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Lady Ridge

Posted: December 23rd, 2018, 12:45 pm
by Chip Down
I don't see an obvious name for my route, so I'm calling it Lady Ridge. Above Lady Creek, to the west. Last week, I spent a few minutes getting to an overgrown high point (3200') at the bottom (SW) end of the ridge, where it disappears into Devil Canyon. This time I ascended the ridge to its end, where it fades into the slopes just south of ZZ Mtn trail, around 4500' I guess. Shocking now, as I type this, to realize I only gained 1300' above where I was last week.

I started at the east end of Rd 35A, and went looking for the unofficial trail that leads to a viewpoint, which I was disappointed to have missed out on last time. It was a bit steep/exposed in spots, and it was icy, so I was glad I was taking the loop CCW so I was going up the steep stuff. The viewpoint wasn't what I was expecting. I thought it was a cliff, but it actually is a high point, mossy and rocky, then a little more trail, then an even higher point, but no view of the mountain. I continued on the loop, all the way down to my car. Never saw the connector to the un-named switchbacking trail off to the west. Went back up, spotted it, but it went east and dropped to a creek. Hmm. Well stop wasting time, start bushwhacking west. Distressingly warm and wet. The drive had been frosty, and I had hoped for a crisp dry day.

I knew I had to be careful to stay low and continue west, or I'd miss my trail. After quite a bit of traversing, I allowed myself to go up when I saw clearings, but it turned out I hadn't gone west enough. By the time I was around 3300, I knew I had missed the trail. Truth is, my original plan was to finish up what I started last weekend, continuing further up Devil Creek, possibly to West ZZ Mtn. But once I was on this ridge it was too enticing to pass up, and anyway I didn't want to lose elevation to gain the trail that follows Devil Creek up. So I continued on the ridge, thinking it would fade and grant easy travel westbound. Although I sensed I was drifting east, it was only later looking at the map that I realized how far off route I was. I wasn't completely oblivious though; Based on elevation, and the fact I hadn't yet met any trail, I realized I would likely hit ZZ Mtn Trail if I continued north, so that became my goal. I figured I'd then head west towards East ZZ Mtn, and drop south on the Burnt Lake Trail.

It was one of those ridges that's very steep on one side, gentle on the other, so it was almost like following a cliff edge. It was generally pretty distinct and easy to follow, but in spots it was just a broad brushy ridge. Occasionally I encountered walls of rhododendron, but the brush wasn't too bad. Worst part was getting all snowy every time I had to push through a tangle.

Views were sparse, but occasionally I could look down to US26, and eventually into the valley north of Laurel Hill (Kiwanis Camp Rd and ZZ River). There were a few snowy boulder heaps that provided the best viewpoints, but up high it was getting chilly and breezy, so not a great place to linger.

Then things got really weird. The ridge faded, as I knew it would, and I knew I was maybe 400' below my goal trail. The snow was still thin, less than I've seen in a while (I guess it's been raining a lot up here lately, when the resorts were reporting snow). I was almost there. Just had to keep going up/north. But then I reached a gentle high point, and it was slightly down in all directions. I dropped, but in the most gentle direction, preserving elevation as I continued north. I weaved around a lot, as it was getting increasingly brushy. Lost my confidence I was going north, so checked compass. I was going south. Wow. Worked my way back to the last known high point that was definitely on the ridge, tried again, going west-ish this time. With all my zigging and zagging through the brush, I got turned around again! Look at the "F" on my map below, and you'll see it was a no brainer from there to the trail. But twice I was shocked when I looked at my compass. At this point, I was a bit spooked. Didn't feel good at all.

I went back to my ridge, where I decided to give up. What now? Drop directly south to Lady Creek? Now that would be an adventurous end to my day! But it was pretty steep, and even worse I had no idea how brushy it might get. And would Lady Creek run along a steep bank, forcing me to cross or traverse? It was too risky. Rather than retracing my ascent route, I descended west/southwest, so I'd run into Devil Creek. Funny, now that I had given up on my ascent, my sense of direction was perfect. Every time I consulted my compass it confirmed I was going the right way (a little south, a little west, as terrain and brush dictated). Funny, I hit the creek at 3100', maybe about 20 minutes lower than where I turned back last time. Slightly disappointing; I was hoping to be a little higher. At this point, I could still dash up to West ZZ Mtn, but I knew I'd end up coming down in rain/snow after dark. Not worth it.

