Month: October 2011

Fourth of July Creek / Icicle Ridge Traverse

The high point on Icicle Ridge and site of an old lookout (elev. 7029')

October outdoor adventures are pretty predictable. We’re in great shape after a summer of adventuring. So, when a break in the weather provides the opportunity to get outside, we pick something with a challenging distance, substantial elevation gain, and great views. One of the classics is the 14.7-mile hike from Fourth of July Creek over Icicle Ridge.

Yesterday, the weather forecast was indeed good, so Rod, Tina, Matt, Colt, Bruce and I met at the Icicle Creek TH and shuttled up to the Fourth of July Creek TH for a through-hike. Starting at 2260′, we snaked our way up the south-facing hillside amid some big Ponderosa pines and firs. (I used to think the switchbacks that take hikers to Cascade Pass were relentless. There are only 38 on that trail. The Fourth of July trail offers a mind-blowing 59-64 switch backs, depending on who you ask.) Forest fire and fall frost turned most of the trees into silver giants for us.

At 5.7 miles, we reached the junction with the Icicle Ridge trail (elev. 6775′). A short (0.2 mile) hike to the left would have taken us to the high point on the ridge (pictured above). Lazy hikers that we are, we plopped ourselves down in a clearing near the junction and munched on homemade fudge, courtesy of Jim Clinton’s mom, and took in the views. To the east, we could see Mission Ridge and the Entiat Range. To the south, the Stuart Range and Cashmere.

Fully refueled, we headed south-east along Icicle Ridge back towards Leavenworth. The trail traverses barren ridge-top for two to three miles. It went up and down a bit, probably adding another 500′ of gain. There were great views of the Enchantments and an opportunity to stop and take a look at a weather station that sits on one of the highest ridges.

Eventually, the trail headed downhill into the Leavenworth Valley. This part of the trail has not been well-tended and we ran into LOTS of fallen logs blocking the trail. Over … Under … Over … Ugh! The last few miles were a series of long and frustratingly mellow switchbacks. I think we could see the cars about 2 hours before we actually reached them. The ground has been packed solid, making for tough walking when our feet were already tired from the day’s trek.

We finally reached the cars about 7 1/2 hours after we started with only one thing on our mind – Mexican food!

Total distance: 14.7 miles; elevation gain: ~5000′.

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Oatmeal cookies of love

I have high hopes for today’s cookie creation.

Wallace Falls State Park

The weather was overcast and unexpectedly dry today. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for a photography excursion to Wallace Falls.

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What vegans eat

From I Love Charts. So great!

Kaleetan Peak

The plan: meet at 6:30 a.m. in Issaquah, drive east, and scramble something. Originally we thought that something in the Teanaway would be great, since we’re still within larch-viewing season. When Mike said “Kaleetan?” I said “Yes!”

We were on the trail by 7:20 a.m., enjoying the solitude of an early morning start. It’s been years since I’ve hiked to Melakwa Lake, and I enjoyed the hike as much as any new trail I’ve explored. We crossed under I-90, hopped over the “water slide” and stopped to enjoy the view of the waterfall about half way to the lake.

Waterfall on the way to Melakwa Lake

After a quick water break at Melakwa Lake, we decided to do a loop trip – up the “white slab” route and down the “dog route.” We wandered up to Upper Melakwa Lake and continued up to Melakwa Pass. The going was a bit treacherous, as most of the scree and boulders were covered with an invisible film of ice. Hop, hop, slip! Hop, slip! Slip! It’s really a wonder we didn’t break something.

At the pass, we met Glen and Ben. They came up from Snow Lake and were continuing down valley toward Melakwa Lake. Turns out, Glen is the volunteer ranger who staffs the lookout tower at Granite Mountain. He remembered a delicious dinner of fried chicken and beer that we’d brought up the trail and shared with him a while back. We exchanged phone numbers and promises to stay in touch.

From the pass, our route looked nothing less than dubious. The white rocks leading up to the ridge were covered in a couple inches of snow.

We’d come so far, though, and were pretty disheartened by the idea of turning around here. We developed a new mantra: “Let’s just go a little further and see how it looks.” Turns out, that works pretty well, provided you don’t climb anything you wouldn’t mind down climbing. We might have made one or two sketchy moves, but the risk paid off. (Nothing like consequence to sharpen your focus!) Looking back, you can get a better idea of how snow covered everything was.

Once we got to the ridge, it was mostly snow free. We scrambled up, the final gully and had the place pretty much to ourselves.

We weren’t quite all-the-way alone. As we relaxed and enjoyed lunch, a frisky pine marten came to check us out.

Then it was a final “group” summit shot and we were off, back to the trail head.

Total distance: 12.6 miles. Elevation gain: 4000′.