I am writing this blog post with my thumbs, so it may be brief.
Highlights: Easy hike along Ross Lake with warm temperatures. We made it to the border on the second day pulling a 26 mile day having left most of our pack weight at the last camp site. The Canadian border was unexpectedly deserted, and we easily walked over for a brief moment. After we tagged the Canadian border, we hiked back the way we came, going south finally! South of route 20 was fairly easy going until Park Creek Pass which was our first taste of snow. It was steep and scary, and right at the pass there was a bear to greet us. He was also slipping and sliding along the snow, slightly more gracefully than us, and we followed him to the less snowy side if the Pass. We made it into Stehekin on day 5, and met our first thru hiker, Sadie at the Post Office. She had come the way of the PCT via Harts Pass, and had had a rough time of it. We were happy about our decision not to go that route.
Day 1: Rt 20 to Deer Lick Camp, 20 miles
July 2: Got a ride to the trailhead from Peter, and stashed a bear canister full of food along with our snow gear (ice axe and crampons) near the road since we wouldn’t need them heading north on Ross Lake.
We managed to lose the trail less than 1 mile in since we were in a rush to get going, and only caught our mistake 15 to 20 minutes later. We managed to hike 20 miles despite starting around 11am, since the terrain was flat. Ross lake was beautiful with pretty views of snowy mountains in the distance.
Day 2: Deer Lick Camp to Canadian Border (monument 72), and back to Lightning Stock Camp, 26 miles
July 3: We left our tent and sleeping bags at camp since we would be headed back the way we came, which meant that we hiked with less weight on our backs, making for easier miles. We carried way too much food, and managed to hand some off to a ranger near the Canadian Border. The border was surprisingly devoid of people. We could easily walk across to the other side without so much as a deer looking our way.
After a few pictures, we headed back the way we came through buggy and hot trail. On the way back we found a patch of wild strawberries that distracted us for quite some time, but was a lovely break. We pushed further than we had anticipated so as to make tomorrow’s mileage more manageable, and camped right by the lake. At Lighting Stock Camp we met a very nice couple who had boated in and were fishing at Ross Lake, and shared their leftover London Broil, salad and hard boiled eggs with us. We stayed up slightly later than we anticipated chatting and cooking smores by a camp fire. We knew this kind of luxury would only come once in a blue moon.
Day 3: Lightning Stock Camp to Panther Creek Camp, 19 miles
July 4: My feet hurt quite early on, and so we took many breaks, which helped a lot. When we got back to Rt 20, we picked up our bear canister full of food and our snow gear, and our packs felt quite heavy. We wound up giving away more of our food at the parking lot at Rt 20, since we were still carrying too much. Panther Creek Trail was overgrown and more difficult than I had anticipated given how it looked on the map (flat). In reality it went up, up, up, several thousand feet and then back down again over a pointless hill. My feet had blisters by the evening, but we were happily in our tent by 7:30pm, which made me very happy. Lots of sleep tonight!
Day 4: Panther Camp to Thunder Basin, 21 miles
July 5: Out of Panther Camp we hit a gigantic snow bridge which was taller than either one of us, and we scrambled around it in order to avoid walking on it and falling through.
The trail continued to be overgrown until we hit Thunder Creek trail, which was basically a highway in comparison. The bugs were quite bad, and we hit some small patches of snow as we gained elevation. We met some trail maintainers who gave us some general information about the trail ahead, but they did not know much since they hadn’t been over Park Creek Pass yet this season. They thought probably at least one person had made it over already.
Day 5: Thunder Basin to Stehekin, 17 miles
July 6: We kept climbing up to Park Creek Pass, most of the time in snow. There were signs that a large avalanche had come through knocking down most of the trees on its path. As we got to the Pass, Dirt Stew started leading the way up the Pass by kicking steps ahead of me. He had managed to pick a route over some rocks which turned out to be much steeper than I had expected, and by the time I got there, my legs froze in fear, and I panicked. It was so steep, and so far down if I fell. In the end it took us 4 hours, and a few tears to cover 2 miles.
When we made it to the top of the Pass, a young bear was there to greet us. I wondered how he made it there, but given his sharp claws I figured he was probably pretty well equipped for snow. We followed the bear across the Pass, and across to the less snowy side.
As we got closer to Stehekin, Dirt Stew realized that he left a whole stuff sac full of clothing somewhere along the trail. He couldn’t remember if he would have left it before or after the Pass, and I told him there was no way I was going back. Unfortunately, this meant that we lost several expensive items of clothing. When we got to Stehekin, we made sure we reported the lost item in case anyone found it later on. The bus to “downtown” Stehekin was empty besides us, and we got dropped of at the Landing where we gobbled down a couple of sandwiches and guzzled some soda before getting a shower, doing some laundry, and setting up camp at Purple Point. Stehekin is such an adorable town, we wished we could stay longer.