It was mid-July of 2009, and with the snow gone in the Gov’t Meadows section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Steve, Jared, and Teresa joined me to visit this section again. I had hiked it the previous Labor Day weekend (in a snow storm) and was happy to see it in a different season/weather.
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. (Note: this section was fixed not long after we did it. In fall of 2009 Steve and I came back and the trailhead was easy to find.)
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. Originally the weather had been predicted to be wet and cold. Instead we had hot sunny weather.
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. A few weeks after this trip I did the 4 wheel road with Kirk, and came up it via Eastern Washington. In all honesty, walking it was a dream compared to the bouncy, hard ride.
Another historical sign about the history of the Naches Wagon Trail and just how brutal it was.
The meadows at Gov’t Meadows are massive and go on for a huge swath.
Urich Cabin/shelter. It is used in the winter for snowmobiles, but is also open in summer.
Don’t be a jerk basically.
Again, sad that it has to be said multiple times. You don’t want the wrath of the ghosts to avenge your being a jerk 😉
The cabin and the porch –
In front of the cabin. When we came back in fall that year, there were lawn chairs out front even. The inside has a sleeping loft, stove, and many benches to rest on/sleep on in bad weather. It is a very, very nice cabin sitting on the edge of nowhere. Outside of a few hikers and 4 wheelers coming by, there isn’t many out here.
Steve crossing a small creek as we left the meadows. In the fall it was replaced we noted.
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 – but the only trail to the right when heading Southbound. This was the trail we hiked in to start in 2008’s trip.)), down to Rods Gap and headed to Louisiana Saddle where we stopped for our first break.
A long running joke that year had been our eating Hostess fruit pies on the trail.
Or in my case, the store brand since they made one without fake dyes….
Tummies full, we headed on through the funky section, where Stuart Mt. was visible across the way (well not in this photo!)
On the trail, staying in any breeze possible, because the bugs were horrendous. Serious eating you up.
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 of 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?
It’s a short side trip, and I am glad we did it. We didn’t the year before.
It might not be a big wreck, but is an amazing piece of history to see.
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!
Teresa and I in the same section.
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 of 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 a late dinner.
Jared, me, and Steve with the UL FBC Cozies I had made for us in matching reflective silnylon.
A flash shot –
It ended up being very cold that night, and while I had my AGG tarp tent, Teresa and I shared her small tent. Slept really warm! We used my tarp as a gear room.
It started cooling down fast as the sun set, with a wind coming in from the east.
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.
Dawn comes early up high in the mountains in summer.
Me not so ready to get out of my SubKilo.
The two of us feeling a lack of coffee!
The gear room…
Feeling oh so stylish…..
Our view at breakfast.
Steve appreciating the heavy stench of Wild Elk Pee. The camp reeked of it. The whole night that herd had waited on the edges of the meadow, waiting to see if we would leave.
Jared having breakfast.
The Big Crow Basin Shelter. Slowly falling in, but still functional.
Looking across the meadow.
A storm rolled in and we had hidden under the trees for about 10 minutes, then it blew out, and off we went.
Looking back at the shelter and Big Crow Basin as we headed uphill, on Crow Lake Way Trail #953. It connects with the PCT. You can still see the old trail from the basin, where the Cascade Crest Trail went through the basin, instead of going above.
A tiny skull that Steve found, in Teresa’s hand.
We connected back to the PCT at the flat spot where the backside trail to Norse Peak is located. (Looking north at the PCT)
Above the creek that runs down into Big Crow. Water is nearly always found in this basin, this time of year though it was quite good.
Teresa and me heading up.
Teresa and I on the PCT as we neared the first turn off for trail 987 – which has more trails shooting off than marked on the maps. Unlike for Norse Peak where there is a trail on the map one doesn’t see while hiking. Weird.
Looking down at Basin Lake, there was one tent way far below. Here we had a second 10 minute squall and had shelter under a couple of trees. By the time we had pack covers on, it blew through.
Heading to Scout Pass. The ridge to the right goes to Norse Peak.
Looking down into Lake Basin.
Looking back towards where we had come from, and where the PCT crosses a notch in the ridge to go to Big Crow Basin.
At Scout Pass, with a view of Mt. Rainier in front of us. The weather had started getting worse as the day wore on.
Looking back from Scout Pass.
Everyone else climbed to Norse Peak on the side trail. If you look, in the center, you can see me. I stayed with the packs.
Mt. Rainier and Lupine.
Packs and my lunch spot.
It’s hard to see in the photo, but this stick of dead wood is the marker for Scout Pass (it is written on in Sharpie marker (much better than the paper sign from our 2008 trip!). The trail to Norse Peak is in the middle of the photo. The trail though is not on the maps.
Looking across at the ridge that makes up Crystal Mountain/Crystal Ski area with Rainier behind.
Teresa, Jared, and me.
Down we headed and started the traverse. There was one short washout on the hillside with no trail tread but by walking carefully one can get across. No snow at all on the trail from Barnard Saddle to Crystal either.
Looking across the way, below is Bullion Basin and you can see the PCT angling upwards across. The main trail down to Bullion is on the right shoulder of the peak. I chose to take the old trail that shoots like crazy down into Bullion instead, they all took the longer route.
More of a view down into the basin:
The meadows of Bullion:
They caught up and we headed down the dust pit that is the trail to Bullion Basin (it is an old road)
A shot of me that Teresa took as I booked down the hill, loosing over 1,500 feet in two miles. Another storm was blowing over and it got cold fast in the basin.
We reached the car at Crystal Ski area and not longer after the rain started, this time it dumped. And dumped. No turning off as we drove down into the low lands. We timed it well it would seem.
We stopped for hot drinks at Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater, then drove into Enumclaw for a late lunch at Krains Corner. Krains is about as old school as one can find – good grub for after hike. Fair priced, fast and food coma inducing. I always get the soup cup with my patty melt instead of fries, they make homemade soups. That are so good!
It was a fun weekend – hot, cold, views…good friends and Steve and I have now finished from Hwy 12 (White Pass) to Hwy 2 (Stevens Pass) on the PCT.