Today’s totals: 14 miles, 5,100 feet of elevation loss
Today started out with Max, Amy and I rising from our tents as usual to watch the sun come up over the mountains at 6:30. Maddie kept to her schedule of sleeping in until 8:00. While sitting at the edge of Charlotte Lake sipping on our coffees Max got his arm workout in, not by skipping rocks, but swatting at gnats who he claims were purposefully diving into his eyes. We had a relaxing morning but still found that we needed to dry out our tents from condensation build up again.
We were on the trail by 10:00 knowing we had about 10 miles to make before our estimated campsite along Bubbs Creek. We had an initial climb up out of Charlotte Lake to the trail that would take us down toward Bubbs Creek trail. The weather was great and not too hot as we descended along the exposed switch backs finally making our way back into the forest. We had a young buck sighting and Max almost ran over a Grouse and her babies who didn’t really seem to care he was barrelling down the trail. With the return of the forest and water also came mosquitoes. The kids both quickly applied bug spray in hopes of preventing further bites (both seem to be magnets for those little blood suckers). We made a couple of stops for water and rest along the way. The one thing we found a little comical was that we were walking along Bubb’s Creek which was not a creek at all, but a raging river. We had to almost yell at each other during our breaks just to have a conversation.
We really didn’t see very many people today (total of 6 who were heading up the trail). We actually got a laugh out of a quick conversation with one hiker who told us to have fun with the creek crossing down trail. We laughed a little as we thought to ourselves that this guy, with his fresh clothes and full pack, had no idea of the adventures we had encountered over the past 5 days which included river crossings and snow travel. After that good chuckle we headed on down the trail. We did come across a small creek coming down off the mountain that had over run the trail but we found 3 small logs that had been tied together allowing us to cross without any issues. We again thought to ourselves if this is what he was talking about he was in for a surprise once he gets further up trail.
This is when the trail started to become increasingly more difficult as plants started to take back the ground the trail had stolen from them. So much so that many times we could only tell we were on the trail by the branches and leaves of plants being bent or broken from previous hikers pushing through. I am not claustrophobic but felt like I was experiencing some of those symptoms as the forest closed in tighter on the trail. What made this more difficult as well was that we couldn’t see our feet beneath us nor could we see the steps that had been cut into the trail. This slowed our pace as we tried to avoid tripping and falling. We also started to see more signs of bears as we were greeted with a significant amount of bear scat right in the middle of the trail. It seemed like the bears were warning us that they were around by only making their deposits in the middle of the trail over the next 3-4 miles. We became more focused on making some noise especially through some of the areas that were extremely overgrown.
Amy had taken the lead and was quickly reminded that bears weren’t the only things we should be looking out for as she was given a very loud and aggressive “rattle” as she stepped right next to a rattlesnake who was sunning himself next to the trail. Luckily I think she surprise it as much as she was surprised by the snake, resulting in it not striking. The snake retreated slightly into the brush as we tried to figure out where it went before the kids and I passed. Maddie thought she spotted it and was trying to point it out to me. I used by hiking pole to try and scare it off. Funny thing was is that while I extended my pole slowly trying not to get the snake agitated, we were greeted with another loud rattle from the 3 foot snake who was much closer to me than the spot Maddie had pointed out. Turns out that what she thought was the snake coiled up was only some underbrush and the snake actually had been sitting closer to me that whole time. The snake cooperated and slithered off into the brush allowing us the kids and I to pass safely. That is two close calls for Amy on this trip! Needless to say we became more focused on looking for rattlesnakes more than bears after that moment.
By 4:00 we had put in 10 miles and had finally reached the spot we thought we would be camping. Everyone was tired but we were also contemplating trying to finish off the last 4 miles with a reward of hamburgers, showers and real beds calling to us. While we were resting and trying to decide what would be best I went to try and filter some water for everyone as everyone was out. As I was walking to the water I heard a very strange sound barely audible over the roaring river. This sound made me stop and try to figure out what it was and where it was coming from. That is when I realized it was another 3 foot rattle snake only a couple feet from me warning me not to take another step. We had no idea this snake was there, even after Maddie and Amy had walked right past that spot only minutes earlier to cool off in the river. After seeing two snakes in the last 15 minutes it was enough for everyone to decide that we would leave the trail that night.
We packed up and started to head down the trail trying to cover the last 4 miles and head to civilization. Obviously we all became much more aware of the trail at our feet as we tried not to have any more snake encounters. We had 19 switchbacks as we lost the last 1,500 feet of elevation. We got to the bottom and found trails with actual bridges to get over the river, while brought smiles to all of our faces. It looked like we were finally going to have dry shoes for a full day, which was the first time since day one. That is when we realized the trail had been over taken by the fury of the river. The trail needed one more bridge but there wasn’t one there because normally the water isn’t there. This was the creek crossing the guy was talking about!!! The was was rushing fast and was about mid thigh deep with lots of rocks. NOT SAFE to cross by wading. I found a log we could use but it wasn’t very wide and was about 8 feet over the rushing river. Not seeing any alternative I made the choice that it would work. We had to use a second log for balance but it was a couple of feet away and it was like shimming across parallel bars, that were slippery from water. We all made it across safely but not without some nerves!
The final two miles were flat but seemed to never end! We made it to the truck at 6:30 pm and were so happy to have some cushioned seats to sit on while our brains teased our stomachs with what lied ahead, In-n-Out!! What a great trip with Maddie and Max. Amy and I loved being able to share this with them and both of us loved seeing them step up to the challenges, that this high snow year brought.
Well dad pretty much got everything. Although, i still say that it was 18 switchbacks, because the last one was just going up to the switchbacks. We played a game where we guessed how many switchbacks there were and i guessed 18. Well that’s everything so adios for now!