Twig Adventures

PNT Day 5: From Frolicking to Frantic

Tuesday July 5th, 2022, 1040-2000
Sherman Pass to Hall Creek rd & bushwhack from hell junction, WEBO mm 485, Segment 4 Kettle Range
13 miles, Gain 2400′, Loss 4200′, elevation 4570

It was a day of extremes, I’d have to say. For more than half of it I was in heaven, but the last half in hell. It started with a wonderfully comfortable night in a soft bed, warm and safe. I had coffee with Karrie in the morning, chatting about her career and interests. I was surprised to learn that she’s also really into scuba diving. I was dragging my feet this morning but eventually she proposed a ride up to the trailhead, provided I could help her bring her truck to the mechanic, which was on the way. I was more than happy to do this, regardless of a ride. I got to drive her brand new Prius, which I liked so much.

Shortly I found myself at Sherman pass, ready to head south on the Kettle Crest Trail. Since I began this hike with a flip to the middle, I figured it didn’t matter to be switching directions again to go westbound (webo). It worked out better for Kerrie and I would get to enjoy a net elevation loss of about 5000′. In about a day, I would end where I left off at HWY 21 the day before, connecting my footsteps. Another flip…or is it a flop? Who cares as long as I’m hiking the trail.

From the pass, the trail was immaculate. It was wide, well groomed, and with great switchbacks. Gold-standard. It carried me up into some true alpine loveliness that reminded me so much of the Cascades along the PCT. I was in heaven, walking through all the meadows filled with wildflowers. The sky was a patchwork of fluffy clouds, remnants from the 2 days of rain, and blue. It seemed like the sun was especially shining on me and it felt so good. Little rills of water were trickling from everywhere. I reflected on my light pack, essentially with only 1 day of food, and without some other items I’d left at Kerrie’s. I felt like I was more on a day hike…but even the word hiking implies effort. I was out frolicking.

I came to the Snow Peak cabin, which is a pretty beefy abode sitting atop a pass, with great views and ambiance. It can be rented for pretty cheap but was booked for months in advance when I checked the week before. I first found the spring and water trough, with 3 treats floating inside. I suspected they might have purposely been left by the previous night’s occupants but wasn’t sure if they’d all departed yet. So I went to the cabin to find it empty but still warm from the fire that morning. I ran back to grab one of hard lemonades and enjoyed it while sitting inside, reading the logbook.

I stayed for way too long, not in a hurry. The cabin even had lighting, powered by a solar panel and a battery. I checked for a wifi signal but found none…just kidding. I finally set off for more frolicking along the Kettle Crest trail. I was so preoccupied with the ease and beauty that I missed a turn onto an obscure trail and continued down the side of a mountain for about half a mile. Finally realizing my mistake, I was surprised by just how much elevation I’d dropped…because now I had to go back uphill. Even still, I was in a good mood. The obscure trail was still fun and took me to a spot where I needed to make a decision.

The redline on Far Out depicted a squiggly route down a steep mountainside, connecting to a ridgeline with a series of knolls, then another drop to a forest road, in total 3.5 miles of pure bushwhacking. The alternate blue route was over 5 miles with about 3\4 of a mile bushwhack but the rest logging roads. I was in such a good mood that I decided I wanted a little challenge. Big mistake. I should have recognized that starting such an endeavor so late in the afternoon (4:15) was stupid. Easy math, expecting 1 mph pace, would put me finishing close to 8 pm and in jeopardy of it getting dark. But maybe I thought I could go faster. Or just didn’t care due to overconfidence.

I won’t go into all the details since I really didn’t care for the experience. I knew I should have turned around right off the bat but the farther I went, the more vested I became. The forest was really dense and the terrain very steep…a bad combo. There were sketchy rock faces to scramble and a tangled mess of downfall. I was on my hands and knees crawling at times. I stuffed the umbrella into the main compartment of my pack just to be more streamlined. The main theme was just to keep moving. I had to be very careful to stay right on top of the red line, otherwise I came to tough spots like cliffs and thick stands of trees. Around 6 pm,the mosquitoes came out to say hi, and things got even more miserable. I was a sitting duck for them, moving so slowly. I had to put on my head net, which then made it hard to see and something else to snag on the trees.

I stopped to pick up some water from a stream with only 0.7 miles to go. I still wasn’t sure I was going to make it out by dark, or make it out at all. Even with 0.1 miles to go, I couldn’t see the road and was desperate for it to end. I stumbled out of the woods right on time around 8 pm, picking twigs out of my hair and covered in dirt, leaves, and blood. My legs were a mess of cuts and contusions. I was lucky I didn’t break or loose anything. It was all I could do to immediately pitch my tent, breaking my cardinal rule about not camping right next a road. On this day, I wanted to be close to some semblance of civilization. There were no fresh tire tracks and no vehicles came by. I rinsed off all the blood and dirt from my legs in the little creek and jumped inside my tent. I didn’t even want to eat dinner but forced myself to do so. I’d actually made good time through the bushwhack, so overall it was a success. I should have felt confident and happy but I was instead exhausted and felt dumb for just not going the easier route. Oh well. It was still a good day.

rius night in bed. Gold standard trail. Trough magic. Cabin with lights. I check for a wifi signal but find none. Oh well. Can’t get to comfortably out here. It reminds me of the yurt we reserved in the San Juans on the Colorado Trail.

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