zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

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Chip Down
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zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by Chip Down » November 25th, 2018, 5:22 pm

Well, with the snowfall since last weekend, the alpine season is over for those who don't like skis/snowshoes. So what now? I decided to reacquaint myself with the Zigzag complex, starting at the bottom (west end) of Zigzag Mountain Trail 775. Although Google's map doesn't show the easier approach from Lolo Pass Road, I was lucky enough to discover it with a little online research. Turned out it didn't matter though, as I ended up on an unintended loop, which put me at the Rhododendron trailhead on foot at the end of the day, leaving another mile to walk.

The start of trail 775 is a misery of switchbacks, with highway noise. I knew it would be. Worse, it was drippy, trailside brush was soggy, and soon I too was soggy. Gradually, I got into snow, and it deepened, and I was brushing against snowy Rhododendrons, and snow-weighted branches were drooping over the trail. If it had been 20 degrees and I was wearing a parka, I'd have been much more comfortable.

I anticipated the West Zigzag lookout site would be my first break of the day, but I missed it. I imagine it's on a unmarked spur trail, and probably requires some diligence to find when you're trudging through snow. Or maybe not, maybe I was just oblivious. I vowed to watch for it on the way back.

The next distinctive landmark was the iconic zigzag slot which I had seen in pictures. Even though I was expecting it, I was still taken aback, partly because I didn't know exactly when to expect it, but also because it wasn't snowy in any of the pics I've seen.

I came to my first junction, West Zigzag 789, dropping off the ridge to the right, then Horseshoe Ridge 774 dropping off the ridge to the left. Between those junctions I lost the trail a few times, but it's pretty much a ridgecrest route, so I always found it again.

Just after Horseshoe, I came to a nice snow-clad boulder heap just left of trail, at 4850'. Snow was getting very deep. I forgot to measure, but I think maybe around 18-20", judging by how far my pole plunged in, and comparing that to my 13" boots. Then down, then up (undulation was a theme of this hike). Wondering why I was bothering. I knew East ZZ was far off, and the snow wasn't going to get any better.

Bypassing Zigzag Mountain's summit on the north (erroneously tagged East Zigzag by Google), I began a long brushy descent. I was concerned I had lost the ZZ trail and was on one of the feeders, but a glance at my map verified the drop was to be expected. I looked down at a frozen lake which I now realize was Cast Lake. I mistook it for Burnt Lake. Kept dropping. I came to the realization that I couldn't bear to repeat my epic trudge back to the TH, and also decided to scrap my hope of reaching East Zigzag. Cast Lake looked so enticing (remember, I thought it was Burnt), that I decided to visit it and then hike out on the Burnt Lake Trail, and then walk back (hitchhike if lucky) to East Lolo Pass Rd.

Now, if you know that area, you might realize it was foolish of me to think I was close to Burnt Lake. All I had was a little screenshot of a map, no markings, basically a trail schematic. And I wasn't paying too much attention anyway, because I knew how to retrace my steps, so I knew there was no risk of being truly lost. Even If I had made it to Cast Lake and then realized my mistake, I could have exited via Cast Creek Trail. So no big deal. But there was one big mistake...

I kept dropping down that snowy trail, lower and lower, still no lake. Hmmm. And it didn't look at all familiar. Then the inevitable happened, something I'd been dreading all day: It was finally warm enough for the snowmelt rain, complete with slushbombs. I thought if I dropped fast enough, I could get below snowline before I got soaked, but it was a losing battle. I broke out my umbrella and lashed a treking pole to my pack.

Finally, I reached a junction, and saw I had been on Devil's Tie Trail. Never heard of it. Odd. But it dumped me on Burnt Lake Trail, so all is well. But as I kept descending (with a few uphill stretches that seemed strange) I never did hit the lake. This just didn't feel right. I came to a spot where the trail seemed to turn into an abandoned road, complete with what seemed to be a boulder barricade. I haven't been on Burnt Lake Trail in 20 years, but I thought I would remember something like that. Spooky, but I kept going. Eventually I knew this couldn't possibly be be Burnt Lake Trail, because I should have been alongside Lost Creek by now. Yeah, Lost Creek, lol. But I knew all creeks and roads on the north side of Zigzag Mtn have to lead to Sandy River and Lolo Pass Rd, so on I trudged, wondering where I would end up.

