Pasayten Wilderness—July 26-31

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dixhuit
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Pasayten Wilderness—July 26-31

Post by dixhuit » August 2nd, 2011, 3:54 pm

We set aside this time months ago to do the loop around Three Sisters, but that’s clearly not happening this year. The Pasayten was looking like our best alternative, but the Rangers in Winthrop were warning about large amounts of snow. Either they were exaggerating, or it mostly melted just before our trip, because, to my mind, this was the perfect time for this route.

We started from Billy Goat Trailhead, about 27 miles from Winthrop, WA, 4800 feet. That’s a seven hour drive from Portland, so we didn’t get started until after 4 pm. The direct route is over Billy Goat Pass (6600 feet) which we were told was impassable, so we took the left fork and hiked four easy miles to a nice campsite at Drake Creek. The next day we hiked up Drake Creek to a junction with the trail over Billy Goat—#502. The detour cost us an extra 2 miles and saved us about a thousand feet of gain and loss. We made 8 or 9 miles on day two and found a nice camp next to a meadow on Larch Creek. There is no longer a bridge over Diamond Creek, so we pulled on the Crocs and forded the calf-deep icy creek.

Day three took us over 7200 foot Larch Pass, to where the alpine scenery gets spectacular. We were told the trail was snow-covered for 2.5 miles either side of the pass. There were a couple of patches—no more. The high Pasayten has miles of green ridges that provide easy roaming. We caught it at my favorite time in the mountains. The snow was just leaving and every living thing was rushing to create more life in the short time before snow. The meadows are filled with early flowers. I saw more glacier lilies and pasque flowers in a few days than I’ve seen in the last 35 years. The ground squirrels are everywhere. The deer come around every morning and evening and are starting to look sleek and healthy. We had thought to head for a camp near Peeve Pass to put us in position to visit Sheep Lake, which I remember fondly from a Boundary Trail hike years ago. But the meadows of McCall Gulch were too inviting to pass up. We found a lovely campsite a few hundred feet off the 502 on Trail 548, 7100 feet. The junction is marked by cairns.
McCall Gulch 2.jpg
Pasque Flowers.jpg
Glacier Lilies.jpg
McCall Gulch.jpg
McCall Gulch Camp.jpg
Day four was a planned layover day. With daypacks, we made the 11-mile circumambulation of Sand Ridge. Trail 502 continues up the east side to Peeve Pass. There is an unmaintained trail along the west side. It is shown somewhat accurately on the Green Trails map. The loop took us through a variety of wet basins (lilies, pasque flowers, marsh marigolds, globeflowers) and dry ridges (lupine, paintbrush, arnica). A great hike followed by a chilly dip in the creek.
Marsh Marigolds.jpg
Globeflowers.jpg
Sand Ridge 2.jpg
views along the east side of Sand Ridge
Sand Ridge.jpg
We spent our final night in Three Fools Pass, where the stillness of the night was broken only by browsing deer and a mournful owl.
Handsome Brute.jpg
This fellow visited on our last morning at Three Fools Pass.
There were great displays of flowers on the hike out over (not snowy) Billy Goat Pass.
Virgin's Bower.jpg
a form of clematis
Penstemon.jpg
Arnica.jpg
Skyrocket.jpg
Some general notes. The bugs were only a minor annoyance. They were bad at the trailhead, and we didn’t see them again until the third day. The warm days did bring them out more after that. The trails here are graded for horses, so it’s generally pretty easy hiking. There are a usually a lot of horses and mules on trails in the Pasayten. Because we were there just as the snow was clearing, we only saw a few teams—apparently outfitters going up to provision their camps. It’s clear that there has been a lot of work done on trail 502 in the last couple of years, and it’s generally in good shape. Most of the spruce trees are dead or dying. Spruce Budworm? You can read about this hike as part of a loop in Doug Lorain’s Backpacking Washington, second edition; and also here http://www.wta.org/magazine/WA_TRAILS_0 ... SAYTEN.pdf
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Splintercat
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Re: Pasayten Wilderness—July 26-31

Post by Splintercat » August 2nd, 2011, 6:18 pm

Thanks - great pictures and report! The Pasayten has always struck me as Washington's version of the Wallowas -- lots of high tundra terrain, rows of peaks and divides and on the dry side of the rain shadow, albeit tucked against the North Cascades in the case of the Pasayten. I don't know the geology, but wonder if it's a separate series of formations from the main North Cascades group? Sort of like the Siskiyous abutting the Cascades at the OR/CA border?

Tom

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markesc
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Re: Pasayten Wilderness—July 26-31

Post by markesc » August 2nd, 2011, 6:23 pm

I'm adding this to my future places to visit! Thanks for sharing! Looks epic :mrgreen:

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raveneditions
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Re: Pasayten Wilderness—July 26-31

Post by raveneditions » August 2nd, 2011, 11:28 pm

As for geologic diffs, Splintercat, the Pasayten and NoCas are not radically different the way the Siskiyous are. You could say there may be a terrane-bounding fault (the Hozomeen) dividing them, approximately, but really both the Pasayten and the NoCas are jumbles of mainly Mesozoic terranes, and in both cases the rocks are mainly metamorphic with scattered igneous intrusions.

The big difference is glacial history. The Pasayten has been in the rain shadow of the NoCas for basically its entire life. During interglacial stages (including the present) it had relatively few small alpine glaciers, and even during the glacial stages it had fewer valley trunk glaciers; and at least briefly toward the end of the last glacial stage it was overridden by a lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, softening the topography of many ridgetops.

That did not happen to the NoCAs, where glaciers have persistently sharpened the topography for at least the past several million years, and the focused removal by erosion of huge amounts of rock has accelerated the isostatic uplift of the area.
"well man I just don't feel right without something on my back"
—Gary Snyder, back in the day

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raveneditions
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Re: Pasayten Wilderness—July 26-31

Post by raveneditions » August 2nd, 2011, 11:35 pm

And Dixhuit, I agree about your perfect timing, just as the snow finishes melting and the early flowers explode and the misquotes haven't quite exploded yet and the horse packers are just starting to gear up.

I don't have time to drive all the way there, so I've been thinking about the Naches R.D., east of Mt. Rainier, but both the rangers and the hiker-posters keep insisting that it's still too early.
"well man I just don't feel right without something on my back"
—Gary Snyder, back in the day

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