Forum Index > Trip Reports > Old Frosty Creek Trail (pre-2000 Icicle to Frosty Pass) - It goes!!!  (sorta) 9-11-19
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Downhill
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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 4:11 pm 
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A few weeks ago, I posted a question in "Trail Talk" asking if anyone had any information about the current condition of the old Frosty Creek trail.  I got a few valuable bits of information, but no one had in-depth, recent details so I decided I'd go take a look and report back on what I found.

I've been considering a trip up to the Grace Lakes area and prefer to start from the Icicle.  Many years ago, I'd made a loop with my dad through the "Lady Lakes" with this approach, cutting off the Icicle Creek trail on the Frosty Creek/Pass trail.  But sometime after 1989 the USFS abandoned the first 1.5 miles of this trail and re-located the trail junction 2.3 miles farther up the Icicle beyond Doughgod Creek adding 5+ miles to a Frosty Pass roundtrip from the Icicle TH.  I don't understand the logic of this re-location.  The prior route was more direct.  The new location moves the junction a little bit closer to the Stevens Pass TH for those hiking down the Icicle from Lake Josephine, but I can't imagine people approaching the area via that route as it's 11.5 miles from Stevens Pass to the "new" Frosty junction.  Most hikers heading to the Lady Lakes approach via Chatter Creek, Whitepine/Wildhorse, Chiwaukum or Icicle Creek trails.  Maybe it was relocated because the former trail was not as accommodating to horse packers?  Okay, enough whining and on with the TR. 

I began my hike with a stop at Dan's Food Market to fuel up with a ridiculously good pastrami-swiss sandwich on rye.  At $4.99 including chips, a cookie and on Wednesdays any-size fountain drink, this is by far the best meal value in town!  They stack the meat high and have a great selection of condiments and accoutrements to build an incredible sammy.  The drive to the end of the Icicle was just long enough for me to finish my lunch.  Anyone familiar with the Icicle Creek trail knows that it sees frequent horse traffic and as a result, it is often very soft and dusty in the summer months.  But the thunderstorms of last weekend left the dirt damp and quite pleasant on this day, nice! 

To locate the start of the old trail I used the 1989 Chiwaukum Mountains USGS topo, the last version that shows the prior route.  Hiking up the Icicle, passing by French Creek and French Ridge trailheads, the old Frosty trail junction is approximately 0.6 miles past the French Ridge TH (about 2.5 miles from the car) and is quite easy to spot if you're looking for it.  The trail here was easy to follow along flat ground with little to no brush but a fair number of blowdowns, most of which I was able to easily step over or walk around.  In a bit less than 1/4 mile I came to a nice campsite, "Jades Camp" near the Icicle.  The old bridge is long gone but fortunately, there's a huge log just 75 feet up river that made crossing a snap.  The abandoned trail picks up directly at the other end of this log.

1989 Chiwaukum Mountain topo

Old Frosty Creek trail junction along Icicle Creek trail

What I found here was that this trail has been completely de-brushed, de-limbed and groomed - very recently!!!  I don't mean as in "recent years", I mean in recent days or weeks.  Vine maple, devils club, you name it, the brush has been pruned back off the trail.  I became very encouraged that this trail was going to be my solution to a more direct route to the pass.  The initial 1/4 mile roughly follows the Icicle without gaining meaningful elevation and would have been far too brushy to follow if not recently pruned.  The next section travels through a beautiful forest of old growth, massive cedar, fir and hemlock blocking sunlight far above the forest floor.  The trail, while recently pruned, hasn't seen a large saw in 30-ish years so there are a number of logs across the trail, but again most of these I was able to step over/on without the need for gymnastics (I think I counted 6 logs that I had to climb over and 3 butt-sit pirouettes).  The trail is generally easy to see following the old "groove" but where the trail becomes obscured by debris there were a several generations of ribbons to mark the route.  In about a mile the trail crosses Frosty Creek which had a pretty decent flow for this time of year - reliable water year-round.

Frosty Creek crossing

After crossing Frosty Creek, the trail begins to head uphill, gaining elevation through deep timber.  It was here that the frequency and size of the deadfall and debris got worse.  The trail was still brushed and pruned, but the logs and debris made the going a bit harder but still very do-able.  I was still feeling very encouraged at this point, that this route was going to work all the way to where it meets up with the "new" trail.  My only worry was that at some point I'd hit a section of heavy blowdowns or avalanche debris bringing my good fortune to an end.  At about the 3500 ft level and 1/3 mile from the connection with the new trail, my worries were realized when I came to an area of heavy blowdowns too deep and too far across for me to attempt crossing.  I knew that I was only about 1000 feet in distance and 200 ft in elevation from the new trail so I headed straight up hill XC following some game trails to mostly avoid bushwacking.  But before I reached the new trail, I came across the old trail again which had made a switchback off to my right (east), where the blowdowns were and had returned back west to intersect my XC path.  The final 800 feet of the old trail had also been cleared by the pruners making the going easy the rest of the way.

Spotting the start of the old trail from the top is not as easy as from the bottom.  The original trail here is obscured by growth and debris left by trail crews working along the new trail.  The upper connection is now a game trail that drops down the bank of the new trail through a small opening in the trees/brush and connects to the old trail in about 30 feet.  Locate this game trail about 60 feet uphill from where the new trail crosses a tiny creek at 3800 feet.  The unnamed creek is shown on the topos and Green Trail maps.

This is the 30-foot long game trail that is the upper end of the old trail.  Photo perspective doesn't reflect that this is dropping down off the new trail.

