Cut and paste of trip report on my site. Pics and full report are here .
Let's make a quick list of all the things that make an early backpacking trip suck. Bugs? I think we saw four insects the whole trip. Weather? 70 degrees. Sunny. No wind. Light, fluffy non-threatening clouds. Snow? Outside of crossing an avalanche runout, we saw very little snow and really only in the shade. Huge elevation gains? Average of 260' per mile elevation gain. Tons of people? We saw maybe 7 or 8 other people each day.
What a great trip. Jason C. and I drove out to the North Bend Safeway to pick up Casey and grab some food. "Some" food turned out to be enough to feed the Donner Party for weeks on end. Of particular note was the staggering amount of ramen I was convinced I would need to eat during this trip. Oy.
Armed with the latest intel from the Ranger Station in Leavenworth, we believed we would find the trail impassable at about the 3.5 mile mark. Plenty of distance for the first trip of the season. We plodded up into the valley, across several streams, none of which seemed the "raging" creek that we were warned would impede our passage. We did come across an enormous avalanche runout, though. About 30' high and 100 yards across, it was awfully impressive but wasn't enough of an obstacle to even break out the snowshoes we all packed in.
This particular valley has some pretty remarkable scenery. The northern ridge of this valley is the southern ridge of the Enchantment lakes valley so we were treated to the backside of some great peaks in the Stuart Range.
After four or five hours, this started to seem like the longest 3.5 miles of my life so we started scouting for a camp site. As luck would have it, we found the perfect spot about 200 yards past the spot where the until-now tentative blister forming on my heel turned into a full-on attention-getter. The camp site was next to the river, room enough for two tents, and a few blowdowns provided seating and enough firewood for the evening. As it turns out, we actually went almost 7 miles back in before finding this site. Oops. We set the packs down and headed up the trail to a big gravel bar on the side of the creek for some fantastic views of Little Annapurna and McClellan Peak.
We headed out the next morning under once-again perfect skies. It proved much easier to enjoy the scenery heading down hill and with slightly lighter packs. Stopped by the side of the creek at a great lunch spot for some summer sausage and rancid roast beef. And then finished up the trail through some really nice early season wildflowers. No idea what kind of flowers they were. They were yellow, does that help?
All in all, a *really* good trip to start the backpacking season.
True story. We met up with a guy who went farther than we did (I think past Cascade Creek a little ways) and he never ran into snow outside of that big pile at the bottom of a large avalanche slope. According to the topo map, we were at just over 3600'.
CascadeHiker, you made a good call on this hike!
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