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Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 5th, 2019, 10:12 am
by drm
Three of us did this Sunday / Monday, camping at Mud Lake. I think the total loop is 24 miles. There were a few mosquitoes, though not too bad. Some snow on the top of the ridge, but not a bad navigating issue. Flowers on the PCT ridge were quite nice, better than I remember from past trips, same for lower Herman Ck. I assume this is the affect of the fire. I saw no snow on Benson Plateau, though there might be a few patches mid-plateau.
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Mud Lake
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Looking up from within my mesh tent at night
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biggest section of snow left on Herman Ck trail
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Grandma's Pin Cushion
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Hood peaks out
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lots of bear grass on the mid-ridge section

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 5th, 2019, 1:19 pm
by Brian95
Must have just missed you as I was at Mud Lake around 11:00 on Monday while doing a large loop around the Wahtum area! Surprisingly there was no snow at all along Anthill Ridge, but plenty along Herman Creek and the lower-elevation portion of the Anthill Trail. Interesting how microclimates can leave those large snowbanks while everything else is clear.

The route to Tomlike is completely melted out as well. Seems to be in decent shape especially for being closed all of last year; easy to find the trail and in all the difficult spots there were cairns. Had never hiked it before and didn't need to rely on the GPS at all.

FYI there is a LARGE tree down on the Anthill Trail between Herman Creek and Rainy-Wahtum, effectively blocking the trail. Don't think it would be possible to go over with a large backpack.

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 5th, 2019, 1:47 pm
by OregonSurveyor
We had a relatively experienced hiker take a day hike up Herman Creek trail to Wahtum Lake last Friday (5/31). In the snow he dropped into Herman Creek canyon (west of Tomlike), thinking he was in the East fork of Herman Creek. He spent the next 38 hours traveling north, downstream, until his shouts for help were heard by two women hikers late Sunday morning. Nearby searchers were redirected to him and were able to hike him up to the Herman Creek Trail and out to his car.
So there is some snow above 4600’.

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 5th, 2019, 2:34 pm
by drm
Well that explains it. We saw the signs of a SAR in progress and somebody told us that they found him "800 meters" from the trail, and we couldn't figure that out. But if descending from the ridge above Wahtum, you stay left, closer to Chinidere, you could end up descending into the wrong fork of Herman Creek. Yikes. That's a lot of bush whacking and you would never really find a trail. I think Don went up that way exploring once, towards Tanner Butte. That's a lesson that as painful as it may be, sometime you gotta turn around and go back up if you are not on the right route. Apparently he was in there for a couple days?

Brian - We left Mud Lake pretty early on Monday.

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 12th, 2019, 9:49 am
by americanino

I was actually that lost hiker found on Sunday June 2nd. A series of unfortunate events took place with some fortunate ones as well. Biggest issue is I didn't have any form of GPS which would have solved everything. One of the SAR responders recommended the Gaia GPS app and another hiker friend uses it so I downloaded that to my phone and plan on testing it out somewhere in the gorge this weekend.

Anyways, figured I'd just correct one thing. I lost my way near Wahtum in the snow when I couldn't find my boot path back to the trail. I had a map and compass and knew the direction of the trail so headed north from there. I did not however go west of of Chinidere or even Tomlike. My initial plan was to go north towards Mud Lake since I had stopped there on my way in and knew I could orient myself from there and grab the trail. Unfortunately I ran into the crazy swampy area in that general vicinity and it was really just impassible and tore me up quite a bit. From there I decided to go west up the ridge (but not top out) towards Tomlike to see if I could find the trail. Unfortunately I never crossed it as it must have been further to the east than I was when I ran into the swamp. I camped up that ridgeline that night.

I wasn't sure how far the swamp would continue and knew I couldn't cross it so I decided to follow a drainage from that ridge I was on knowing it would eventually hit the east fork of Herman and meaning I would hit the trail at some point therein. I'm unclear exactly how but perhaps I'd already crossed the 7 1/2 trail crossing point of the Herman Creek but I never found the trail. From sightings in the distance I could see Nick Eaton but the distance was hard to judge. After travelling as well as I could along the Herman Creek for awhile until I was sure I must be past the crossing of the trail from the west of Herman to the east of it I decided to climb up the ridge to the east. I was back into the burnt out areas and went up a long way until I found a relatively easier grade and traveled along that for awhile (I was quite tired and hungry by now on Saturday late afternoon). I felt like I was near the ridge line there but had still not come across the trail. I kept heading north but around 6 p.m. got ridged out by one of the creek drainages. I think it might have been Mullinix creek but I'm still not sure (hoping to go back with my gps at some point to figure a lot of this out). I figured the trail HAD to be below me but it was getting late and I was pretty tired and the ridge going down by the creek itself was far too dangerous so I decided I'd have to backtrack some to find a more gradual grade to head back down towards Herman creek in the morning (Sunday) and find the trail there.

