Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gold Creek Pond, December 28, 2009

Gold Creek Pond, Green Mountain Road (North Bend), December 26, 2009

December 29, 2009

Gold Creek Pond/Gold Creek, December 28 (Hyak)

Yesterday we drove up to Hyak, parked at the Gold Creek Sno Park and hoofed our way up the Gold Creek Pond. We thought Gold Pond wouldn’t be crowded but we forgot school was out for the holidays so an attitude adjustment was in order.

By the way, the Gold Creek Road is treacherous on foot without Yak Trax or the like – I wore mine but Silverback doesn’t have them yet. He fell a couple of times on the road but sustained no injuries. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager but falling down on an icy road is not such a good idea when you’re in your 60s. With the right vehicle you can drive closer to Gold Pond and park, of course. Don’t forget your Sno Park permit if you go.

Sans snowshoes we hiked up the road to the pond and started out on the loop counterclockwise. When we reached the junction for the Gold Creek trail we added that to our itinerary for the day. That necessitates more walking on the road to reach the actual trailhead, perhaps ¾ of a mile. We turned around in about a half mile where the trail breaks out of the trees at the obvious avalanche slope above the trail (Rampart Ridge loomed above, hidden in the clouds). There didn’t appear to be much snow on the slope but we didn’t want to take a chance; besides, we were aware of trail damage a little further along the trail. Other trail reports indicate blowdowns like giant stacks of pick-up-sticks not too far from where we turned around.

Other than a couple of folks on skis we had that trail to ourselves though there has been snowshoe activity on the trail (no need for snowshoes yesterday). Most folks we encountered at Gold Pond were wearing snowshoes but they were not needed. We bare-booted it the entire way, even on the Gold Creek trail. There is very little snow up there (or anywhere) as of this writing. Rampart Ridge stayed hidden in the clouds with only a bit of it emerging from time to time through the mist.

This was a good winter “shake down” hike for us; we didn’t layer up enough to deal with the cold wind and were chilled most of the time we were out on the trail. We didn’t eat lunch until we got back to the car where a hot thermos of tea awaited us.

We probably hiked 3-4 miles with a couple hundred feet of elevation gain at most.

Other recent hikes, including Green Mountain Road (December 26, 2009)

This has been an odd month for hiking – short days combined with a tight budget have kept us closer to home and the weather has been odd. Despite these challenges we’ve managed to get in several hikes in the last couple of weeks.

Our “biggest” hike was Mount Si – Silverback’s first visit to that lofty pinnacle. The weather has been so dry that we watched hikers scramble to the summit without difficulty (these, of course, are folks that have scrambling skills). I was tempted to join them as I’ve only climbed the Haystack once (when scrambling skills were fresher than they are today).

We’ve also hiked the Talus Loop (on Mount Si) and taken the “short cut” out to the Tenerife Road and made a nice little loop. We left a car at the school bus turnaround in order to make the loop.

Most of our hikes have been “brown” hikes and admittedly it is hard to get excited about such hikes. We use “brown” hikes as conditioners, to keep us in shape for snowier trails where snowshoes are needed and we can go to more interesting places. Neither one of us like to contend with the icy crud that is on the trails as of this writing.

We also took a peek at the new Kamikaze Falls trail but since it is not officially open I won’t say much about that except to say that the trail will be an excellent trail when it is finished. Having been on the “old” trail a few times, I can honestly say this is an improvement. I don’t know the completion date for this trail but hopefully that will be soon so I can say more about it in this blog.

We’ve also checked out the so-called trail to Green Mountain that branches off from the CCC road. Since schools were closed for the holidays we parked at the “school bus turnaround” on Mount Si without worry of getting towed. From there we hiked up the Mount Si Road, continued on the CCC road until we reached the turn off for the Green Mountain road. If you get to Brawling Creek on the CCC Road, you’ve gone too far. The Green Mountain road is roughly ½ mile or so before Brawling Creek – the old road is marked by a rusty gate on the left-hand side of the CCC road – easy to spot in winter, harder to spot in the summer when vegetation obscures it.

It was a windy, sunny day but once we were on the Green Mountain road we were somewhat protected from the aptly-forecast wind. We hoped for a little bit of snow or ice/frost “compositions” to photograph along the road – alas, this turned out to be another brown hike. Between us we probably took about 20 photographs – there’s not much to photograph here. Still, the road is a good conditioner, it’s quiet, it’s not crowded and if you look closely you’ll find a few artifacts here and there, left from past logging eras. The road is easy to follow with stretches of ankle-twisting loose rock to contend with but otherwise no difficulties were encountered. After crossing what we believe to be Brawling Creek we turned around, having gained about 2,000 feet of elevation to that point.

The views of the Middle Fork peaks I recalled from a previous hike on the road are partially blocked as trees grow taller and vegetation fills in the blank spaces. Though there are partial views to Garfield Peak and other Middle Fork peaks; it’s hard to get a good photograph because of the encroaching vegetation.

There are numerous, tight switchbacks on the road and one cannot help but imagine what it might have been like to come hurtling down the steep road driving a truck with a load of timber. There seem to be few pullouts along the way – that old road must have witnessed some exciting times. Now the road is in the process of becoming more trail-like; it would be interesting to come back in another 10 years or so and see what Time has done to the road.

On our way back the wind picked up, especially along the CCC road and we hurried, keeping one eye on our feet and the other on swaying trees.

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