Pratt Mountain 5099′

To many visitors, Pratt Mountain, or simply “The Pratt” as it’s called by woodland hipsters, appears to be a giant heap of talus rising from the montane forest…

…and it pretty much is.


(From Talapus Lake TH)

  • 2400ft / 730m gain
  • 10mi / 16km round trip
  • <0.5mi/0.8km offtrail



“The Pratt” composes the north east buttress of a high plateau which holds a number of popular alpine lakes just north of the I90. Especially popular on summer weekends!

The shortest distance approach is from Talapus Lake trailhead, but can be also accessed from Ira Spring TH or Granite Mountain TH, whatever way you choose, you’ll want to end up around Rainbow Lake.

Rising behind the lake is the southwest face of Pratt Mountain; the aforementioned giant pile of talus. A non technical, but talus-y ascent awaits you.

Along the trail just east of Rainbow Lake, a handful of foot paths head up through trees to these rocky slopes, where one can contour northwest along the ridge to the summit.

There’s a good view of the surrounding peaks from the top o’ the Pratt. Just south one might be able to spy hikers atop Bandera Mountain, or yonder east at the Granite Mountain Fire Lookout.

Throw them a wave, or give em the bird! It’s basically the same gesture at this distance!


A round trip up “The Pratt” can be done as a day trip, but for those who like to stretch it out, there are ample camping opportunities.

There are nine lakes of size in the area, many with established campsites. During the summer months some of these lakes can be very popular with campers, so treat your water, and plan accordingly.


Make yourself a “Pratt Bratt” t shirt to commemorate your ascent! Fabric safe puffy paint works great!

A Sharpie marker works too, if you’re a habitual half ass.

I have a strong feeling that such a shirt could even help you make friend (s)!


You’ll need a Northwest Trail Pass to park at either the Talapus Lake TH or Ira Spring TH or you might get a ticket.

A self issued wilderness pemit is required for travel in wilderness areas, and is usually available at the trailhead.


Pratt Bratt pics 19NOV2018

Buckeye Mine


In 1898 copper bearing minerals were found perched in a narrow canyon not far from the now defunct settlement of Halford, WA. Eight years later in 1906, the Buckeye Claims, as they were known, were surveyed for patent.

Much improvement had been done in that short time; bunkhouses, cookhouses and barns had been constructed on the site, in addition to trails, bridges and three tunnels totaling about 1500′ in length.

Then as now, access to the Buckeye is a little remote, which required any ore wrested from the claim to be carried out to the nearest railroad depot by miner or by mule.

Despite the hardships of transport, and difficulties involved in driving tunnels through the Buckeye’s particularly hard rock, work continued. However, the miners discovered only dwindling amounts of unspectacular ore as they chased the vein through the mountain.

These less than stellar mineral showings coupled with a tunneling cost of $25/ft (about $650 in 2018 usd) had conspired to halt further diggings at the claim by 1907, with the vast majority of the Buckeye’s hard won ore ending up in the tailing dump.


Scattered chunks of iron pipe and metal debris can be seen here and there on the way up the steep gully, as well as tell tale ore samples amongst the rock.

Most relics and such, including the ore cart mentioned in DWHM #1, have long disappeared from this site

The tunnels house cart tracks and ventilation piping throughout, with one drift in the back used as a store room for now decaying timbers.

One of the more memorable features of the Buckeye’s tunnels is a high pressure jet of water literally screaming out of a crack in the wall.

Honestly it’s a little unsettling at first, as you hear it before you see it. “W…t…f… is that?!?”

Around the adit one can see metal bars set into the cliffs which once supported a timber roof to protect the miners from whatever might come tumbling down the gully.

A quick peek inside the adit reveals it to be a widened chamber perhaps a dozen feet back and about five feet wide. The remains of a wooden platform are set in the mud.

Just outside, you’ll notice a narrow ledge leading off toward the gap in the cliffs, where the miners dumped their ore carts into the gulch.

This narrow cliff could easily dump your ore cart into the gulch as well. Stay out, stay alive!


The journey to the Buckeye begins in the vicinity of the popular Lake Serene Trail.

Follow the trail to a junction with the old forest service road 6020 at about 1200′ elevation, a little before the Bridal Veil fork. This road, or what’s left of it leads to an old BPA powerline road which skirts the long east arm of Philadelphia Mountain.

The BPA road can also be accessed from the Index River Sites, but it is a private community with strict access rules. Know before you go!

