Tuesday August 2nd, 2022, 0820-1600
Rattlesnake Gulch to Oroville, WEBO mm 616.2, Section 6 Pasayten Wilderness
24 miles, Gain 1160′, Loss 1430′, elevation 945′
Today was supposed to be sort of an easy day, slack-packing along a road stretch so that we could connect our footsteps and reduce our food carry into the Pasayten Wilderness. Actually, beginning with Oroville, I’d already missed 2.5 miles of road walking to the Whistler Canyon Trailhead. On my first visit to the area, I’d asked to be dropped off directly at the trailhead. I was so anxious to start the trail, I didn’t have the time or will to start off with a walk along the highway. Now I doubted if I would bother going back to complete it (newsflash…I didn’t). But I guess the 24 miles of road walking through the Similkameen River valley felt somehow necessary to the experience. I’d read about how hot and dry the road walk was, so it seemed like it was appropriate to suffer a little before entering the promised lands of the Cascades.
We woke early and were out of the room by 7 am. We hadn’t secured a ride in order for the logistics of our slack-pack to work, but everything just seemed to fall into place in the morning. A local guy, Kevin, was staying at the motel and offered to drive us out past Loomis. This way we could walk back towards Oroville at our own pace. I guess we just couldn’t seem to break loose from our eastbound ways, even though we were now working our way west. We gave him some money for gas and began the road walk in the coolness of the morning. The past week had been brutally hot, with heat index warnings nearly every day. It had cooled off a bit but was still forecasted to be close to 100 degrees this day. We walked in the shade of the hills for a bit, then along Palmer Lake. Everything was going great until about 10 miles in, when I realized the water in the river was pretty gross. I was carrying only one small water bottle for the day, figuring I’d just filter water along the way. Trouble was, the whole area was surrounded by farms of apples, pears, alfalfa and many other commercial crops. I couldn’t help but imagine the agricultural runoff from all these farms, full or fertilizers, pesticides, and other stuff my filter doesn’t actually filter. But I had to get more water at some point. Another problem was that although the road followed the river, much of the surrounding land was private property, baring access to the river.
Suddenly my mouth felt very dry, it was very hot, and I had a headache that wouldn’t go away. I put up my umbrella and toughed it out. At least the road was nice, with almost no traffic, and the scenery wide open to view the steep hills surrounding the valley. I felt like I was walking through the deserts of Arizona more than I was walking only 3 miles south of the Canadian border. It was kind of a strange area. Thank goodness I’d walked the other hot and dry areas surrounding Oroville and Republic back when the hills were still green and oozing with water from all the recent rain. The temps had been between 50 and 70 degrees, not the 100’s.
I marched on and on…keep walking, that’s a thing I’m good at. After another few miles I came to some campsites that allowed river access. A local guy gave me some water from his jug and I also pulled some from the river, which was at least flowing fast in that spot. I laid down in the river and had my lunch. All this helped revive me. My thermometer read 97 in the shade. Ugh.
We didn’t see any other hikers doing this foolish thing that we were doing all day. Most hitch past this road walk…for good reason. It’s not that the road is dangerous…it was definitely not on a Tuesday, at least. It’s just so dang hot and exposed. Still, in the end, I was glad I did it. It felt like too significant of a distance to miss. As for the remaining 2.5 miles south of town…I’d had high hopes of grabbing a loaner bike and riding the distance to at least connect my heart rates. But as soon as we got back to town, I had to run to the post office to get some things mailed off before it closed, then collapsed on the bed of the hotel. I was absolutely gutted. The man next door, Tom I think his name was, saw us arrive and took pity. I guess we looked pretty destroyed. He gave us some of his sodas and later bought us a pizza. The people in this small town were all so kind. Most thanks to Alison, Tom, and Kevin at the motel. We demolished the pizza and I drank probably 2 liters of soda in one sitting. Then I passed out. What a day.