Devil’s Loop 2001


Between August 18 and August 25, 2001 Will and I circumnavigated Jack Mountain.

Our plan for the week was to hike from the Ashnola River road in BC down into Cathedral Park, set up a base camp and explore the Cathedral Lakes basin. In June Art and Jo Freeman (and their 11 year old son, Arthur) agreed to come with us and with two cars the plan changed – we decided to hike up the Andrews Creek trail off the Chewuch River road in the US, camp for a couple of days in the Cathedral Lakes basin, and exit via Horseshoe Basin. Art and Jo went off to sail around Vancouver Island and we hadn’t 100% committed to a destination. In July the thirty-mile fire killed four firefighters on the Chewuch River Road at the next trailhead over from the one at Andrews Creek.

Will spend a week working with TOPO and powerpoint and the various reference sources we had available to make a presentation intended to convince Art and Jo to stick to the plan we had discussed. The plan was for five or six mile days, no days with more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain, a couple of lay-over days where we could scramble peaks on the highest hundred list. They listened and agreed. Then, the night before we were to leave, I got word that the Horseshoe Basin trailheads were closed and that it probably wasn’t a good idea to hike in the eastern Pasayten since they were considering evacuations.

After a hasty consultation the next morning we shifted sights and decided to hike up Thunder Creek, over Park Creek Pass and down to the Stehekin River Road, spend a night in Stehekin, and then hike out over Cascade Pass spending an extra night in Pelton Basin on the way. Once again, Will did a quick TOPO profile, we accumulated maps and copied route descriptions.

When we got to the ranger station in Marblemount and asked for a backcountry permit we were told that there was a fire just south of where the trail from Park Creek Pass met the Stehekin River road and that the camp sites were closed from the pass south. We were also told that they were considering closing Cascade Pass.

Plan “C”, suggested by the NPS ranger, was to hike the 43 mile loop starting with the Canyon Creek trail up to Crater Mountain, then following Jackita Ridge to Devils Ridge and dropping back to Ross Lake for the return. We agreed and got permits for to camp in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area for the last two nights. Only as we started up the trail at 2:00 on that Saturday afternoon did it sink in that the trip started with four miles and 3,500 feet of elevation gain to get to the first reasonable camp. Here is a map showing our route and an elevation profile.

We got to the junction with the Crater Mountain trail at about 6:30 and found a good campsite. We pumped water, ate dinner and went to bed. There were a bunch of dear roaming through the camp and a couple of unhappy parties who had to continue on past the junction to other camps. Here is a photo of Art pumping water at that camp.

On Sunday we hiked the three-quarters mile to Crater Lake and then continued for a couple more miles and a thousand feet up to the site of the old lookout. We had fantastic views of the Cascades from Logan and Goode up to Canada. We were especially taken with the Jerry Lakes – particularly the nearest one which was aquamarine from glacial till. Jack Mountain was impressive. Art and I climbed to a notch on the ridge to the main summit and could see the haze from the fires east of us. Will and Arthur trundled rocks. It was a hot sunny day. The blueberries were good. On our return we napped at the lake. Here is a picture of me by the Jerry Glacier.

On Monday we packed up and hiked through McMillan Park to the Devils Park Shelter where we had lunch. then we climbed up Jackita Ridge and followed it up and down. It was big and open country with spectacular rocky crests and steep skree fields. We were ready for camp when we dropped to the North Fork of Devil’s Creek at 6:00 in the evening. Art spotted a small campsite about a quarter of a mile before the creek but we thought we could do better so we dropped packs at the creek and walked ahead to see what there was. By the time we figured out that the trail climbed steeply to another ridge and that another party had the only camp site in evidence, a party of dog-people we had seen at Crater Lake had taken the small site. This time it was our term to be the unhappy party that had to continue on to camp who knows where. We shouldered our packs and made our way slowly up the steep trail for almost a mile before we found a gorgeous campsite just below the ridge crest. We ate dinner and crawled into bed. Towards morning we got a couple of brief showers.

Tuesday morning was overcast and threatening rain. Will and I packed quickly, but Art and Jo were much faster. They left camp as Will and I were starting to take down the wet tent. We hiked on up to the ridge and then followed the crest of the ridge for a couple of miles. As we neared Devils Pass it started to rain in earnest. From the ridge before the pass we could see a shelter with people by it and a small pond not too far away. Art met us at the pass and said that Jo and Arthur had descended the half-mile to the shelter. He said that he had met the kid-people (desperate looking folks with a 10-year old who had walked by us the first night and occupied the only good site by the creek the second) at the pass. They said there was no water in the spring that was supposed to be below the pass and that the shelter was a collapsed pile of dangerous logs, so they were heading on for the next water on the other side of Devil’s Dome. We knew that there was a pond down there and it was certainly green enough to indicate some kind of water. We could also see a shingled roof covering something, so we headed for the shelter in increasingly hard rain. Art bushwhacked to the pond for water. Jo noticed later that there was a stream just off of the trail.