Just uphill of the Index River Sites, where the BPA road meets the 6020, the road will climb steeply to a gate. From here you’ll travel eastward and up and down a lot of hills, but at least it’s a navigable road!

If you can get a mountain bike out here, that’s the way to travel imho.

After about three miles from the gate, you’ll see the rusting hulk of an ancient jeep at the top of yet another down hill section.

Luckily this is the last hill.

At the bottom, an old road can be found leading off toward the mountain where you’ll be looking for a…


At the base of Buckeye Gulch is the remains of a clandestine backwoods campsite known by some as the “Meth Camp.” This eyesore is probably one of the best clues that you’re on the right track.

An absolute cacophony of debris are strewn around; cookware, coolers, tarps, clothes, children’s toys…? Gradually the forest is burying the mess with duff, but it ain’t going anywhere soon.

An earlier adventurer shares his impression:

“I first saw the camp back in ’08; wasn’t as bad as it is now but I still thought a meth lab blew up. Got up past that ugly scramble to the mine and the freakin’ ore cart was gone. Tweakers jacked it I bet!”

-Davey Leghorn, enthusiast

So what was really going on at the Meth Camp? Was it actually a deep woods drug den? A mountain meth mill? A tweaker-fest in the timber?!?

Old maps suggest that the area may have been the site of some of the aforementioned bunkhouses, cookhouses and barns that supported operations at the Buckeye.

It’s unlikely that Meth Camp ever served as any kind of alpine amphetamine (ah)peration, however the true details remain shrouded in mystery…

Which really, might be for the best.


If you’ve found “Meth Camp” then all that’s left is to head up the gulch…

At first it’s not too bad, heading up through comparably light brush via the canyon’s main drainage channel, which by late spring may be running dry.

Eventually you’ll break out into open talus and have a good view up the canyon, which you’ll notice gets very narrow. As you approach the squeeze you’ll notice the lightly vegetated ore dump appearing on the canyon’s western wall.

Where the steep granite walls pinch together, you’ll find yourself faced with a scramble up a 15-20′ wall of wedged boulders. This will turn some people back, and rightly so. You’re now a very long way from a hospital. Especially with a compound fracture!

Just above the scramble, you’ll find the adit of the Buckeye No.5 blasted into the center of the canyon, which forks steeply beyond this point.


  • 10mi+- (16km) rt
  • Travel time could be significantly reduced by riding a mountain bike.
  • The gully contains a scramble up a steep boulder jam that is sometimes also waterfall.
  • Potential rock fall danger while traveling in the canyon. Got a helmet?
  • Off trail travel and routefinding skills and equipment a must.

•¤•¤•¤•¤•¤HAPPY TRAILS!¤•¤•¤•¤•¤•


Woodhouse, Phil; Jacobson, Daryl; Petersen, Bill; Cady,Greg; Pisoni, Victor, Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Oso Publishing Company, 1997

More pictures: Buckeye Mine Pics


This information is for historical purposes only.

Fat Bike Diaries #2


After getting all spun out on that case of Gravity Bullseye Monster I got in Fat Bike Diaries #1, I had a compulsion to take the bike to the desert, I dunno, maybe kinda like a Jim Morrison thing but without the drugs… well mostly.

So I drove out to an area near Wanapum marked as “dunes” on the map. I parked at a wide pull off and rode down a dirt road, breaking off at an old, sandy motorcycle scar which led in the direction of the dunes.

The stretch of sand was stitched together with sage and tumbleweed, but had some open runs to ride. The sun was setting on the diminutive dunes, casting mystically purple shadows.

This is exactly why I wanted to visit the desert!

Near the edge of the wind blown sands, I began to follow a set of tracks. It could have been a spirit animal or something, but was probably just a normal deer.

The tracks wove gently between the clumps of grass and shrub and continued down into a draw, the golden grains splashed pink with dwindling sunrays.

I feel like maybe I should have followed the footprints, but I didn’t. Maybe I was getting a little antsy; the sound of motorcycles vaguely in the distance was kind of giving me a Mad Max meets Deliverance vibe, I’ll admit.

The desert man… Jim knew something man, Jim knew… man!


That night I camped at Frenchman Coulee. During the evening I was surprised to see a tall, basalt spire inexplicably illuminated against the night sky.

Oh, it’s people night climbing, not some gigantic horrifying apparition coming to kill me!