To my great relief, I saw the back of a signboard, and what appeared to be a wilderness permit box. When I walked around to the front of the signboard, there was a map. I looked for a "you are here" arrow, but found none. But then I spotted it, way to the south of Zigzag. I was on the south half of the Burnt Lake Trail. I didn't even know there was such a thing!

Of all the mistakes I made, the critical one was that I had thought of the Zigzag Mountains (west, central, and east peaks) as being high points along a continuous undulating ridge. So when I dropped north of Zigzag Mountain, I figured all creeks and trails had to head north or west. But nope, there's a very deep saddle between Zigzag and East Zigzag, and that's where the map shows I must have come to a T junction that I didn't notice. It just happened that the clear natural trail to follow was to my right/south. It might seem crazy that I could be 180 degrees off and not notice it, but I bet there were a few twists and turns around that junction that threw me off. I like to think so, anyway.

I considered taking West Zigzag 789 back up to the first junction I passed on my ascent, then back down on Zigzag Mountain Trail 775. I decided against it because there was a chance I might lose the trail in the snow, and it was getting a bit late to contend with a snowy bushwhack up to the ZZ crest. So I just continued down the road, which dumped me onto Hwy 26, which I followed (miserable) to Rhododendron where I stopped for a bite at DQ. I never imagined DQ would be on my hike itinerary. It was only the second time I'd had a chance to sit all day. If it had been anywhere else, I'd feel weird walking in there wet/dirty/smelly, with a big backpack, full gaiters, treking pole. But I'm sure the Rhododendron DQ has seen it all. After that, it was less than an hour to my car.

See, this is why I hate trail hiking! I never get lost when I'm finding my own route.

As you can imagine, I'm eager to get back there again to see that mystery T junction, and find WZZ lookout site, but there might be another foot of snow by the next time I can get back. Oh well, the obsession/compulsion will fade.

There will be a second set of pics, which will include a map.
Attachments
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First nice view of the day.
1.jpg
Approaching West Zigzag.
2.jpg
Virgin snow, clear trail, first sun of the day, excited to see what the next 100 yards has in store.
3.jpg
Yep, as expected.
4.jpg
First view of Hood.
5.jpg
The Zigzag slot.
6.jpg
West Zigzag from the slot.
7.jpg
High point above Horseshoe junction. Neat place. Had planned to spend some time there on my return.
8.jpg
Final view of Hood, from N slope of ZZ Mtn.
9.jpg
Almost stepped on this little guy.

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Chip Down
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by Chip Down » November 25th, 2018, 5:34 pm

Started at "P" at upper left. Arrows show where I went at junctions. Blue arrow is where things went downhill, literally and figuratively. Red arrow was the critical 180-degree mistake. Look at the T junction between blue and red arrows, and notice how close that is to East Zigzag, relative to the distance I had hiked from the car!
Attachments
b0.JPG
b1.jpg
b2.jpg
b3.jpg
This was a happy moment, until I discovered the shocking truth on the other side.
b4.jpg
Big-ass log upended in middle of trail/road. This pic needs something for size comparison.
b5.jpg
ZZ Mtn road, to the southern Burnt Lake TH. Horrible road, swampiest I've ever seen. Should be noted, water was always shallow, and roadbed firm, but I wouldn't want to drive this road in a little crossover SUV.
b6.jpg
That Coke was sealed! And nicely chilled.
b7.jpg
b8.jpg
Sarcasm, I suppose.
b9.jpg
A big day demands a big beer. (I broke this out when I was sure of my exact location.)

pablo
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by pablo » November 25th, 2018, 6:56 pm

Hey Chip, thx for the report. Nice photos and story. Wow, you hiked the length of ZigZag Mtn Rd? And then 26 back to the West ZZ trailhead? That is just brutal. I've done something similar there as a bike 'n hike. Even if you made the turn you wanted it would still have been a long walk without a kind stranger offering you a ride.

I just bought the newly released Garmin 66s, I will gift you my old 64s if you PM me an address.

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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retired jerry
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by retired jerry » November 25th, 2018, 7:00 pm

wow, epic trip, better when the weather is better but I suppose that would be boring :)

mjanardh
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by mjanardh » November 25th, 2018, 7:26 pm

a real adventure indeed.

