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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