Back to sleep.

First thing in the morning I drove back to George to grab a cup of coffee and something deep fried for breakfast.

Jo-jo’s: The Breakfast of champions

From there I drove out to the Quincy Lakes recreation area. The morning was a little chilly, and the parking lot was completely deserted… my steering wheel was greasy with JoJo juice.

The sunrise over Quincy Lake was warming. The sun rays felt good on my face as I tossed pebbles onto the thin ice covering the shallows.

I’d seen a mine symbol on my map just above Judith Pool, so I took a northwest course toward “H” Lake following paths of various quality to make my way.

The mine was a shallow hole cut into some very fractured and unstable material. I saw a few odd bluish specks of mineral, but had no idea what they were mining here.

From the mine I went a little further along the path to an overlook of Judith Pool and the Ancient Lakes.

On the way back I followed a different path, which turned out to be a much more direct route to the main Quincy Lakes Road.

When I got to the Dusty Lake Trail I decided I needed to do some more exploring so I carried my bike down the steep trail and was able to ride to a good overlook of El Lago Dusty.

From there trails wound through the dry grass leading me around the various lakes and ponds. Trails became faint or non existent in places only to reappear in others.

Glad I got my quantum physics badge back in the scouts!

Aiming myself in the direction of the road eventually got me there, which led back to the parking lot, which was still empty.

I took a minute to reflect on what everybody else was missing out on. Then was saddened when I realized all the great stuff I might be missing out on…

Welp, back to Shree’s Truck Stop at George for more coffee and deep fried wedges of startchy delight! Least I won’t miss out on cardiovascular disease.

MILE 29.6

The sun was high by the time I had returned to Frenchman Coulee.

I rode out towards a big sand dune south of the road leading down to the boat launch.

The sandy trail was a good test for the 4″ tires, and they did well! I had no trouble reaching the dunes on the massive tread.

The big dune is piled against a basalt cliff like the bridge of a nose. From just about where the nostril tops would be it fans out widely. It really bears no semblance to a face, or a nose at all, however.

A pair of trail runners appeared upon the enormous sandy pile shortly after my arrival. One of the two made a Rocky-esque ascent of the tallest part of the gritty behemoth, at the top, she even raised her fists in triumph.

I waved and smiled and whispered to myself through my teeth “gawdammit, I was gonna do that!

The guy looked over toward me and totally didn’t yell “Yeah?! Well you snooze, you lose bike boy!” but it would have been really funny if he did.

They stretched and checked all their watches, and phones and sandy plugs, and merrily ambled off into the horizon. Now it was MY turn to climb the granular golem! It’s steeper than it looks!

From the dune I noticed a faint trail leading up to a narrow notch that led onto the cliffs. I followed it up, carrying the bike part of the way. At the top I continued eastward.

A faint trail was traceable, though often obscured by dried overgrowth. When I finally lost the trail, I contoured the hills, continuing east.

The bike does surprisingly well across the dried grassland of the plateau! Like riding an alloy mule!

I found my way to an ATV road, which literally ended in a lake. Across the water I could see the other side of the road. Oh yeah, ford it!? That didn’t always work out so good on the Oregon Trail if I remember correctly!

I rode the alloy mule around the pond instead, and happened upon a much newer looking road, which I followed. Didn’t take long to see it was heading in my direction.

The road ended up popping out at the top of the Frenchman Coulee road, from which point I triumphantly coasted down to the wide bench which overlooks the waterfall.

A trail winds narrowly along the cliffs down to the falls, it’s uneven and rocky, with a nasty plunge if you really screwed the pooch. I enjoyed having the extra wide tires on this thin track!

At the falls I took time for climbing around and taking pictures. I even discovered a riding lawn mower lodged between some rocks and the cascading waters. Maybe best not to top off the water bottle here.

From there a sandy trail led away into the sage. The grainy grade gives way to a rough and rocky surface in lockstep with the descent of the roadway above.

This rocky old jeep trail eventually gets close enough to the Coulee road that I was able to hop off, preferring the sun baked asphalt.

The car was parked only a short, smooth ride away.

While it was only 6.5mi, I gotta say, it felt like a lot more in the best way.

Now the call of hot truck stop coffee was taking me back to George before the long haul back to Sea Town. Better grab some Jo Jo’s while I’m at it. They are kind of a local delicacy…

Still here? I’ll be damned. Welp, might as well hunker down then and read Fat Bike Diaries #3

The Smyrna Ice Cave

“Ice Cave? In the desert? wtf?”

