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kitya
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PostSun Sep 02, 2018 1:32 pm 
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For solitude I like going to Chiwaukum range and it never disappoints, not even on a long Labor day weekend. This time me and Cookie visited the south-eastern end of the Chiwaukum range and it was beautiful. The sky was clear, but the air is fresh and cool – accentuated by the views of clouds west and forest fire smoke north.

Hatchery Creek road (FR 7905) is drivable in a regular sedan and is not in the worst of conditions for a forest road, but not very pleasant at all either. Looks like forest service recently ‘repaired’ it by dumping a few truck loads of loose gravel and going over it with a huge washboarding machine. It is steep, narrow, bumpy and scrapy. But also short (only about 2 miles).

Hatchery creek trail starts immediately going up through the site of massive 2014 Chiwaukum creek fire. For miles there is no tree left unburned, however flowering fireweed makes the scenery livelier. It is very dusty and ashy, but the trail is very well maintained and fully logged out. In the morning I only met one hunter going up and one fisherman going down after spending the night, both early on the trail. Eventually (after about 6.5 miles) Hatchery creek trail ends at the junction with Icicle ridge trail. Confusingly Icicle ridge trail doesn’t actually follow the ridge there and instead goes down to lake Augusta. I left the trail at the intersection and instead followed the broad ridge off-trail up to the Big Jim summit, tagging a few other high points along the way. The ridge is mostly open and sometimes scrambly and rocky, sometimes broad and an easy walk.

Finally I was out of the forest fire destruction and surrounded by much nicer alpine forest. No berries (yet?), but many-many mushrooms. The views to Cashmere mountain, lake Augusta and two Big Jim lakes are really good from the ridge. The trees are a mix of lodgepole pine and larch. This area will look spectacular once the larches turn golden in a month or so. I have never been to Colorado, but I read online that eastern Chiwaukums scenery remind people of it.

Cashmere mountain
Cashmere mountain
One of many scrambly high points on the ridge route
One of many scrambly high points on the ridge route
Broad ridge of Big Jim
Broad ridge of Big Jim

Lake Augusta
Lake Augusta
Big Jim lakes 1&2
Big Jim lakes 1&2

Big Jim mountain is named after famous Seattle mountaineer Jim Whittaker, who also has a twin brother and also mountaineer Lou Whittaker. Big Lou mountain is equally tall and lies just south of Big Jim.

Unsurprisingly the most common pen I see in the mountain registers is a stolen Microsoft office pen.


We were the 12th entry for 2018 on Big Jim. Big Jim is popular. Interestingly this register also had an old playing card with a naked lady on it... Hm...

After Big Jim I eventually planned to go down to Big Jim lake and make a loop back through the badlands, but the day was still young and I decided to go check out more lakes around instead. I continued more on the ridge through a couple of more high points, until I intersected with Icicle ridge trail and walked down on it to Carter lake. Icicle ridge trail here is a little bit overgrown and faint, but still easy to follow. Carter lake is probably not the lake to make anyone’s top 10 list, but I really liked it actually. It is so perfectly round and tiny, more like a puddle. And surrounded by larches too.

Looking at the map before I was expecting to find a trail from Carter lake to Ida lake, but there is definitely no such thing. Not a single hint that such a trail ever existed. To make things worse, I lost quite a bit of elevation to go to the Carter lake and this side of the mountains is a lot greener and also a lot denser in vegetation compared to the ridge. We fought with some very steep and slippery brush to gain the ridge back again towards Big Lou and look down at Ida lake from the Big Lou saddle. I was only about 0.5 miles from Big Lou summit and now I realized that a lot more reasonable and shorter way would be to follow the ridge all the way from Big Jim to Big Lou and only than drop to Ida or Carter. Well, maybe next time.

Big Lou
Big Lou
Minuscule Carter lake
Minuscule Carter lake
Typical terrain from Carter lake to Big Lou saddle and lake Ida
Typical terrain from Carter lake to Big Lou saddle and lake Ida

Interestingly while I heard legends of how secluded lake Ida is, out of all the lakes I saw this day (Augusta, Big Jim lake 1 and 2, Carter, Ida) only Ida had a person actually camping on its shore (the shortcut/chattery creek trail side). I guess fame travels fast 😊

Lake Ida
Lake Ida

Leaving Ida, we backtracked/backfell through rocks and slippery brush back to Carter and took Painter creek trail. Painter creek trail is somewhat maintained, but overgrown and very faint. It is a really nice, really green valley and a really nice trail when one can see it. When you cannot see it – it is a hell fight with side alder.

We followed Painter creek for a while until intersection with what is left of Badlands trail. Badlands trail greeted us by a sign saying: “unmaintained since 2014 fire, trail impossible to follow”. It was quite nasty fighting through steep burned down debris until the Badlands highpoint (6200ft). At high point we passed by the hunting camp (maybe same person?) and trail somewhat re-appeared after that. We saw many animal tracks, but no big game and I really hope hunters didn’t see any either. Except for many different birds and quite a few chipmunks, the only animal we met was a beautiful coyote we saw already in complete darkness.

Painter creek valley
Painter creek valley
One of the many bluebirds
One of the many bluebirds
Little chipmunk
Little chipmunk
The badlands
The badlands

Eventually from the badlands we hiked backed up to the hatchery creek trail and took this nice trail all the way back to the car. 21+ miles, 8000+ ft gain, though it felt longer: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2981334216

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Brucester
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PostSun Sep 02, 2018 2:48 pm 
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Nice! Thanks for sharing!

