This was a trip that I had promised my friend Steve we would finish – I had done it last year with Teresa and Jeff in a snowstorm but he had been unable to make it. We had waited since late October for the snows to melt. Rounding up Teresa to do it again, we also invited Jared to join us (and somehow he said sure).
With this section done Steve and I have finished up between Hwy 12 and Hwy 2 in Washington on the PCT, doing it in section hikes. Up next we tackle the Southern section that we have small sections done – but that will be another trip report of course 😉
Kirk helped us do the hike by being our shuttle early on Saturday morning and leaving us on the lonely road of FS #7080 above Greenwater. Not the easiest to find trail junction – coming from the south one has to walk the road uphill to find the next junction to head to Blowout Mountain, the north side trail junction has a sign, lying on the ground that one can make out a “t” and that is it. A maze of roads back there, one HAS to pay attention! The trailhead for heading south has a pullout for one vehicle and a rutted start with a sign well hidden in the bushes. It starts in a clearcut and heads uphill quickly into trees.
The four of us, ready to go, holding Teresa’s 2009 thru-hiker bandanna:
Looking back down the trees from where we came:
Jared and Steve ahead of me. It was slated to be icky weather but instead we had very hot blue skies. The promised rain showers/cold didn’t come.
The trail crosses the Naches Wagon Trail (the 4 wheel road) and pops out at Gov’t Meadows, with the historical sign on what it signifies:
Part of the meadows – Gov’t Meadows is massive, I’d say one of the biggest I have seen:
Another sign talking about the history of the area.
The Urich shelter, which is open for use and in great shape:
Teresa, me and Jared at the cabin:
Leaving the meadows, heading south on the PCT. Steve crossing the stream that rambles through the meadows on a twisted bridge:
We ambled along, the trail is very easy in this section. The PCT follows the top of the crest, which is a nearly flat (well, for the PCT that is) plateau. We passed the junction to head out to the end of FS 70 (not marked), down to Rods Gap and headed to Louisiana Saddle where we stopped for our first break.
And was it Pie Time? Oh yes baby!
Yum! Trashy Trail Food! Apple, Cherry, Blackberry and Chocolate Creme. 😉
Tummies full we headed on through the funky section, where Stuart Mt. was visible across the way (well not in this photo!)
Teresa took this photo of me here:
We got water at the spring that runs north of Arch Rock Spring (where the old shelter was once). There was still snow in this section so the stream was running fast and clear of icey cold water. The side path to the old shelter side still has a lot of snow covering it. Otherwise though while we did encounter patches of snow from Gov’t Meadows and on, it was never bad. It is nearly gone and rarely do you see any on the trail (and if so is a couple steps on it).
Once you get past Louisiana Saddle the trail meanders through sub alpine forest and cool forest, breaking into meadow areas:
Teresa near the junction for trail #951 which heads east to Ravens Roost:
We reached trail #1187, known both as Arch Rock Way Trail and Echo Lake Trail and headed down to Airplane Meadow. It is a rutted muddy path that drops down off the PCT rudely. You descend through trees and pop out into another massive meadow. On the far right side is the wreckage of the plane wreck from I believe 1939?
We walked across the top of the meadow (the airplane would be to the far right). The meadow heads downhill, in a draw, falling away towards Arch Rock. The sad trail though loops through the meadow and then goes straight downhill to Echo Lake, 2000 feet down. There is a little water in the actual meadow, though heavily used by elk and full of bug larvae. There is supposedly two springs further down the trail, we gave up, turned around and headed back up. The trail was just dropping to fast for us to want to keep going. As well, the meadows and trees were a full on horror show of bugs. You had to nearly run to not get bit.
Back on the trail we were around 10 miles in and the clouds were starting to come in a bit, bringing a cool breeze. It also cut the sun, leaving us all with more energy. So on we went!
On the western side of the crest we suddenly could see just the bottom of Rainier, across the way with Castle and Mutton Mt’s hidden in the bright skies:
Teresa, me in the back and Jared on a narrow ledge:
This section that crosses from West to East is always a bit fun as it is rocky, sandy and with little trail tread. Jared and Steve picking their way across. You can see Castle Mt. from here – with the Greenwater River so far below you. The trail was not in great condition for that short section – basically enough room for one foot, with slippage as you walked. No snow, no complaints!
We stopped at the meadows just before Martinson Gap where the guys went looking for water. There was a tiny bit left but not much, heavily used by elk and bugs. Though it is a nice area to camp if one has water.
My pack with the meadows in the distance (through the trees that is!) looking northish, Martinson Gap is behind us:
As you go down through Martison Gap the view east:
We decided to keep going, we had till 9 pm for dusk and it was 6 something. Teresa in the shadows before Little Crow Basin:
The traverse across the crest from Martinson Gap for about two miles has seen damage this past winter. Nothing bad, just erosion. There is a narrow trail now, it was wider last summer.
We came into Little Crow Basin and again, like last summer only found what appeared to be a rude scramble down into the basin through the trees. We did spy a couple people down in the north end of the basin. We looked down and while nice…..both Teresa and I knew that for the climb down, was it worth it? Not really with Big Crow Basin so close.
Me in the setting sun going over Hayden Pass, you can see an old section of the trail below me:
The trail from Hayden on goes fast, passing the turn off for trail #1161 (Goat Lake) which is not marked, though the PCT is as is the marking for Barnard Saddle there. There was a little snow in this area, all easily crossed, nothing scary. Muddy though. There are a few camps up on the top of the crest that could be used till the snow goes away – though last year all those camps above reeked of horse poop.
As we came into the top of Big Crow Basin Steve was waving to us frantically. Below us in the basin were tons of elk, slightly spooked by us. Steve counted maybe up to 70 of them? It was around 8 pm, they were dining and drinking. Big Crow is a lush meadow with lots of cold water. We took the cut off trail into the basin, coming out at the old shelter. No one else was out there besides the elk so we camped in the horse camp at the shelter. And drank a lot of that water!
Teresa in her Rainbow:
Steve and Teresa getting ready for dinner:
Jared, me and Steve with our trio of UL FBC Cozies:
One more shot:
It started cooling down fast as the sun set, with a wind coming in from the east. Teresa and I ended up sleeping in the Rainbow together and used my AGG tarptent as a gear room.
The skies were so clear (they always seem so much bigger on the east side) and the moon was very bright. The wind howled all night – so much it dried the condensation from the meadows off the tents. The meadows had a lot of moisture that came up as soon as the sun set.
We did around 16 miles and we got to see the airplane. We encountered a family on quads who came up the Naches Wagon Trail at Gov’t Meadows, two dayhikers near FS 70 and the people we saw in Little Crow Basin. That was it – this IS a lonely section, even later in summer.
Most photos by me, the smaller photos were taken by Jared and Teresa. Thanks for lending me them!
More to come in part 2…..