That’s what I thought when I saw a small adit symbol marked with the aforementioned moniker on my USGS map.

“What kind of ice cave are we talking about here!? Obviously not like the Big 4 Ice Caves. Eastern Washington is like the freakin’ desert!

I’ve heard of lava tubes around some of the local volcanos that form ice inside… some were even used for cold storage.”

Oh! I wonder if that’s what it is; a cold storage cave, like where they stored perishables in the days before refrigeration…

Maybe it’s a portal to Hell, which indeed has frozen over as a result of… Eh, these days, take your pick!


The Ice Cave is along the base of the lengthy north face of the Saddle Mountains. Whether it’s the semi paved road or the total lack of standing structures, you might say the area feels a bit remote.

I hoped to spy a peculiar adit or other odd portal as I slowly rubbernecked by the site, but nothing immediately caught the eye, so I parked and started on foot.

Skirting the muddy margins of an ephemeral pond, which seperates the Ice Cave from the road, I headed to the heaps of fractured basalt at the base of a prominent buttress of the long mountain.

In little time I saw some old shoring poking up out of the rocks…


Not many relics are around, except for a few wooden shoring posts and a selection of bullet ridden debris. Wheel furrows in the alkali mud tell of the area’s popularity with motor sports over-enthusiasts.

The portal is pretty well collapsed, most likely forever. However, a cool breeze can still be felt coming from the area of the shoring.

Perhaps there is still a chamber of some kind sealed away behind the many tons of rubble.

Then again, maybe this was a cut and cover sort of deal. Might be a ways back to solid rock. I dunno, it was collapsed when I got there, I SWEAR!


Well, that would be that. There’s no indication at the site to the nature of the ice cave nor to it’s origins. Ain’t no historical marker, ain’t no nuthin!

When I got home I did a quick interweb search and found a great write up of the cave: Legends of the Ice Cave

(Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to try that before I drove all the way out there!)

According to that information, the cave was likely dug by railroad workers around 1906 after they’d found some ice on the ground at the site…

Wait, why was there ice just chillin’ at the base of some ol’ hill in the desert? That sounds like a Bible story!

The answer was another new one for me; Apparently talus, in concert with underlying rock structure can sometimes form cold traps; locking winter’s cold within, and slowly releasing it during warmer months.

While rare, there are other known talus cold traps in the region, some also having been converted into early walk-in freezers.

I dunno though, I’m still thinking Hell might have froze over and this is the way to it… hmmm, but that means Hell would have had to freeze over BEFORE 1906. Back to the interwebz!


Gleaning from the wealth of information available on “Legends of the Ice Cave” I “dug” up a bit more on the Cave’s history…

The cave was said to be cut into the hill about ten feet back and may have been about twenty feet wide. This excavation was then topped with wooden beams and covered.

A heavy wooden door once kept the cold air in, and occasionally kept people out. By the 1930s a local farmer by the name of Chambers had began to use the cave to store perishables for the community.

During those trying economic times, the cave was kept locked and sometimes even posted with armed guards to keep any pre-refrigerator bandits at bay.

Speaking of refrigerators, it was the steady hum of the first Freeze-O-Matic’s in kitchens across America that sounded the end of the ice cave’s immediate importance.

Undoubtedly though, the odd passerby would stop along their journey and peer inside. Catching the cool breeze and some respite from the beating Eastern Washington sun.

That is until until the Ice Cave’s untimely collapse sometime in the late 1990s.



The Smyrna Ice Cave can be found along Lower Crab Creek Road across from an ephemeral alkali pond.

From Vantage, WA take the I90 east to the eastern shore of the Columbia River. Head south at the interchange, you’ll soon come to a fork.

From the fork you can either continue south, watching for an eastern turn into Lower Crab Creek Rd in the settlement of Beverly. Or head east to Royal City, then south to Smyrna.

Either way the remains of the Ice Cave are along lonely, ol’Lower Crab Creek Rd. not far from a span of high tension wires.

Happy Trails!

Jefferson Oil Seep

There are a handful of places along the Washington State coast where petroleum naturally oozes from the ground. Not in grand tar pits, but in small seeps.

Early in the 20th century, the seeps inshore of Jefferson Cove attracted the attention of oilmen, eager to exploit the resource and sell it to an oil hungry world.