We set up tents under the trees next to the shelter. Horse-people had left the place a powdered mixture of dust and horse manure but it was relatively dry under the trees, and flat. We adjourned to the shelter, one end of which had collapsed some years ago. We decided that it didn’t look like it was going anywhere right away so we settled into the open end and watched it rain. And rain. And we watched the wet marmot poke around. And we watched wet deer investigate. And we watched it rain some more. Arthur got bored, and taking an abandoned mattox started digging up the meadow. We set a ground rule that he had to fill in one hole before he could dig another. He basically spent a rainy afternoon digging up everything in front of the shelter. We cooked in the shelter, ate there, then lit a candle and played whist. It rained all night.

On Wednesday morning we decided to hang out in the shelter until noon (or until it stopped raining) so that our idle time could be spent in the shelter rather than in a tent. Arthur was unhappy that we wouldn’t let him dig holes in the rain. At about eleven another party of dog-people arrived. They told us that there were grumpy horse-people in the next shelter, that they had seen the kid-people camped on the ridge, and that there were two parties camped at Devil’s pass. We decided to make a run for it and abandoned the shelter to them. Our tent was covered in mud with a high organic content.

We climbed to the pass, followed the ridge, climbed to the site of the old lookout below Devil’s Dome, and then dropped down the other side. It was cold and windy and raining all of the way. The country was spectacular but we could see little of it. As we descended a gorgeous little valley we heard a waterfall and found a couple of secluded campsites off of the trail. We set up tents during a break in the rain and saw that we were in a spectacular setting. A couple of german-people came and plopped themselves down next to us. It rained all night.

Thursday morning we got up to only a little drizzle. We ate breakfast and packed quickly. Will and I decided to hit the trail, even if it meant getting rained on, and go claim a campsite at the lake, Art and Jo decided to wait and see if they could dry things out. We dropped something like 4,500 feet in six miles. It rained enough to require gortex, but we mainly got soaked by wet brush. We got to Devil’s junction at about 1:30 (after Will had despaired of ever getting to the lake which he concluded must be tilted since we continued to descend without getting any closer to it.) We claimed the only campsite on the shore – even though our permit for a “hiker” camp probably didn’t intend for us to camp right at the landing. The boat-peoples’ bathroom smelled.

We set up camp, put out a sign directing Art and Jo to our spot, and then encountered the original dog-people. They didn’t look happy. We told them that there wasn’t anyone in the hiker camps and then made an es-cape. We had a picnic table to cook on and a beach to play on. The stumps were out and impressive. We threw rocks and erected a flagpole. Art and I agreed that if it was raining in the morning we would hike all the way back to the cars. It rained all night.

It was showering Friday morning – little skiffs of rain with sun in between. We packed up quickly and hiked four miles to the Mays Creek stock camp . The log bridge across Mays Creek was slimy. The camp was dark and gloomy and for all we knew the clouds were coming in. Art and Will hiked the trail to the lakeshore and found that a party of boat-people had gotten there ahead of us and taken possession. Jo and Arthur wanted to stay. Will and Art were ambivalent. I wanted to leave. We decided to see if we could bushwhack some other way to the lakeshore. We trampled the thick moss in the process, but made our way through the trees to a rocky beach on the north side of the Mays Creek inlet. It was sunny there and the water was only cool. We returned to the camp, set up our tents to claim the place, and then carried our packs to the beach. (At least Art and Arthur and Jo did – I carried my pack and all of Wills’ stuff.) We spread out everything we had on the beach and let it dry in the sun. We napped. We swam (or at least bathed). We threw rocks and floated sticks. We threw rocks at the floating sticks. We ate dinner there. At dusk we packed up and hiked back to our tents.

Saturday morning we packed up and headed down the trail. Will set a fast pace and we soon left the Freemans behind. We stopped only a couple of times, covering the eight miles in three and a half hours. Hidden Hand Pass is a really pretty area. Ruby Creek is gorgeous. Will didn’t want me to take the time to read the historical markers. Art and Jo and Arthur got there just as we finished changing our clothes. We ferried them to their car at the Canyon Creek trailhead and then headed for Good Food in Marblemount. A state trooper thought I was going too fast, but then relented when he heard that I was hungry after eight days in the wilderness with Will.

Here is our equipment list for the trip.

Here is a book list.