The conclusion is that the entire length of the abandoned trail has been brushed and limbed except the section of blowdowns near the top of the trail. Using this trail as an alternative to the longer new route is a viable option for me, but for hikers who want to stay on well-groomed, wide open trails without logs to hurdle, this might not be the route for you.  If there was an established boot path bypassing the blowdowns at the final switchback, that would help considerably as the rest of the route is pretty straight forward.  This trail will get better with use and hopefully that will happen, otherwise it will just grow over again.
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Get Out and Go
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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 4:51 pm 
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Interesting, Downhill.   up.gif  Thanks for the update.

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neek
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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 5:12 pm 
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Interesting, I wonder who did that and whether the job will be finished or if the trail will just be lost again in a few years.  Seems like there are more important trails to spend effort on, i.e. those without an alternative.  Not that I don't appreciate the work; might do a Frosty-Chatter loop and check it out.  Thanks for the recon.
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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 6:43 pm 
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Awesome!   I know I was pretty annoyed when I realized how far the new trail was going in the wrong direction.   FS might not appreciate the new brushing out, but when you add so much distance, some people (like me) are going to try to follow the old way.

Thanks for checking it out and posting a report!

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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 7:25 pm 
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Thanks for the update and detailed beta. As I recall the trail got re-routed when the bridge was no longer usable. It is much easier for the FS to build a couple miles of trail to another bridge rather than a new bridge across a major river. I like shortcuts and may try that route.

Speaking of shortcuts, Steve and I were up the Entiat in Ice Creek last week looking for the Pomas Pass trail and stumbled across an obvious bootpath that cuts two miles off the hike to Ice Lakes. Also, looking across the valley you can see the Borealis Ridge trail (45 mile sheep drive)  that has been exposed by the fire. Looks like all the jackstrawed downfall have been burned out and the trail could be easily hiked.
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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 8:54 pm 
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Great report Downhill.   Thx for getting back to us on this.  Glad to see the hands on interest in retaining the old (and much better) route.
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PostThu Sep 12, 2019 9:23 pm 
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I had an interesting experience on the « old trail » coming out many years ago . I lost the trail near the crossing and got stuck in an endless boggy area and then had to ford the icicle . Overjoyed was an understatement when I finally reconnected with the trail

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PostSun Sep 15, 2019 8:53 am 
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HitTheTrail wrote:
Steve and I were up the Entiat in Ice Creek last week looking for the Pomas Pass trail

Did you find the Pomas trail, if yes what condition was it in?
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PostSun Sep 15, 2019 1:05 pm 
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Kat wrote:
HitTheTrail wrote:
Steve and I were up the Entiat in Ice Creek last week looking for the Pomas Pass trail

Did you find the Pomas trail, if yes what condition was it in?

The whole area is badly burned but the fire more or less ended in heavy green old growth timber right about where the Pomas Pass trail joins the Ice Creek trail. It is a nightmare of jumbled semi-green and dead fire burned timber all stacked on top of each other. There was a series of red flags at what we assumed to be the Pomas trail (since that location did correspond to the map location). We followed the flags for a ways before getting in over our heads and decided we were going in the wrong direction. After some effort we bailed back to Ice Creek trail. At that point it was starting to get late and I had enough brush bashing for one day and headed back to our camp (only getting lost once on the way back). Steve spent another hour or so looking for the Pomas trail before fording the Entiat river in the dark at our camp. He reported that as  far as he was concerned the Pomas trail was a goner.
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PostSun Sep 15, 2019 2:26 pm 
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I'm not sure if I made it clear in my OP, but the section of the old trail between 3500 and 3700 is obscured by blowdowns and I used a XC route straight uphill and bearing slightly leftward (west) to regain the trail.  There is no bootpath or other route markers in this section and on my descent I used my GPS uptrack to relocate the old trail on my return back down.  Finding the trail at 3500 from above might prove to be a challenge without a GPS or prior knowledge obtained by hiking the route from the bottom up.  It's only about 200' and would benefit from a defined path.
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PostSun Sep 15, 2019 2:44 pm 
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up.gif

Thanks for the detailed report

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PostMon Sep 16, 2019 5:14 am 
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Thanks for brushing out the old trail it is appreciated. Hopefully it will get more use now.
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PostMon Sep 16, 2019 5:21 am 
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Did you make it to you destination after hiking working on the old trail? I ran into the same thing earlier trying to follow the Whitepine trail from below Joesephine lk down to the creek crossing. You would find it in places then lose it. I ribboned part of it.
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PostMon Sep 16, 2019 6:54 am 
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Tracing the details of abandoned trails can be frustrating ( e.g., Pomas Pass, as reported by HTT and Steve) or satisfying, as reported here by Downhill. I enjoy trying!
Thanks for the reports!

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PostMon Sep 16, 2019 12:59 pm 
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timberghost wrote:
Did you make it to you destination after hiking working on the old trail? I ran into the same thing earlier trying to follow the Whitepine trail from below Joesephine lk down to the creek crossing. You would find it in places then lose it. I ribboned part of it.

My purpose for this trip was just to recon the old Frosty Trail, to assess its condition for a future trip.  I intend to approach Grace Lakes, Charles and possibly Knox from the Icicle and the old trail would save me 5-6 miles roundtrip over the newer trail.  For that trip, I planned to be out for a few nights but the weather lately has limited my recent outings to day trips.  Now that I know this old route goes, I will use it the next time I approach that area of the Chiwaukum range.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Old Frosty Creek Trail (pre-2000 Icicle to Frosty Pass) - It goes!!!  (sorta) 9-11-19
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