Chinook Pass To White Pass
Chinook Pass (Hwy 410) in Washington State is for us very easy to reach, and because of that we hike on this section of the PCT very often. Be it dayhiking or backpacking, I am on it often from mid-summer to late fall, every year.
In September of 2006 I attempted the section of Chinook Pass to White Pass (Hwy 12), but turned back due to a friend’s injury that was hurting her. The day was in the clouds as we started. We came in via Mount Rainier National Park to save time.
And dropped down to Dewey Lakes:
We made it to about a ½ mile past the American Ridge trail turnoff.
It was still a good trip even if we had to turn back. It was a chilly trip, flittering between cold winds, clouds and the sun.
We camped at Anderson Lake, which is in Mount Rainier National Park, the campsite itself is across the trail, tucked into the NF land and hence you don’t need a permit from the park (you won’t see it listed on the NP website either, but it does exist).
It is one of the nicest campsites on the PCT in Washington. You have water right there, trees for shade and even protection from the elements, some of the best huckleberry picking areas….
And the views looking towards Eastern Washington are simply amazing when the sun sets.
The next morning we woke to clear skies and hiked back up, which is always a good cardio workout…as you have quite the climb out of Dewey Lakes.
The payoff was seeing Rainier on a glorious morning, with almost no one else out.
I’d come back and get the section done…but it would take a year before I had the time…..
Near the end of the hiking season for the mountains in 2007, I finally found time to try again to hike from Chinook Pass (Hwy 410) to White Pass (Hwy 12) in Washington State, on the PCT. In the fall of 2006, in November, we had had a horrendous storm that was so bad Mount Rainier National Park was shut down. One of the casualties was Hwy 123, which connect 410 to 12, with a short 13 miles or so of road. It had cleaved off 2 sections of road. Rainier works fast and by fall announced the road was open, less than 11 months later. With that, my friend Steve and I headed out. It was October 3rd, 2007.
Into a near blizzard.
Steve and I each drove up, we drove to Hwy 12 first and dropped off Steve’s truck, then drove mine up to below Chinook Pass. We were the only vehicle there besides a lonely snow plow.
Looking back at one of the Tipsoo Lakes and my truck.
Feeling optimistic or something, as we started off, with Steve leading.
We did have some nice weather, here and there, with the sun coming out.
Dewey Lakes below us.
Passing along the larger of the Dewey Lakes, where in summer there are many campsites.
While it was cold, and snowing, it hadn’t had a deep freeze yet, being early fall. So the streams were still flowing.
Some sections were better than others. In these we moved fast.
Not long after the turnoff for American Ridge Lakes trail, we passed this sign.
Onward towards Two Lakes we headed. I wasn’t hard to miss in the snow with a bright read pack cover on. The wind started up here, and the weather went downhill.
By the time we came to the high point in this section, the snow was kicking really hard, and we had seen about 9″ fall.
Dropping down towards Fish Lake was nice. It did turn to rain, but you could see the trail and we were moving much faster.
Near the low point on this section, the fall colors started popping out. We had dropped from 5700 feet to 4100 feet.
Bumping River comes out of Fish Lake, a wide, meandering wet land. Lots of elk, bears, and deer in this area.
Steve and I found a campsite at Bumping River, and decided to cross it in the morning (the campsites are on the North side of the river). Most of the sites here are horse camps. It was dark within 30 minutes of setting up camp. The rain turned to snow as we slept, and woke up to 2″ around us.
Poking my head out in the morning, wondering…did I really want to get up? It was 30*.
Bumping River has had bridges here and there, but they usually get blown out within a year. I opted for the idiot “walk through” method, which in summer is fine in sandals. Not so good in winter. I learned a cold foot lesson on this trip. Bumping River isn’t a bad river though – it is easy to find a wide spot and just go. It wasn’t more than mid calf.
Once you cross the river, the trail heads uphill, back up. We saw bear tracks in the snow, and have ravens over us.
It is a nice section that goes fast.
About a mile up, you come to the next water crossing. This section of the PCT only has 2 water crossings that can be issues – this creek and Bumping. At the time there was 2 rounded logs here. When I did this section the next summer, in 2008, it was down to 1 log. This creek though is narrow, and not a fun one to ford (though in summer is fine to do).
I despise logs like this. I was just glad to be done. And yes, I was hot as heck by this point, since it wasn’t snowing or raining and it was all uphill….
Old fence posts…thinking back when sheep were grazed?
Once you reach the top of the plateau, the hiking is relatively easy, as the PCT wanders from one small lake to the next. This section is a massive area covered in potholes of lakes. Winter means no bugs, of which this section is horrendous with in say early August.
Passing Snow Lake, the gentle weather turned and the snow started.
Still, it was peaceful hiking as we passed small lake after lake.
Around here we ran into the first people we had seen the entire trip. We came across a couple horse packers who were coming in to set up a high elk camp for clients. What is it with them always looking down from their horses at the weirdos hiking 😉
The downside is the horse hooves tore up the snow and compacted it, making the trail for us very hard to hike in.
A few more short hills to traverse….
And then we reached Sand Lake, which meant it was all downhill to White Pass. I was glad. My feet felt like frozen bricks. My boots had saturated with water, my socks were wet, and it was getting colder by the minute. Had this been a multi-day trip, we’d have had to stop early so I could have changed socks, and gotten warmed up – and probably had a fire in the snow. Instead, it encouraged me to move faster, knowing Steve’s truck was waiting for us. And not long after, the c-store at White Pass. Where I ate an entire King Size Payday bar and a few other items. All I remeber is how bitter I was that the espresso machine there was broken. It was like “how can you do this to us!”.
A quick drive back up Hwy 123 led us back to Hwy 410, and Steve dropped me off at my truck, which thankfully started in the cold.
And then a day later or so…it was 80* out. Snort.