A few relics and ruins still dwell out there in the coastal forests, a remote monument to an oil boom that never really was.


Local tribes have long known of the oil seeps in the area. According to some texts the native people knew the mixture of oil and dirt as “smell mud”, owing to the sometimes pungent, petrochemical aroma detectable near such deposits.

Wild animals also knew of these oily seeps, sometimes using them as mud wallows. In the winter of 1906-07, a survey party discovered petroleum seeping from one such “bear wallow” near Hoh Head.

In 1911 the first attempts to collect the seep oil were conducted by locals who used explosives to redirect the flow into a nearby shaft where it would pool up to be collected.

Earlier that same year, the settlement of Oil City began to spring to life at the mouth of the Hoh River. As it’s name suggests, it was to be THE city for the speculated oil boom. Talk of a deep water port was in the air, drilling was right around the corner, and the newly platted properties were selling.

A few years later in 1914, the Jefferson Oil Company landed a steam donkey at Jefferson Cove. After the heavy iron contraption was wrangled onto the beach, it was placed at the top of a 300ft terrace to pull equipment up a quarter mile long skid road to the drilling site.

Two wells were drilled; Hoh #1 & Hoh #2. However, neither well ever produced quantities that would make further investment worthwhile.

Over a decade passed when beginning in 1931 renewed interest saw almost a dozen wells drilled at the site, some of which showed potential to the tune of a hundred barrels a day. However, dreams of a lucrative strike faded in step with quickly diminishing yields.

By 1937 drilling had ceased, and the area was protected from future mineral extraction when it was incorporated into the Olympic National Park in 1938.


During a 2017 survey of the area, several pipes were found still sticking out of the forest floor. A few are full of stagnant “mystery water”, and one of them still gurgles with escaping gas.

Another pipe juts out of a spongy depression filled with alder leaves and a creamy, oily substance. A bit like a paraffin bog maybe.

There are a number of shallow mud filled shafts around the site, some partially filled with the natural seepage. A few show decaying cribbing.

What appears to be a moss covered wooden framework lies on the forest floor, along with a number of rusted pipes and fittings.


Jefferson Oil Seep lies right along the border of Olympic National Park and Rayonier logging land. Both entities require a pass to access their lands.

With a Rayonier pass it may be possible to approach the site via a maze of logging roads and a good map. Otherwise it’s probably best to begin your journey from the trailhead at Oil City and make your way up the beach and the bluffs. (National Park Pass)

The journey to the Jefferson Seep is not for the inexperienced or unprepared, timing the tide is critical and no trails pass near this remote site. The weather at the coast is often wet, and the underbrush can be burly.



More Pictures: Jefferson Oil Seep


Hidden in the woods near the hamlet of Port Hardy, BC is an interesting collection of mining ruins dating to a time before Canada became a nation…


In 1849 on the north coast of Vancouver Island, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a fort (Fort Rupert) in order to exploit a large coal seam not far away at Suquash.

Mining began in 1851 but was very short lived, ending only a year later in 1852 following the discovery of a higher quality coal deposit at Nanaimo. Digging resumed in 1908 under new owners, however the call of the great war left the mine want for labor and production halted.

After the war, mining efforts began anew but by the 1930s work was intermittent at best. With the outbreak of the Second World War, mining ceased altogether. These days there are only ruins.


There are some impressive artifacts to be seen; A pair of large chimneys and the foundation to what was once the mine manager’s house stand amongst the trees.

A steam donkey and the ruins of the headhouse can be found jutting out from the duff and undergrowth. Ore buckets, and a massive spoked wheel are among the other large ruins.

Various rusted bits of this and that are strewn around the site, and scattered ruins can also be found down along the beach.


The Suquash site is located on the northern end Vancouver Island near the settlement of Fort Rupert.

Just off the main highway, one can follow a modest maze of logging roads about 2 miles to the “trailhead”. A short walk into the forest and the artifacts should become immediately apparent.

Surprisingly, there are a couple signs for Suquash along the logging road, but nothing indicating it’s presence from the highway. It’s a “kinda sorta” secret.


I didn’t know anything about Suquash, but a “rural exploration” friend had given me a tip that there were coal mining ruins on the north end of the island.

When I got to Port Hardy I stopped in to eat at a restaurant and wouldn’t you know it?! There was a painting of the site hanging on the wall behind my table!

I guess some things are just meant to be!