I followed the trail down until it crossed over my ridge at about 3000'. Took my first break of the day! Sat on a dryish rock and ate a couple pastries from Joe's Donuts (haven't been there in ages). It was atually kind of sunny. (Forecast insisted rain/snow would arrive in a couple hours, but I was skeptical. I left home under a full moon, and it had been just a hazy kind of overcast all day.)

At the junction that says the viewpoint is 1/2 mile east on a spur trail, I went east, curious to see where it would take me (remember, I had looked for the other end of this trail in the morning). I've read the trail is a bit overgrown. Indeed, I soon gave up, and just bushwhacked east, then down south when I hit a gully. Ended up right at my car, and then noticed a faint trail parallel to my route. I was curious, but not that much. More importantly, I wanted to dash up to the viewpoint to see alpenglow on hood. Nope. I was too late, or maybe clouds to the west blocked light, or both. Continued to the next high point, then reversed and descended clockwise this time. Glad I did, nice to see it the other way. Slightly tricky descent though, best in full light, dry and ice free.

If I had known there was that little snow up high, and the weather would be that good, I would have done something a little more adventurous. Kind of a bummer. Could be worse, I suppose. I know some of you were tragically hiking on trails as I was having fun getting "lost".

By the way, it started raining before I even hit Sandy. What luck! Grateful for that. Also grateful for the perfect dawn-to-dusk timing. Just barely needed headlamp at both ends of the day.

Afterthought: From the VP, I bet I could have found a way straight up, just go north to the ridgecrest. When you're bushwhacking, sometimes the shortest route is best, even if it gets steep.

Re: Lady Ridge

Posted: December 24th, 2018, 10:14 am
by pablo
Neat. That connector trail being overgrown is a real problem for getting on the ZZ Mtn Trail from the end of the 35a Rd, someone should do something about freshening up the tread through there. Looks like your Lady Ridge travel follows the route along the abandoned Devils Canyon Trail or as designated by the FS, trail #777. I'll spare you the link.

One item in that area is that if you go east from the end of the 35a road beyond the viewpoint there is trail that appears to head towards the Paradise Park Trail - I recall someone saying there was a trail through there that goes all the way through. I've only followed it to Lady Creek but did not cross (I think you mention this segment in your report). That would make for a nice loop covering ZZ Mtn and Paradise Park from the end of the 35a Trail.


Re: Lady Ridge

Posted: December 24th, 2018, 6:06 pm
by Chip Down
Once again proving that wherever I go wandering through the woods, I'm following Paul! :lol:

Fascinating to learn that I was essentially following an abandoned trail without knowing it. Because there was so little snow below 3500' I think I can safely say there's little or no remnants of the trail. Other than the wilderness boundary sign, I never saw any indication of human activity.

Thanks for the feedback. Although I'm just a bit disappointed to learn I was on an established route (abandoned trail) it's also kinda fun to reconnect with how things used to be, especially considering that trail 777 last appeared on a USFS map in the year I was born (1966).

edit: Oh, I know why #777 looks so familiar: reminds me of the old abandoned road 777 in the Tanner area (Columbia gorge). What's with the USFS constantly closing stuff down?

Since I'm posting again, I'd like to share a pic of where I found that two-year-old can of Rainier:

Re: Lady Ridge

Posted: December 24th, 2018, 7:02 pm
by retired jerry
"What's with the USFS constantly closing stuff down?"

yeah! if they close everything down then there will be no humans so it will be restored to wilderness. but something wrong with that philosophy

Re: Lady Ridge

Posted: December 24th, 2018, 9:05 pm
by pablo
Chip Down wrote:
December 24th, 2018, 6:06 pm
[...]I think I can safely say there's little or no remnants of the trail.[...]
The west end of the #777 around the nose of that ridge still exists and is what forms part of the ZZ Mtn Trail. The part that follows Devils Creek has some blazed trees in the old growth. Parts going east along the ridge seem to be gone.
Chip Down wrote:
December 24th, 2018, 6:06 pm
[...]reminds me of the old abandoned road 777 in the Tanner area (Columbia gorge). What's with the USFS constantly closing stuff down?[...]
I'll bet the #777 road was one of the first things opened after the fire -> BPA powerline access. The #777 has seen a lot of damage over the years and it always gets fixed. Not abandoned, just closed to the public.

I admire your courage in drinking that well aged can of Rainier beer.