The first hitch of the summer proved to be an enlightening experience. After surviving ten days of SCA training at Camp Zanika, WA our 8 person groups began to step out into the real world.
Spirits were high on the first day of preparation and planning at our home base in Snoqualmie Pass, with the realization that we were actually about to depart for our first hitch in the Wilderness areas near Darrington, WA. The day kept moving fast as we separated our 8 person groups into smaller more efficient 4 person groups. With a quick trip to the local farmers market, and an outfitter shop there was only one thing left to do, pack up and hit the road!
With the soundtrack to the summer playing on our monster trucks stereo, group 6 & 7 composed of Sarah, Mark, Liz (Pip), and myself (Elliott) had begun the long journey to the Suiattle River Trailhead. Groups 8 and 9 with Garrett, Sara, Solomon, Kenny and Phill and headed down the Suiattle and on to the PCT as well.
After meeting our legendary U.S. Forest Service contact George Winters at the Darrington Ranger Station we were finally ready to leave the world of cell phones, internet, running water, all behind to survey campsites in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. After car camping at the Downey Creek Trailhead we continued east along the Suiattle River towards the Pacific Crest Trail. Stopping along the way to survey campsites and learn the ways of the forest from George proved to be extremely exciting. After roughly 9 miles of hiking with 40-50 pound packs the group was eager to set up camp at our next site, Canyon Creek. The sound of the rushing Suiattle River eased our aching bodies and put us all to sleep rather quickly!
The next morning we headed south along the PCT with George leading the way. We quickly learned that we were in an area of the PCT which nobody had been through in quite some time. A recent flood of the Suiattle blocked access to the trail. Only after the recent completion of a footbridge were we intrigued with the opportunity to explore the trails even more. After a long day of exhilaration with stream crossings, finding new campsites, and learning more about each other we parted ways with George and departed for a next campsite farther east along the Suiattle trail. A brief thunderstorm that night proved to be the most rain we saw all trip, no complaints! The next days hike took us up in elevation along Miners Ridge, with awesome views of Glacier Peak across the valley. After returning from the ridge above the Suiattle valley we started our way back toward the Downey Creek campsite from our first night. That night brought some of the best food of the trip, chicken pasta alfredo, very delicious indeed. After spending a very damp night at 3 mile camp we headed towards our biggest adventure of the trip, surveying Downey Creek. With day packs full of water and lunches we surveyed more than 14 miles of trail! Safe to say everyone slept good that night. Finally after 5 days of hiking the Suiattle and PCT we loaded up the truck one more time and left for our last trailhead to survey, North-folk Sauk River Trail. Our group headed up Red Mountain late in the day to an awesome lookout position overlooking the valley, and Sloan Peak across the way. We learned that the hazy skies blocking our views had come all the way across the Pacific from forest fires in China and Siberia!
The final night of camping brought with it the notion that we were returning back to the lives we left behind. However first we had another 12 miles of trails to cover the next day. Eager to start we radioed in our morning check in on our satellite phone and began to cover ground. The final trail proved to be a stinging one. Some parts of the trails were overgrown with the painful Devils Club. However this pain could not compare with the beauty of the trails along the Sauk River. With more than 63 miles of trials surveyed our first hitch was complete. We learned more about each other, ourselves, and the wilderness areas we will work in for the rest of the summer.