After a bit of internet detective work and asking the locals, I was able to locate the ruins a ways out of town.

I’d give you directions but that’d ruin the fun, and you’d miss out on talking to the friendly Port Hardy townsfolk!

Driving: Port Hardy is a long ways up the island, but it’s a scenic drive and there is no lack of side trips along the way. If you have to take a ferry to get to the island, I’d strongly suggest making reservations. We went via Tswassen to Nanaimo and the waits going standby were a bit brutal.

Boating: I dunno but it sure sounds fun!


Port Hardy had plenty of lodging and a few restaurants to choose from. There’s plenty of good shoreline walking to be had in town as well.

There are also plenty of camping opportunities near Port Hardy for those who wanna pitch a tent.

Nearby Fort Rupert offers accommodations as well as good walking and beautiful views!

Happy Trails!


More pictures: Suquash Pictures

“Mine Tunnel Hill”

Once again I was pouring over some maps and saw something that piqued my interest: “Mine Tunnel” written above a little adit symbol, and well off the beaten path…

As lonely as a Sears parking lot


Not far beyond the long, low bridge spanning the Carbon River at the same named entrance to Mt.Rainier, there is a logging road branching westward just before you reach a huge shooting quarry. This is the de facto trailhead for this trip.

Logging roads zigzag Burnt Mountain, if you follow the correct combination (think up and east), it’ll put you on the highest, furthest eastward landing. From here it’s offtrail to the ridge.

You may occasionally see flags, but it’s pretty much game trails through trees and brush. A couple wide open areas of scree/talus are hidden in the trees and can make a good place to ascend.  

There are also a few rock outctops hidden on the hillside that you’ll probably want to be avoiding. 

Burnt Mountain Pond, maybe.

Once atop the ridge I started coming down broken snow on the other side via an easy contour clearly visible on the map. 

A tea stained mountain pond (Burnt Mountain Pond?) lies at the base of the contour as does another logging road. 

Other amenities include; the remains of some aluminum lawn furniture, pieces of a TV and a fire ring.

From this small camp it’s a little less than three and a half miles to “Mine Tunnel” Oh Joy!

Hill 3361′ aka “Mine Tunnel Hill”


Again on logging roads, the hiking is non technical but you’ll really want a map out here. It’s a maze!

Much of my walk was amongst low clouds this time around, but I got a clear view to Tacoma at one point, and there were some interesting basalt columns in a roadside quarry. 

Eventually a rather large hill appeared a distance away, “Mine Tunnel Hill” presumably. 

Before reaching the hill, the correct way makes a hairpin turn and is marked by an orange gate. Shortly thereafter the road crosses a railroad flatcar bridge spanning a fork of Gale Creek.

Right around where the “Unsolved Mysteries” vibe begins


Just up ahead was the site. I won’t lie, my expectations were low. I figured there probably wouldn’t be anything at all, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was in fact a hole in the ground!

Right along the road, half covered in crap is a little adit, pretty much exactly where the map said it’d be. It’s not too deep, maybe ten feet if you really tried to stretch it. 

Peering into its depths I could see such historic artifacts as; a few discard plastic bottles and a half buried piece of wood. 

“Well that was that, time to walk my ass back up the hill!”

Well I’ll be damned, there really is a tunnel. Sort of.


  • Approx 7.5mi; 6.5 mi on logging roads, 1 mi off trail (One way)
  • Map or navigational device is a must.
  • As a historic mining site, probably not worth the time to all but the most devout. Good destination for wandering esoteric types.
Untold riches my ass!


    On the way up the roads on the south side of Burnt Mountain I ran into a fella up at the landing before jumping offtrail. 

    He told me about other trails in the area and we both agreed how strange it was to see another person on Burnt Mountain. 

    The fellow wanderer also mentioned that the logging roads on the north side are sometimes accessible from Wilkeson with a high clearance vehicle… So if you’re interested in a logging-road road-trip, there’s an idea for ya. 

    There’s a nearby area on Gale Creek marked “falls”. If for some reason I’m ever out here again, I’d probably check it out. 

    Off trail in yellow


    Mines and mining ruins are inherently dangerous and should NOT be entered.

    ¡STAY OUT, STAY ALIVE! & Happy Trails!

    Big Four Avy Watching

    Nealbob and the Mountain

    Took an easy trip to the base of Big Four Mountain this weekend with ol’ friend and fellow blogger Nealbob from to spy some spring avalanches careen down Big Four’s impossibly steep slopes.