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Chip Down
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by Chip Down » November 25th, 2018, 7:40 pm

pablo wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 6:56 pm
Wow, you hiked the length of ZigZag Mtn Rd? And then 26 back to the West ZZ trailhead? That is just brutal. I've done something similar there as a bike 'n hike. Even if you made the turn you wanted it would still have been a long walk without a kind stranger offering you a ride.
Distance wasn't really a problem (20 miles?), but I was getting really tired of the heavy pack, wet boots, darkness, US26 traffic, etc. I actually jogged much of the last mile, just because I was tired of it all and wanted to be on my way. Strangely, when I run on pavement in mountaineering boots, I tend to regret it the next day. :lol:
pablo wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 6:56 pm
I just bought the newly released Garmin 66s, I will gift you my old 64s if you PM me an address.
Very generous, and I did consider it for a minute, but when I retired my GPS (decided I didn't want to use it anymore) it was because it was too much of a PITA, too complicated, battery hog, unreliable, etc. I have no doubt a GPS could be made to suit me, but I can't stand the thought of frustrating myself with the search. I do appreciate the offer though. [an afterthought: I actually really like how easy it is to determine my position on my phone, if I'm lucky enough to get a signal.]
retired jerry wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 7:00 pm
wow, epic trip, better when the weather is better but I suppose that would be boring :)
Weather was about as good as I could hope for: mostly clear, some clouds to break up the monotony, a hint of snow in the morning, no wind to speak of. Probably would have been happier if it was colder. Number one complaint was snow in the trees: brushing against me in the morning, dropping on me in the afternoon. On days like that, roads make for good hiking: all the beauty, none of the mess.

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aiwetir
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by aiwetir » November 25th, 2018, 8:28 pm

You need a better map sir.

I've somewhat painstakingly aligned most of the trails in that area to GPS traces on Openstreetmap but their standard map is a little opaque on terrain, I'm sure CalTopo has an OSM variant with terrain, contours, hillshade

https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=14/4 ... 3&layers=N

But here's a decent version if you want to review
Screen Region 2018-11-25 at 20.38.10.png
Here's a representation of the GPS traces (not same scale or extent)
Screen Region 2018-11-25 at 20.41.38.png

Again, this is all done remotely so I haven't field verified all of these trails, however you can see repeated use of certain paths.

I somehow think that having a good map might take away from your adventures though. :D


EDIT: I guess the forum resized those to "too small to see effectively" so I can upload them elsewhere if you want to have a better look.


EDIT2: I just sent a request to Google to change the name from East Zigzag Mountain to just Zigzag Mountain
- Michael

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Chip Down
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by Chip Down » November 25th, 2018, 9:10 pm

Indeed, I do need a better map. The best Mt Hood map I've seen is the Geo-Graphics 1990. I wish I had bought two, and preserved one for at-home use only. Oh well, some things are getting out-dated (things do change).

As far as free online maps, it's always a compromise. I'm most comfortable with Google, but maybe just due to familiarity. I do use openstreet as well.

So we can just tell Google to fix their errors? I had no idea! I have a looooong list. :lol:

Cartography would be a fun hobby, but who needs one more?

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teachpdx
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by teachpdx » November 26th, 2018, 2:42 pm

Sounds like an epic adventure! I know the area well and can understand how it would be easy to make the turn you did, especially mistaking Cast Lake for Burnt Lake.

I use the basic vector map (offline) in the Galileo app on my phone, it contains most local trails with surprising accuracy and the built-in GPS keeps me very close to the actual trail while traipsing about in the snow. I've used it to snowshoe up the Paradise Park trail many times, all the way to Paradise Park. It's only lack is topography, unfortunately.

Just last week I was doing a loop in Forest Park and relying on our good friend Google instead, and it had Firelane 5 on a completely wrong ridge. That's a half mile detour I'll never get back.

A winter adventure to Cast Lake has been on my radar for years... maybe this year I will actually make it.

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justpeachy
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Re: zigged where I should have zagged; semi-lost on Zigzag Mtn

Post by justpeachy » November 28th, 2018, 10:29 am

Although I haven't been up there in winter, it would be easy to miss West Zigzag in the snow. It's right along the trail, but there's not much to distinguish the spot except the old lookout footings, which would have been buried. You can see photos from summertime in my 2014 trip report: viewtopic.php?t=19549
Cheryl

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