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geyer
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PostMon Aug 03, 2020 9:55 pm 
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Date: August 1, 2020
Distance:  32.3 miles
Gross Elevation Gain: 7000 ft
Humans Seen: 2, about 3 miles from the trailhead on the way back

I think I first had my eye on Gamma Peak after reading up on Jason Hummel and Kyle Miller's ski of the Chocolate Glacier Headwall when my eye started wandering around the map a bit. Gamma always looked cool, but like not so cool that I wanted to backpack there over any number of other places. So it stayed in the back of my mind until this year, when I realized I could probably do it in a day. Truth be told, I had never hiked (or ran) 30 miles in a day before, but if I could do Jack and Lemah in a day, this would be a cake walk in comparison. Still , I wasn't convinced since I'm not nearly in the endurance shape I was the last few years (thanks covid...)

Instead of camping in the parking lot which I've done twice before at the Suiattle trailhead, I decided to get some shut-eye in my own bed, starting at 8:30 pm on Friday night and waking up a hair before 2 am Saturday morning before making the 2.5ish hour drive to the trailhead. At 4:49am, I donned my headlamp and started hiking. Well, running actually. If I was going to get to the peak before the heat of the day kicked in, I'd have to run.

The first mile went by - 12 minutes
The second mile went by  - 12 minutes
The third mile went by -  12 minutes again! Holy sh## I might actually do this

On the 4th mile, the elevation kicked in a bit more and my pace slowed, but my garmin watch kept me disciplined to stay on a decent pace.

I was crossing the PCT bridge 6.7 miles in after 90 minutes and thought to myself how much further that had seemed the last time I had crossed it. Night and day between my 50 lb pack back then and my maybe 5 lb pack this time Once you get past the PCT at the Vista Creek crossing is in my opinion where the Suiattle trail actually starts to get interesting. Vista Creek is milky white, the trees swell up to the width of buses, moss and ferns adorn the sides of the trail and even swallowed up a few old boardwalks. Everything just feels a little more wild and a little less hyper-organized a la PCT.


After a while, you reach a small creek coming down from Gamma Ridge, and this is your last chance to load up on water. It's also the first break I took all day. 12 miles in. Who am I?

From here, the climb begins and it is brutal. My hammies and glutes are already wrecked from running and my pace hits a brick wall. From 4.5mph on the river trail down to less than 2mph. I found it interesting how many campsites there were along the Suiattle Trail. Once on Gamma Ridge, there are even a few sub-alpine campgrounds with fire pits that would be a good stopping point if Gamma was your final destination.

Once on the ridge, that's where the party starts. The first sign that things are getting good is some yellow wildflowers along with lupine. After a bit, the woods open up to meadows and views from Mount Baker to Green Mountain to Dome Peak. I was so excited I almost missed the view to the left - a grand display of the many ridges of Glacier Peak and the Dakobed traverse! WOW. My second wind kicked in and I booted it up to where the ridge turned to alpine meadow, with an incredible display of wildflower and heather in every direction. Marmots were whistling left and right. It was so scenic - everything you could imagine in an alpine meadow! I almost regretted not bringing my camera for a while.


I was in the midst of my own Wonderful Life moment, oohing and ahhhing at every new view as I turned a corner before finally summiting Gamma Peak. The view was extraordinary. After 12 miles of river valley approach, I was wondering if the final views were going to be worth it, but that thought cleared my mind (and then some) as I walked up that summit ridge. I couldn't peel myself away. I didn't want to go 16 miles back to the car. It was going to be painful.


But leave I did and the hike/run back was largely uneventful. When I got back to the car, I took a quick soak in the Suiattle River and ate a light dinner on a sand bar. All in all, a good day in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
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Gimpilator
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PostTue Aug 04, 2020 7:01 am 
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Thanks for the report!  That's a deep one.   up.gif

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Cyclopath
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PostTue Aug 04, 2020 10:52 am 
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That sounds like an epic trip!  You did a trail marathon and then some.  Fantastic pics, thanks for sharing them.
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cascadetraverser
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PostWed Aug 05, 2020 11:12 am 
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Nice TR; did you look for the Gamma hotsprings?
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reststep
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PostWed Aug 05, 2020 11:30 am 
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Wow!!  Great report and pictures.  Thanks for sharing.

How does your recovery go for something like that? Are you ready for another hike the next day?

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"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
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geyer
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PostWed Aug 05, 2020 11:31 am 
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I passed on the hot springs search. I got a whiff of them upwind and that was enough for me. I was already leaning toward avoiding it, since most posts I've seen seem to suggest that they're underwhelming and hard to get to or just too hot to enjoy without creating a tarp pool.

Have you been?
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cascadetraverser
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PostWed Aug 05, 2020 11:45 am 
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My story is the same; I was up there 30 years ago or so and did a high route over to the Pct and onto Lime ridge. Smelled em and moved on...I did see the mountain goat herd that lives up there for the first time on the meadowy slopes up there. That was pretty cool..Glad that the trail still exists. It was in really good shape back then and I bet itís pretty suspect now?
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geyer
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PostWed Aug 05, 2020 12:08 pm 
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cascadetraverser wrote:
It was in really good shape back then and I bet itís pretty suspect now?

Actually it's in great shape! There was even some recent brushing out by the look of it.

Didn't see any mountain goats though, but a whole lot of goat hair.
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Hulksmash
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Cleaning up.
PostTue Aug 11, 2020 11:51 am 
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Did a few trips back there with a cross cut saw to keep the trail from disappearing entirely.

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"Bears couldn't care less about us....we smell bad and don't taste too good. Bugs on the other hand see us as vending machines." - WetDog

Albuterol! it's the 11th essential
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Lindsay
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PostThu Aug 27, 2020 9:24 am 
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The Gamma Ridge Trail is in beautiful condition! What a work of art and labor of love to take care of it. THANK YOU!
I especially liked the touch of using a fallen giant fir as a bridge over a very dense thicket of young Pacific silver fir seedlings. It felt poetic (and practical).
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Arthur
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PostSat Aug 29, 2020 10:55 am 
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4 years ago there were lots of down logs and fir seedlings growing in the trail tread. The trail was very difficult to find/follow. Hulksmash was the inspiration to dedicate time to preserving the Gamma Way trail.

There have been multiple trips over each of the last 4 years to logout and brush the trail. There were even 2 trips this year by a small crew.
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raising3hikers
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PostSun Aug 30, 2020 7:37 pm 
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excellent work, couldn't help but think of your trip from the sulphur mtn area this weekend.  nice job on the big daytrip!

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Route Loser
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PostTue Sep 01, 2020 11:50 am 
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Nice photos. That's a strong day trip for being "out of shape." Good to know the trail is being maintained thanks to Hulksmash and others.
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atattooedmama
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PostFri Sep 11, 2020 9:40 am 
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Thank you so much for this awesome report! I was skeptical on trying this trail but I think I will now!
Stay safe out there friends!
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NBL
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PostWed Sep 16, 2020 7:50 am 
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Really inspiring TR for those of us still developing trail running cardio. Allows you to penetrate so much deeper into the wilderness to see some of the best sights all in a day trip smile.gif
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