Love how open it is!

Been on my list for awhile!!!
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kitya
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PostSun Sep 02, 2018 2:56 pm 
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Brucester wrote:
Been on my list for awhile!!!

Now is a good time. Chiwaukums are best avoided in summer, as they get immensely hot and have no shade. But once temperatures drop a little bit - they open and lovely. Very few people. But there is a price to pay - no approach is short and to get to the beautiful alpine country almost all trails include miles of hiking through burns. Burns can be depressing.
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Bootpathguy
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PostSun Sep 02, 2018 11:03 pm 
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Question

Hatchery Creek Trailhead to Lake Augusta

What's your opinion on, if its a safe winter snowshoe. I was going to check it out this past winter and never got around to it.


I did drive by, and understand that the hike will start at hwy2, but I'm interested in the avalanche terrain to Lake Augusta Basin

Thanks

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Brushwork
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PostMon Sep 03, 2018 3:33 am 
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Bootpath, 
There's a fairly steep slope to drop down to reach basin below lake Augusta.  I think it could be risky unless real stable snow conditions.

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kitya
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PostMon Sep 03, 2018 8:51 am 
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Bootpathguy wrote:
What's your opinion on, if its a safe winter snowshoe. I was going to check it out this past winter and never got around to it.

I never dropped to Lake Augusta, Bootpathguy, so I don't actually know. I always stayed on the ridge above Lake Augusta. I have not seen any signs of avy activity (no bend/broken trees, obvious gullies, etc.). However it is hard to be sure, because of how little vegetation there is. Maybe there is just not enough snow for serious avalanches there. Anyway, usual caution is obviously in order, but I would think it is definitely doable on a safe day, maybe like a spring snowshoe or early winter before too much snow. In fact, I'll probably consider this for a snowshoe myself one day, if I have time.
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Bootpathguy
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PostMon Sep 03, 2018 9:14 am 
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Thanks to both of you

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mbravenboer
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PostMon Sep 03, 2018 9:17 am 
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Nice trip again!

On one of my earlier snowshoe adventures I went to Pt 7053. I didn't have much experience at the time and thought that the climb up Hatchery was a bit steep on icy snow with snowshoes. These days I would probably use crampons on icy steep snow like that. Besides that steep part, the stroll to Pt 7053 is lovely rolling terrain without a sufficient angle for avalanches. I didn't go down to Lake Augusta.

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?p=929032

It's kind of funny to read that again and see how attached I was to following a trail wink.gif
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Get Out and Go
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PostMon Sep 03, 2018 4:18 pm 
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Thanks for the TR, kitya.  Far too much time has passed since I've been up there.  Hope to squeeze a trip in this year, yet.    up.gif

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Distel32
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PostMon Sep 03, 2018 9:53 pm 
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Bootpathguy wrote:
Thanks to both of you

Did it as a spring snowshoe: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8020450
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cascadetraverser
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PostTue Sep 04, 2018 9:58 am 
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That is a great area and after tripping up there several times I have wondered about the state of those abandoned as well as recently burned, rarely used trails and really appreciate the update!
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Opus
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PostTue Sep 04, 2018 7:05 pm 
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I was out in the same are early August, but reached Ida from the Ladies Pass side bypassing Carter. I also didn't see a trail going up to Ida and ended up going over the backside of the ridge to intersect with the route up from Chatter Creek. Easy travel from Ida up to the top of Big Lou. A bit steep and loose but it's not bad descending from there to the junction with the trail above Augusta.

I dropped down to Big Jim Lakes from the ridge below Big Jim Mountain. The upper part is steep but not that hard. The lower half down to the lakes is more problematic. I tried following the creek on descenders left but that cliffs out. Going over past the brush to the right also gets unpleasant. One has to stay way to the right in large larch trees and boulders to get down easily. From lower Big Jim there is a pretty pleasant trail out to the Badlands trail highpoint, so getting to the lakes from Hatchery that is probably the best option. Easy to follow through the burn.

And then I stupidly descended the rest of the way down to Chiwaukum Creek via the Painter Creek trail. Head-high fireweed obscuring a burned trail and downed logs everywhere. I think it took multiple hours to go less than a mile. Not recommended. My legs were scarred for days.
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chiwakum
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PostThu Sep 06, 2018 5:59 am 
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Thanks for the report. I did a similar loop as backpack back in 2009 before the burn. I really enjoyed the Painter Ck and Badlands sections. Sad to hear how devestated it is now.

You really cover a lot of ground. up.gif
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kitya
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PostThu Sep 06, 2018 8:28 am 
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Opus wrote:
And then I stupidly descended the rest of the way down to Chiwaukum Creek via the Painter Creek trail. Head-high fireweed obscuring a burned trail and downed logs everywhere. I think it took multiple hours to go less than a mile. Not recommended. My legs were scarred for days.

Hi Opus, are you saying Painter Creek trail to Chiwaukum Creek trail is overgrown, or Chiwaukum trail itself? Please let me know, as I'm curious. Thank you!
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kitya
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PostThu Sep 06, 2018 8:30 am 
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chiwakum wrote:
Thanks for the report. I did a similar loop as backpack back in 2009 before the burn. I really enjoyed the Painter Ck and Badlands sections. Sad to hear how devestated it is now.

Hi Chiwakum. Great name smile.gif Painter Creek is overgrown trail, but not burned. Painter creek is very pretty. Badlands and Hatchery creek are devastated by the burn though - there is no single tree left alive.
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