The next morning I was sorely disappointed after backtracking and dropping down to never come across the trail and eventually ended up having to cross that creek that I ridged out on as it emptied into the Herman. At this point I was really confused and concerned that I never came across the trail as well as being exhausted, bruised and cut up from all the bushwhacking I'd been doing for 30+ hours. I had been calling for help for days but to no avail. I saw a search plane fly over me in the morning but it didn't see me. I decided to stay put where I was near the creek that had a little less tree cover than most other areas and hope the plane came back. I kept calling for help as I had for days but got no answer. A little over an hour later the plane came back and I was able to flag it down with my orange coat tied to my trekking pole. It circled me for about 20 minutes and then left but I knew it had seen me. The SAR team got to me about 45 minutes later and helped me get the 800 meters up the ridge to the trail I'd been trying to find for days. I wasn't aware of it at the time but sometime that morning after the plane flew over me the first time a couple of hikers had heard me calling for help on the trail but down near the creek I couldn't hear them at all when they responded. The hikers marked the spot and went to tell the SAR team which sent the plane back to that area to search for me (which is when I flagged it down).

Honestly, I'm still amazed I never came across the trail. It's possible I was so exhausted I missed it once or twice in my travels but I just don't know. When SAR got me back to the trail they said it was 4 1/2 miles out on the trail so in all that time I had only traveled a little under half the distance to get back to the trail head.

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 12th, 2019, 11:40 am
by drm
Thanks for all the details and I'm so glad you made it out. But you are sure you were descending the east fork? I can't see how that could be the case without running into the trail given your description. The Herman Ck trail is pretty well defined. If you were in the swamp around Mud Lake and went west, you would get to it shortly, and I don't think there are any other swamps between the trail and the ridge. That's why I'm inclined to think you were in the much larger swampy area in the west fork. But then I really haven't done much XC in the area. Same applies when you said you climbed the ridge to the east without finding the trail. That makes most sense if in fact it was the Woolly Horn Ridge that Tomlike is on.

Not sure you ever want to be back there to relive those experiences, but if you do go back with a GPS and get a track, I think we would be interested.

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 12th, 2019, 11:53 am
by Bosterson
Welcome to the site, and thanks for posting your story! Navigation in the snow is definitely tricky, especially once you end up off trail, so we're glad that you made it out safe. Like Dean, I'm a little confused - the SAR volunteer above said you had ended up going down the W fork of Herman Creek, but if you think you ended up near Mullinix Creek, that is on the E fork (running down to the west off of the Green Point Plateau). As "easy" as the Gorge is in terms of developed trails, proximity to the city, etc, it's actually quite complex for offtrail navigation, as there are zillions of little side drainages and ridges and such that drastically change the terrain at a micro level that doesn't show up on maps, and in such tight terrain you generally don't have a view to be able to judge your location based on what you can see. Running a GPS app on your phone is definitely a good idea to supplement the map/compass (I would also recommend checking out Avenza Maps - you can make custom geo-referenced PDF maps at Caltopo and then use them in Avenza). Just note that knowing roughly where you are (a dot on a GPS map) still doesn't necessarily help you navigate complicated terrain if you do go back out there. A lot of the official maps for the Gorge have pretty bad alignments for the trails as well, meaning the GPS may think you're near a trail when you really aren't. The USFS map, for instance, shows the switchbacks going up to Nick Eaton Ridge going up the wrong ridge!

If you do end up going back, I agree with Dean that we'd be interested to see the track. :) Though from what I hear about the brushiness of Woolly Horn (not to mention its burned areas), I'm not sure you'd want to go back! ;)

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 12th, 2019, 7:16 pm
by OregonSurveyor
Thanks so much for clearing up my misunderstanding of your initial route. We’ll all be interested if you learn more about your exact course.

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 20th, 2019, 8:49 am
by americanino
Hello everyone.

So, I received some data yesterday in regards to where I was located and after reviewing the topo map more and spending the night wracking my brain over the time I was lost I've determined the only plausible explanation was that I was indeed on the Herman Creek drainage. I of course didn't realize that at the time and thought I was on the East Fork of Herman Creek constantly looking for the trail but there are too many inconsistencies to make me think anymore that was possibly where I was.

I put together a topo map of what I think my actual route ended up being. Needless to say if I had gotten hurt in there I was probably toast.

Re: Herman Ck / PCT loop

Posted: June 20th, 2019, 9:30 am
by Bosterson
Thanks for following up! I can imagine that would be a rugged schwack down the W fork of Herman Creek, especially if you thought you were in the east and kept expecting to hit the trail. When you lost the trail in the snow, east of Chinidere, did you know where you were in relation to Wahtum? I'm curious because you said you had a map and compass but the track you drew makes it look like you ended up trending NW into the swampy area and W fork, when a compass bearing NNE from your starting point would have taken you to the trail/Mud Lake. Even a true N bearing would have taken you out onto the slopes of Tomlike, where you would easily have been able to see where you were. (Or you could have backtracked to Wahtum if you knew it was south of you?) I'm guessing that increasing confusion about your location distracted you from a specific navigational strategy; being lost is so disorienting, both in the literal sense and how it gets in the way of thinking clearly. Glad you made it out ok!