The trip did not begin well. The last thing you want to hear at midnight before departing on a highly-anticipated 5-day backpacking trip is that the wildfires have spread, leading to National Forest closures of all Green Trails topo map #144. We had intended to do Spider Gap to Buck Creek Pass–one of the hikes I got in my head that I had to do before moving from Washington–but that was now out. We stayed up till 2 a.m. trying to find an alternate multi-day trip that allowed dogs (so, no National Parks) and preferably a loop hike and preferable scenic (glaciers, natch). It wasn’t until breakfast the next morning that we came up with a Plan B. After a quick call to the ranger station, I verified that a loop hike that cuts into North Cascades National Park is technically in a recreation area only administered by the Park, and hence Jasper the Dog was legit. And so with a somewhat later start than anticipated, we left for the mountains.
Stats for Jackita Ridge-Devil’s Ridge (a.k.a. Devil’s Loop)
Distance: 43 miles in 5 days
High Point: 6982 feet above sea level at Devil’s Dome
Elevation Gain: 7300 feet O.O
Green Trails Maps: 16 Ross Lake, 17 Jack Mountain, 49 Mt. Logan
I had intended to illustrate this post with photos, but I’m realizing it may be awhile before I manage to download them from my camera. However I promise to do a follow-up post with photographs just as soon as I get them organized!
But before I get into the hike report, let me tell you about a little something I call Fun #2. This designation is reserved for activities that often are not fun at all at the time, but in retrospect are incredibly worthwhile. Intellectual challenges, like writing a novel or completing a Ph.D, and physical challenges, like backpacking or studying a martial art, all qualify. As my friend Andria would say, Get out your brass ovaries and woman up.
Day 1 (5.6 miles): We started at the Canyon Creek trailhead in the afternoon. Holy hell, 3400 feet of elevation gain in FOUR MILES?! Epic hike was already epic, and made more so by packs heavy with 5 days of food, a bear canister, and sleeping gear for the dog. But at least most of the elevation gain was out of the way early, right …?* Highlights: Meadows carpeted in the crimson foliage of autumn blueberries. The Milky Way was indeed milky. Jasper the Dog looked very handsome in his pack and seemed to enjoy having a purpose. Camping: There was an established campsite about four miles in that we bypassed. In retrospect, it would have been a good spot since McMillan Park, where we set up camp, was dry this late in the season. A bit farther and Devil’s Park would have been primo for camping, though it was full of hunters when we passed through. Dinner: Tasty Bites Bombay Potatoes.
Day 2 (7.6 miles): Holy hell, why were we still going up? Today we followed Jackita Ridge north by way of a series of scree-filled cirques. Views of glaciated peaks to the south were sadly hazy due to smoke from the wildfires, though Jack Mountain, which the loop circumnavigated, was a constant companion. From the northwest spur of Jackita Ridge (where I may have collapsed in tears. On poop. Not mine.) we had views of Jackita and Devil’s Ridges–our haute route for the next couple of days. Camping: North Fork Devil’s Creek–I would have liked to make it out of the valley to some higher campsites near Anacortes Crossing, but we were tuckered. Dinner: recipe adapted from Beefy Noodle Bowl.
Day 3 (7.3 miles): Today was spent mostly above tree line. The views from Jackita Ridge and Devil’s Ridge could not be beat, culminating in a 360-degree stunner from bald Devil’s Dome at an elevation just shy of 7000 feet. I could have stayed there all day. All of the North Cascades were arrayed around us–a mix of jagged peaks and smooth glacial caps–and the wildfires had triggered massive convection to the south. From this vantage point the crevassed surface of Nohokomeen Glacier was captivating. Unfortunately by this point I was suffering from Boot and Blister Issues–let’s just call that distracting and agree I’m making a massive understatement. Hoh hum, fun #2. Highlights: The views, obviously. Also, Jasper the Dog loved camping. At bedtime, we tucked him into his sleeping bag with just his snout sticking out, and he stayed like that until morning, when he army-crawled his way up between us for kisses and belly scratches. Camping: Dry Creek Pass. Dinner: Tasty Bites Bengal Lentils.
Day 4 (9.2 miles): Down, down, down to Ross Lake. Peering back up valley and thinking, dang, we walked far. We left behind the autumn-foliaged alpine meadows and returned to the green cathedral of summer forests. Highlights: Swimming in Ross Lake after 4 days of no shower, jumping off the boat dock to avoid the silty rocky lake bottom. If we were smarter (and willing to pay), we could have arranged for the Park Service to come pick us up by boat here, rather than having to deal with the final slog out. Camping: Rainbow Campground (lovely). Dinner: Recipe adapted from GoBlue Fredo.
Day 5 (13.3 miles): Hike out along the East Bank Trail.
Why do it if it hurts? The reward–be it knowledge, artistic creation, experiencing nature on a scale few ever do, refinding you center–is worth the cost. At least it is for me, in all these hard things that I do.
* I told myself this every single night. And each day the trail proved me wrong. Neverending ups and downs. Never. Ending.