Sunday, March 27, 2016

Minimal maintenance - East Pond/Lost Creek trail

03/28/2016 Minimal maintenance - East Pond/Lost Creek trail

Chris had a great trip planned for the Haderondah Wilderness. Knowing I had been to the area before, he asked me to come along. It was Chris, Steve and I, all teachers on our spring break. We hit the trail after a quick early lunch and made our way down the old jeep trail to the trail junction entering the minimal maintenance area. I had been down this trail last fall and knew of the flooded section. I expected it to be at least as bad this time of year. We passed through the cleared blowdown above the beaver swamp and then down to the flooded section. We made our way across the muddy dam just as I had done last fall. Scout, the dog, got caught up on a stick with her pack. Steve helped her get unhooked and we made our way up from the wet area. The rest of the trail would be a series of small ups and downs as we crossed between hills and ponds. The crossing of Little Simon's outlet was tricky with the higher water level. We each took a different route. From here it was a mile to camp; just up and around the next hill.

At East Pond, we made camp and collected a bit of wood. It did not appear anyone had been here since my last visit. At the very least any visitors did not make a fire, as my “X” was still in the firepit. We decided to check out Blackfoot Pond and the old mica mine. Last fall I explored a little of the outlet of Blackfoot. The last time I was at the northern end was with Justin a few years ago. At the old mine some had set mica chips and ore atop a boulder. Some rather large flakes of mica. We climbed to the top of the boulders from which the mine was excavated. From the top we saw a glisten a few hundred feet towards the lake. We guessed it might be a piece of mica reflecting the sun. The weather was great. Slightly cool, but bright and sunny. On our way back from the top of the mine, we stopped at a small water fall. A neat cascade flowing over the sharp cliff face. Not large, but cool nonetheless. I recalled seeing it when Justin and I were here last time. We headed towards the pond and on the way stopped to find what was glistening in the sun. It turned out to be some mica in the rocks. We figured this must have been how it was discovered to be a good place to mine for it. On the way back to camp we opted to take a higher route than the trail, just to check it out. There was not much to see from the next contours up, but this would get us ready for our hike the next day. Back at camp, we started the fire and made dinner. I stayed up as late as possible, but soon had to turn in before the rest.

The temp dropped significantly through the night. While I was comfortable in my hammock, it was chilly getting up. I restarted the fire and made some coffee. My stirring awoke the other two and soon we were all having breakfast and preparing for the day's adventure. Chris thought it would be a good idea to go check out Big Otter Lake and have lunch on the bridge. 5 miles there and another 5 back sounded like a good idea. If we were feeling adventurous, we could even tack on an extra mile or so and go see the waterfall on South Inlet creek. We headed down the Lost Creek trail and stopped at the many beaver dams which terraced the outlet of East Pond. There was a lot of blowdown to slow us. It appeared that some of the trail markers were newish, but there had been no recent clearing of obstacles. This area is on a 5 year maintenance cycle, so a less than convenient hike is expected, though desired. We stopped for a snack break alongside the outlet creek right before the creek would turn away from the trail. There a nice set of rapids here which was very pretty and soothing. It was easter morning and I commented that this is my church. We continued on down the trail. I filled up water from one of the spring fed stream emanating from the hillside. It was getting warmer as the morning progressed. We found the old trail which headed north to Lost Creek and turned south towards Big Otter. The map said it was 1.3 miles. After 45 minutes or so we knew there was an error on the map. We expected this as the mileage didn't mesh with the posted mileage by a significant amount. Eventually we made it to South Inlet creek, crossed the bridge. I noted an old campsite fire ring. It hadn't been used in quite a while. I guessed it was camp for someone fishing the creek. We again were on the old jeep rd and saw fresh atv tracks. This is a wilderness area which means no motorized access. However being so close to the an access point, sadly illegal atv use is common here. We stopped at a large campsite on the edge of Big Otter Lake. The lake was free of ice, which contrasted the pond at our campsite which was still mostly solid. We had lunch and laid down in the warm grass. The sounds of atvs on the other side of the lake could be heard. It wasn't too much later we could hear them heading towards us. The circumvented the gate and crossed into the wilderness area. They headed down the trail towards us and called out hello. We greeted the couple and they immediately recognized me. It was Boon and his girlfriend who showed up at Chub Pond for my trip last St. Patricks day. We chatted a bit and then they drove off. I told the guys the story about Boon and Chub Pond.

We decided to head back to camp and not opt for the South Inlet waterfall. The return trip was faster even though we were generally going uphill. Within a mile of camp, we went around a large section of blowdown and didn't regain the trail. We kept our eastern heading and with the outlet to our left we knew we would soon hit the approach trail to camp. Soon enough we did and we made it back to camp. Scout the dog went to take a nap while the rest of us got things ready for dinner. We were all tired, but knew that if we laid down we would fall asleep and then not sleep at night. I cut some wood to keep busy, Steve and Chris went to the point to look out over the lake and watch the sun set. I watched a few birds circling the air on the other side of the lake where the coyotes made a ruckus the previous night. It had barely gotten dark and we all went to bed. The expected forecast for the next day was rain. We planned to get up as early as possible with the hopes of beating most of it. The night would be considerably warmer than the previous.

The winds really picked up during the night. My tarp was flapping hard. Not sure if it just started in the early hours of the morning or had it been going all night and I slept through it all. I was awake, but it wasn't quite light yet and I waited until I could see or hear either Steve or Chris. A headlamp camce on over by the tents, so I began to get dressed and pack up. I had all my stuff packed except for the tarp, just in case it began to rain. Steve and Chris were packed up quickly as well and we donned rain gear and headed down the trail. It was sprinkling a bit, but I was getting too hot, so when we stopped for a moment, I ditched my rain gear. I opted for rain wet and comfortable instead of sweaty wet and uncomfortable. The mile to Little Simon was fast. We were not dawdling along. We crossed the flume and made each checkpoint; the log bridge, and beaver dam very quickly. Compared to the previous day, the trail was a highway. At the beaver dam it started to rain more heavily. It slowed for a bit, but at the junction for the jeep trail, a little more than a mile to go it started to be consistently heavier. We would get soaked by them time we were at the car. We loaded up and drove quickly to get some coffee. Felt quite good for a 20.4 mile weekend most of which was on a marked but unmaintained trail.

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