the overall agreement between my GPS coordinates and the location of the Anacortes trail as indicated on the TOPO map shown in the post was much better than I expected. The (fairly minor) exceptions are where the map says "trail zigs right" and "3 mile mark."  The 3 mile marker is actually on the right side of the trail (assumes you are hiking uphill) shortly before where the trail cuts left to the mine adit.  I include this information because if you are odd enough to want to give this trail a go, it might be helpful to know what to expect and the context in which to expect it.

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Karl J Kaiyala
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wolffie
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PostThu Jan 17, 2013 10:42 am 
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I hiked Canyon Ck to Center Mt first week Sept. 2012.  Trail generally excellent as far as Chancellor, although it got a bit brushy past Mill Ck.   Near Boulder Ck was a steep rocky slide that would stop a horse, IMO, but I'm not a horseman; blasting would be required to  make it good for horses.  I recall a couple big blowdown past Mill Ck that might be tough to get a horse around.  The Cedar crossing washout has not been fixed, requiring a short scramble along the river -- I believe the slightly sagging bridge is behind the camera in KarlK's photo. 
North of Chancellor, the trail disappears into a tangled washout.  Follow the imaginary trail about 30 yds. (?) onwards, and look for a cairn in the Y of the confluence.  Crossing not difficult with a 25 lb. dog.  This was low water, remember.  The Center Mt. trail was not hard to find, had much blowdown, mostly small stepovers, and no water until the east side of Sky Pilot Pass.
I like this Devil guy -- he's got a Ridge, a Dome, a Staircase... and a Club.

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KarlK
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PostThu Jan 17, 2013 10:57 am 
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Wolffie - yup, I agree that the Canyon Creek trail would be a mighty poor place for horses. I think the horses would agree as well. The trail is mostly OK for hikers, although the short stretch just upstream of the Cedar Crossing bridge is sketchy. I really think this should be fixed and will suggest this to the WTA. I think it's important to maintain the CC trail because it's a) cool and b) is a key part of a potential escape route from the Pasayten / Crest trail in the event of a big wild fire or if a large contingent of hostile Canadians invade from the savage north.

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Karl J Kaiyala
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KarlK
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PostThu Jan 17, 2013 11:25 am 
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Foist - the Anacortes Crossing trail was indeed a maintained trail for many years following the abandonment of the Anacortes group of mines in Hells Basin. To my understanding mining here largely ceased in the early 1900s and if I remember correctly sometime in the 1940s the Anacortes mining company quit posting a watchman at the mill. The trail got considerable use for as long as the Chancellor campground was in operation (I think into the early 1980s but am not clear on this). Severe flooding in November 1990 and subsequent severe floods in the 90s turned maybe a half mile of the start of the Anacortes trail into a tangled disaster area, and I don't think the trail got any maintenance after 1990.

A few oddballs (e.g., me) have visited Hells Basin in recent years. I've seen what I think is evidence of attempts to open the lower Anacortes mine adit (at about 5000 feet elevation) and have talked to a couple of miners in the Chancellor area who said they've poked around in Hells Basin. I was told by a miner that the forest service dynamited all the mine adits and burned the mill.

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snowshoeman
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PostFri Jan 18, 2013 9:13 pm 
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I spent the summer of 1984 at the Harts Pass Guard Station as the resident ranger. The Chancellor Campground was shut down several years before 1984, but can't recall the exact year. To escape the masses on busy weekends I would head down to Chancellor and explore Hells Basin and take in the views and solitude from Anacortes Crossing. Even then the Devils Club and slide Alder could take its toll. However, lot's of interesting mining history to explore once out of the brush.
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KarlK
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PostFri Jan 18, 2013 10:00 pm 
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Thanks for the information Snowshoeman!

Even now the mining artifacts and old mill site and cabin sites are fascinating to fellows such as myself.

Presently, despite innumerable downed trees, the Anacortes Crossing trail remains fairly easy to follow for an experienced hand. Even the very brushy section leading up to where the trail crosses Cascade Creek is easy enough to follow (very easy earlier in the year before the vegetation grows back). In late summer / early fall, prize winning Devils Club in this section definitely betrays the motivation for naming the area Hells Basin.

The main difficulties involve the section of the trail on and near the river bottom, and there are some quasi sketchy angle-of-repose slide areas a few hundred feet elevation above the creek - the path etched by the local critters shows the way here and boots (or hooves) with good edges are a big plus.

Hells Basin is uber wild. I have seen some enormous bears here - one vectored to within about 30 yards of me while I was settling into an afternoon snooze in a hammock on a fine September day. Not sure who was more surprised, me or him, but both of did a definite WTF. Kinda ruined my nap.

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Karl J Kaiyala
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Chancellor/Hells Basin/Jackita Ridge, Aug 27-28, 2011
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