    With the current gate closure at Deer Creek, the hike began on the snow covered Mountain Loop Highway.

    A little over a mile and a half of easy walking on snow was punctuated by the stark contrast of great mountain vistas and vile heaps of decomposing (dog?) feces along the path. 

    In little time we arrived at the Ice Caves Picnic area parking lot before embarking on the pleasant woodland walking of the Ice Caves Trail. 

    Path through the timber

    Luckily there were no serious blow downs or other obstacles along the grade, but snow was continuous from the Stilliguamish River crossing onward. 

    We arrived to discover we had the entire basin to ourselves. 

    Throughout the morning, periodic rivulets of snow tumbled down until a real doozy broke loose around 10am. 

    … and it was quite the show!

    A light stream of powder soon became a torrent of white doom as it rained down into the broad avalanche fan for several minutes. The air echoed with the brilliant chaos that a few tons of cascading snow tends to create. 

    Avalanche fans in the west basin


    Late morning steady drizzle signaled our time of departure. Just before the last glimpses of the avalanche basin were lost behind our steps however, another hefty heap of spring melt was liberated from the 6161-foot tall block of rock. The distant chorus of muffled impacts resounded through the conifers. 

    Apparently the sound carried all the way to the trailhead as both a pair of hikers and a pair of Forest Rangers we passed on the way out asked if we’d been witness to the spectacle. 

    “Yeah man, we were there…”

    “Uh, what do you supposed snapped these trees?”


    • Snow covering much of trail
    • Gate closed at Deer Creek, requires an extra 1.5mi+ walk to trailhead
    • Lots of dog poop
    • Approx 6.5mi RT
    • Extreme avalanche danger

    Road closed to vehicles at Deer Creek, snow currently covering most of the road to trailhead. Much of the trail is also snow covered with the exception of bridges and boardwalks.

    A hard packed footpath of snow exists most of the way to the avalanche zone. Traction devices advised. Waterproof footwear highly recommended. 

    Travel into avalanche area NOT recommended.


    • Avalanches kill. Keep a safe distance or don’t go at all.  
    • Please bag AND pack out your dog poop.
    • Road closure keeps the crowds down for the moment. Good time to take advantage of this very popular hike.


    Many lives have been tragically cut short due to the inherent natural hazards at the Ice Caves area. 

    Avalanches, falling ice or other debris, collapsing ice caves and many other hazards exist at all times of the year, but are especially heightened during certain seasonal conditions.  

    Know before you go. Stay safe, stay out of the avalanche area. 

        All in all about 6.5mi round trip

        *Disclaimer: The activities and actions described on this website are for entertainment purposes only. 


        Bitter Creek: The Finale

        A lot nicer without those pesky clouds

        Ok yeah, I’m starting to sound a little like a broken record.

        Initially I wasn’t planning on heading back up to Bitter Creek so soon, but I gave the Greek a call and it just so happened he was looking to take some friends on a moderate snowshoe.

        “You don’t say. Hmm, you know I might have just the place”…

        Plus, with the weather on Friday, the views were sure to be there.

        La pared de hielo

        01JAN2016 New Years Day

        I got to Index half hour early or so, the wind was just screaming up the US-2 corridor.

        Fortunately Heybrook Ridge and the Gunn Peak Massif blocked pretty much all of the wind in the North Fork Sky valley.

        The Greek and his friends showed up a little after nine and we were off.

        There were fresh footprints along the track, but they fell off at the shooting range.

        Really, there isn’t too much to report. The track is solid all the way up with heaping portions of peace, quiet and solitude.

        By the time we got up into the cirque some of the party was running out of steam and they stopped for lunch.

        The Greek and I continued up towards the ice wall, but the pull of cheese and sausage was too much for him and he fell off and descended back to the feast.

        Sausage eaters

        Wind slab from high above was a slight concern and we’d seen a couple small releases on the way up, mostly powder rivulets. In the cirque itself, surface hoar was abundant. (Always check NWAC)

        Alongside Bitter Creek, a gully had run out, and high on Jump-Off Ridge the crisp lines of recently released slabs were visibly glinting in the sunlight.

        Views were fantastic. The wall and other ice features seemed to glow dimly in the shade of the cirque. High above, the ridge lines were laced with golden light.

