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jupsal
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PostFri Sep 14, 2018 1:40 pm 
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The cougar traverse is a glorious trek in Mike Woodmansee's book Trekking Washington. It's 240 miles, all in Wilderness, stretching from the shores of Ross Lakes into the Pasayten wilderness and back (loop). This loop intrigues me greatly. Unfortunately, I don't thin I could ever convince any of my friends to even get close to doing the thing, and the prospect of 240 miles alone (at times very completely alone) doesn't sound particularly appealing to me, I think I'd get bored. Mike gives a 10 day itinerary, I think I'd like to give myself 12 since I think the trail probably isn't in great shape. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in and it sounds like our speeds match up, we should chat. I would very much like to do a few shorter trips with a potential partner to determine if we are the right fit in terms of personality, hiking pace, etc.

About me: I am a 27 y.o. male. This would be my first trip over 6 days and 120 miles. I am comfortable with a 20+ mile & 6000'+ climbing day (and probably more, but have not tested that much). I like to wake up and hike basically until the sun is setting. I probably would not cook on this trip given the weight/fuel requirements for doing so (instead I'd rehydrate things cold, which I like doing).

Shoot me a PM if this sounds appealing to you, we can exchange more info.
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wolffie
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PostSat Sep 15, 2018 1:03 pm 
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Before every longer solo I've done 8-12 days, I've had this letdown feeling, like minor lonely depression ("Do I really want to do this?  What am I doing here?").  All those feelings vanish by about the 3rd footstep.  I have never felt bored or lonely solo, with or without a dog (company and solitude together).  In fact it's pretty intense, no distractions, nothing to pay attention to but yourself and the world, and you have to do everything and make all the decisions.
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williswall
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PostSat Sep 15, 2018 10:13 pm 
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The Pasayten trails have changed drastically in some areas due to fire since Woodmansee’s book. My daughter and I did some of this trek in 2014 and found the going very slow through areas of hundreds of blowdown and sketchy trails. Make sure you research before you commit to higher mileage days. Based on our experience I don’t think a 10 day itinerary is possible now, and 12 would be pushing it. And I/we have high mileage and suffering background.

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"You run with me, not the other way around.” (Cassie re races)

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wolffie
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PostSat Sep 15, 2018 11:31 pm 
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If anybody wants to do some travelling log-out in the Pasayten, clue me in.   Even when you can't take out the big ones, you can swamp them out a bit, and that can reduce the obstacles.
What are the biggest problems in the Pasayten?  Big blowdowns, smaller ones?  In the burn areas, there will be blowdowns for years.
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cartman
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PostSun Sep 16, 2018 5:01 pm 
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It's a guarantee that there are now long stretches of blowdown trail (Lightning Creek comes to mind) in the Pasaytens.  Some trails are newly burned (Bunker Hill to Sand Ridge, Peepsight to Dollar Watch, all last year) so who knows what their current condition is.

Some parts are currently in excellent shape since they were maintained this year (Andrews Creek) or are regularly maintained (Devils Pass to Canyon Creek, the East Bank Trail).  Other parts are generally decent since there aren't many trees on those stretches, so not much blowdown.

Bottom line, you might have sub 20 mile days and to make it all happen even in 12 days you might have to do a few 25+ mile days.  There are some good TRs on this site from this year and the past few which would be very helpful to your planning.

It's a very interesting idea, I'd love to see you do this and read the report.
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jupsal
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PostFri Sep 21, 2018 4:44 pm 
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wolffie wrote:
Before every longer solo I've done 8-12 days, I've had this letdown feeling, like minor lonely depression ("Do I really want to do this?  What am I doing here?").  All those feelings vanish by about the 3rd footstep.  I have never felt bored or lonely solo, with or without a dog (company and solitude together).  In fact it's pretty intense, no distractions, nothing to pay attention to but yourself and the world, and you have to do everything and make all the decisions.

Maybe I should do some longer solos first to see if my mindset changes. The longest solo I've done was 6 nights. Unfortunately there were some very very cloudy and rainy days which meant spending time under rocks for hours and hours on end. That got a little bit boring, but there were nice parts. Part of my reason for not wanting to go solo is also the distance and (as mentioned by others) the possibility of bad trails. Plus it's easier to carry what I need with 2 people smile.gif

williswall wrote:
The Pasayten trails have changed drastically in some areas due to fire since Woodmansee’s book. My daughter and I did some of this trek in 2014 and found the going very slow through areas of hundreds of blowdown and sketchy trails. Make sure you research before you commit to higher mileage days. Based on our experience I don’t think a 10 day itinerary is possible now, and 12 would be pushing it. And I/we have high mileage and suffering background.

I've read your report, and appreciate the info. I'll surely take this into account. I like high mileage and suffering days smile.gif One thing that's nice about this route is that there's lots of ways out if you find yourself going slower than expected..

cartman wrote:

Bottom line, you might have sub 20 mile days and to make it all happen even in 12 days you might have to do a few 25+ mile days.  There are some good TRs on this site from this year and the past few which would be very helpful to your planning.

Thanks for the info, I will look into it more. I would expect a few 25+ mile days and am fine with it. It appears that you can do some of those without significant elevation gain on some days which would help.
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AJ
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PostThu Sep 27, 2018 3:48 pm 
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I read Trekking Washington early in my backpacking and the Cougar Traverse sounded like the equivalent of a moon landing, but it captured my imagination. This summer, after some 35+ mile days and having done several 5-7 day trips, the Traverse came back to mind. After doing some research, it looks like no one has done the full trip, or at least not written about it. The idea of establishing the route in real life made it even more appealing, so I've been reading every report and studying each section pretty carefully with an eye on doing it next summer.

