Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Icicle River Gorge Trail - 05.24.10

Jennifer and I finally got away for a little camping/hiking trip. We drove out to Leavenworth to camp with Matt and his brother Sunday night, and it turned out they had a similar plan for Monday. As Matt put it, "Drive to the end of the road and start walking." I was not aware that Icicle Road was still not fixed, so we headed onward. About five miles from Eight Mile Campground we were met with the road closure.

The road now a river

There was a newer road cut away from the river, but the forest service is not allowing public access by motorized vehicles at this time, so we parked and started walking. The new road is not yet ready for heavy vehicle access and is even susceptable to some flooding early on, where a small bit of rocks and mud is the only thing keeping the river out. It also showed plenty of signs of beavers, which might interfere with the road as well. We hiked on this a bit before it rejoined Icicle Road above the washout. We investigated the upriver side of the washout before proceeding up the road.

The work of beavers

After a while we came to the Chatter Creek trail head. After checking out the board there, (A trail conditions report from August '08 was on it.) we parted ways. Matt and his brother were heading back to Seattle via Washington Pass and Jennifer and I forged on ahead. Just around the corner we found the Chatter Creek Ranger Station. It looked like it was in a state of disrepair, but not too bad considering it has not been used in two years. Just across the road was the start of the Icicle River Gorge Trail. We decided to take it.

Unfortunately, the most dramatic point on the trail is the start where you cross the footbridge over the creek.

View from the bridge

There was some serious whitewater and interesting eroded rock in the constriction under the bridge. We watched a bit before heading up the trail. The trail climbs a short bit to a lookout area above the creek before dropping back down into an area that is more like a Western Washington forest. The ponderosa pines were replaced by western red cedars and the ground cover changed. We started seeing plenty of blooming (and past bloom) trilliums. We hiked on crossing several small bridges and hiking for what seemed like a while. The trail has not been maintained in a few years, but did not have too many logs across it.

Largest trillium I have ever seen

We had started this trip sans packs, and started thinking about getting back as this was a little more than we were thinking about when we left the car. But the trail was nice and we were having a good time. Despite dark clouds in places, we did not get any precipitation while we were out either.

We decided to continue up trail as we expected to be reaching the bridge back across the creek soon. It took longer than we expected, and once we got to a bridge we still appeared to be heading upstream. I quickly ran ahead to make sure we were going the correct way and I was able to see the vehicle bridge at the Rock Island Campground. We were going the correct way. At the campground I checked to see if the water fountains were working, but of course they were not. Since Jennifer and I had not packs, we did not carry any essentials with us including water.

We got back on the trail and headed back toward the car. The trail went quicker on this side of the creek and once again we were in a cedar forest.

Needle carpeted trail

The rest of the hike out was uneventful except for us missing the new road back before locating it. This was a fun hike, and surprisingly populated for a Monday. (We saw two other parties.) Considering the road is closed, it takes a bit of hiking just to get back in there. You could take a mountain bike on the road, but they are not allowed on the trails due to it being a wilderness area. I'd like to explore this area further in the future. It was also nice to get out without a pack on and just go for a walk. Of course, it would have been nice to have some food and water with us, but we survived.

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