        The North Fork Sky valley was framed perfectly by the walls of the cirque, and approximately in the middle were three human shapes, bonding over sausage.

        The trip down rewarded us with warming sun and rapidly evolving views of the jagged visage of the Index-Persis complex across the way.

        I placed a quarter near the bottom for a size comparison.


        All in all I think it took our group 3 hours up and 1.5 or so down.

        Now that the route has been brushed and a trail well stomped in, it’s golden, just waiting there for you.

        Lots of animal sign, but I think our group of four probably scared off anything within earshot because we didn’t see any critters this time.

        Oh, and just my two cents:

        Shooters, I like to shoot a gun as much as the next guy. I am not “anti-gun” or “anti-shooting”. What I am “anti” is you people leaving a giant f&%#ing mess wherever you go.

        Clean up your $#!t and maybe the Forest Service and outdoor enthusiasts will be a little more sympathetic to your outdoor usage needs.

        Frankly, you should be your brother’s keeper out there and pack out the crap your less considerate fellows left behind.

        I do it, I’m always picking up candy wrappers and water bottles that jackass hikers left behind.

        Love it or leave it, bruh… and I don’t mean leave your $#!t.

        Happy Trails!



        Bitter Creek: The Return(s)

        I thought this one turned out OK.

        I went up to the Bitter Creek Cirque “trail” again on Christmas Day.

        (UPDATE: Road is now periodically opened after Lewis Creek.)

        Not surprisingly mine were the only tracks heading up the snowy old road… well besides the deer and bobcat tracks.

        Just before the Canyon Creek crossing I ran into the deer.

        A Columbian Black Tailed Deer, no antlers. Looked pretty young.

        A touch of blue


        We eyeballed each other for a minute before he bounded, well kinda plunged. Sunk maybe? His technique needed practice.

        After the Nameless Creek crossing the snow became much more powdery, with frequent, sometimes deep wind deposits.

        By the time I was in the switchbacks, it was starting to wear me down.

        When I finally got to Bitter Creek I was out of steam.

        I didn’t have much time before I had to turn around for Christmas obligations, so I sat down, had lunch and drank from the creek like a wild beast.

        Christmas was calling.


        SUNDAY, 27DEC2015

        Boldly drove beyond the periodic road closure (and county maintenance), all the way to the trailhead in a 2WD Mazda, admittedly not the best idea for everybody.

        Immediately at the gate I was surprised to see someone had gone up the trail in my absence!


        They were on snowshoes, and occasionally skis, it would seem with limited success.

        I’ll level with you, the trip up was a lot easier on the ol’legs with a well beaten snowshoe track in place!

        Oh, and “someone” had remembered to bring a Corona saw this time and cleared a lot of deadfall and such along the grade.

        Snow started falling pretty regularly by the time we reached the switchbacks. I felt a slight twinge thinking about the car.


        At Bitter Creek most hopes for any real vast scenery were dashed by the constant snow.

        Homeboy’s tracks were still going, blasting right past my previous stopping point.

        Beyond the end of the road began treeless terrain. A beautiful waterfall lies just before the last couple dozen feet of elevation to the cirque floor.

        I continued on, following the tracks into the cirque but split ways as I headed for a high spot in the middle to get a look at the large icewall at the ESE base of the cirque.

        During my visit I got a chance to catch a few avalanches coming down from the SW wall.

        Towards the icewall.

        Long views were elusive this time around, but they’ll be there next time. We’d already surpassed our turnaround time so our stay was brief.

        The trip down was about 25% in the dark, exacerbated by that slight twinge I mentioned earlier about the car. At least a couple of inches had fallen during the course of our trip.

        There would be digging, of this I was sure.


        Really it wasn’t too much of a pain in the ass. I only had to dig to get us turned around, and again when we got a little high centered going up a hill.

        Can’t wait until my Subaru gets out of the shop!


        Prep work’s done, Jack: At least until the next storm cycle there is a solid snowshoe track well into Bitter Creek Cirque.

        Lotsa Wildlife: I’ve seen animals every time I’ve visited, still haven’t seen the bobcat yet though.

        No Crowds: Oh wait, except for the visitor on Friday or Saturday. Thanks for breaking the rest of the way!

        Beyond Me: I don’t know a thing about ice climbing, but that ice wall might be worth a visit.

        Anyway, shouldn’t have to tell you but: this is avalanche country!

        As always check NWAC before heading off into the mountains in these winter months

        Happy Trails!





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