At some point, after reading a lot about blowdowns and abandoned trails, I realized I needed a first hand look before I spent my winter obsessing. So I took a trip over the mountains. You can find my trip report of Andrews Creek, Coleman Ridge, and Peepsight. It was an invaluable trip in my thinking about the Traverse. Here are my big take aways:

#1 - It is doable. I haven't come close to seeing all the questionable trails, but what I did see was encouraging. Because of the fires, the level of brush in those areas is low. The questionable sections don't have huge elevation changes. With enough supplies and persistence, someone with moderate skills and a GPS could slog through the blowdowns, brush, thistle, etc. I don't think there's anything prohibitively technical standing in your way. And the next year or so might be a unique window.

#2 - I'm not sure it's worth it. I think this is why it's not been done. The idea of pioneering 200+ uninterrupted and unsupplied miles (see below) is really cool, but is that worth it? After seeing some of it and reading reports, I think the idea of a loop might be a bit forced in order to create the Traverse. The Boundary Trail to the north has a lot of the views (Cathedral, etc.). The established trails south of there are mostly drainages running from Hwy 20 to the Boundary Trail (imagine a bench with multiple legs). Most of the east-west trails on the southern part are old connectors that are poorly maintained or abandoned and run through valleys interrupted by a few passes. I imagine the days would be long and the views scarce and hard-fought.


#3 - I'm just about resolved to take this one off my list, despite being really excited and focused for the last few months. I'm just not sure I want to spend two weeks to be able to say I did it. There are a lot of things that could go wrong on this trip. There are other long trails, challenges, and destinations I want to do with my limited time. But maybe the winter will change my mind. Having said that, I would really like to see someone lay it down.

A few notes:
- Caltopo puts the book route at 214 miles.
- Pay attention to hunting seasons.
- I agree that 10 days might not be realistic. If you're only going one mile/hour at best over and under blowdowns and route finding, it doesn't matter what kind of shape you're in. On the other hand, the northern section seems to have some fast spots.
- If it were me, I'd start at Windy Peak and do the southern section first. That way, if something goes wrong, you're closer to a bailout point and you get the unknowables out of the way while you're fresh. This would interrupt the wilderness mid-trip along the East Bank Trail.
- Woodmansee seems to have chosen a sensible loop with a few destination detours (Whistler  Basin, Four Points/Remmel Mountain. I would add Windy Peak loop to the route to provide another access point, add back 10 miles, and include the east end of the Boundary Trail. I would also think about Sheep Mountain, which would allow a quick tag of the border and another ~5 miles. Last, depending on the condition of Dean Creek, you could include the Boundary Trail in the northern section, freeing the East Fork Pasayten for the southern leg without overlapping. Any other alternates/extensions might add miles or avoid trouble spots, but ruin the integrity of the route, IMO.
- This route will always have sections that are overgrown, unmaintained, or in poor condition. They may likely get worse over the years depending on Mother Nature and government funding. Sections like Coleman Ridge, Ashnola Drainage, and Stubb Creek are all unavoidable abandoned or non-existent trails. It may become impossible at some point in the next several years.
- unless I was going to recon a lot more, I'd pack for 12-15 days and hope to have supplies left over. There are just too many unknowns year-to-year.
- almost all fires in the last decade have started mid-August. I would look at late July as a window between snow and fire.

I really hope someone does this route and reports on it. If your heart is set on it, go for it!!
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jupsal
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PostThu Sep 27, 2018 4:11 pm 
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Wow, thank you for so much detail! I'm glad to see someone has thought about this so much. I wish I had the resources/time to put so much effort into looking into sections of the route. I appreciate that you've done it. For now I'll just catalog all of this information, since I don't know what to do with it now.

Is it plausible that it would be possible in late September one year, if the fires end early that year in that area?
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AJ
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PostThu Sep 27, 2018 4:19 pm 
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You bet. I hated for the beta to go to waste.

I think this time of year would be nice as far as the bugs and changing colors are concerned. The downside would be lower temps (I ran into hail last week and sub-freezing overnight temps), hunting season, and closed trails. I work in education, so fall is out for me. If I were doing it, I'd want to maximize my chances and get in before the fires. That's your biggest barrier outside your control. It also occurred to me that if lightning is starting fires in August, there's lightning to deal with. Without any precedence, the wise thing would be to prepare for everything and overestimate time and distance.

I still think it's an awesome idea and can't find another uninterrupted trail that long in the lower 48 (although "trail" is a bit loosely defined in this case). Best of luck!
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wolffie
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PostTue Oct 02, 2018 9:56 am 
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If anybody wants to do some logouts up there, official or freelance, invite me.  I know the Backcountry Horsemen do a lot of work in the Pasayten.

cartman wrote:
long stretches of blowdown trail (Lightning Creek comes to mind) in the Pasaytens

Do you mean Lightning Creek, or the Three Fools (a.k.a. Cascade Pass) Trail that goes through Elbow Basin to Castle Pass?  I have a personal vendetta on the 3+ miles of hundreds of lodgepole blowdown on that one (my dog may have gotten hurt in there), but someone told me somebody had cleared most of them out.
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