Lost and Forgotten:
A Trail Guide to Roadless Area Hikes
and Vistas in Western Okanogan County, Washington
[ Acknowledgements ] [ Introduction ] [ Guidebook help ] [ Hiking tips ] [ References ] [ Roadless Guide ]
This guide wouldn't have been possible without the help of many other people who encouraged me onward, and when necessary, discouraged me from talking too much.
For their field expertise and perseverance in hiking with me in and out of the North Cascades, I have many people to thank, including frequent companions Dave Hopkins, Faye Streier, Mary Lockman, Lanette & Jason Smith, Jody Engle, Lynda Hofmann, Michael Mancuso, Peter Morrison and Rob Crandall.
For their biological expertise and tolerance of my botanical foraging while in the Forest Service, I am indebted to Bill Gaines, Ernie Garcia, Kent Woodruff and Lon Schultz, as well as the other inhabitants of the strange and wonderful world of the Okanogan National Forest, recently merged with the Wenatchee National Forest.
For their scientific proficiency and philosophical contributions in areas I was least prepared, I am most humbly indebted to A.B. Adams, Art Kruckeberg, Art Partridge, Mark Lawler, Mark Skatrud, Mary Poss, Peter Morrison and Susan Crampton.
I thank the Wild Washington Campaign and its funders for the opportunity to describe these areas in a way that will lead toward their understanding and preservation. For help filling in gaps in this guide, I thank Diana Flynn, Susan Crampton, Peter Morrison and Tim Coleman. Many thanks go out to all of the environmental activists, whose tireless work and vision made this guide possible by keeping these lands safe from unnecessary roading and logging.
And finally, thanks to my dear friend, Ken White, who lives forever in the wilds of his Methow Valley homeland. You showed me the wild places right outside my door.
This guide is meant to highlight the lesser known wild lands of Western Okanogan County in the North Cascades of Washington. It is intended to be a smorgasbord of hikes, trips and vistas, some on trails, and some not. With but a few exceptions, these hikes are on publicly owned lands in the remaining roadless areas managed by the Forest Service in Okanogan County. This guide covers fifteen roadless areas greater than 5000 acres on the Okanogan National Forest.
The guide was developed as background material for the Wild Washington Campaign, whose current three- year old project goal is to safeguard Washington's remaining untouched wild areas in our National Forests, as Wilderness and other protective designations. The campaign continues where the last one left off, with the 1984 Bill that added over a million acres to existing Washington Wilderness. But the previous Wilderness Act left out many of the richest and most beautiful areas of the state, opting instead to preserve high elevation expanses of rock and ice that offered no threat to timber companies. This guide continues with the "unfinished work" of preserving those important wild lands left out of the preceding Wilderness Acts, as described in the 1984 book, Washington Wilderness: The Unfinished Work, by Manning, O'Hara and Rutz.
The Wild Washington Campaign involves a diversity of both state-wide as well as local approaches to developing a Bill. The campaign in the Okanogan is unique in presenting these roadless area descriptions as a hiking guide. By emphasizing both biological values as well as human interest points, it is hoped that the reader will gain inspiration to experience these areas personally, as well as gleaning useful information about their need for protection. The tone of this guide is meant to be entertaining and thought-provoking, for occasional sipping rather than rapid quenching. By showing the way once traveled, readers can then find their own way down the path.
The hikes described here are accessible by a variety of means, from binoculars to passenger vehicles. The emphasis of the Wild Washington Campaign has been to preserve the value of these areas for their natural qualities, wildlife habitats, and clean air and water, while at the same time encouraging human visits to be unobtrusive and harmonizing. The emphasis within this guide has been to present routes and trails via the least common denominator, that is to say, on foot. The Okanogan offers some wheelchair-access trails, too, and some of these are included. For the purists, there are even some vistas to be appreciated only from a distant view. That is not to say that mechanical devices should not be used to access these areas, only that such uses need to be planned in a fashion where the resources of the land are also protected.
Existing trails and roads on the Okanogan National Forest are an inheritance from trappers, livestock operators, miners, loggers, and various recreation interests. These last roadless areas are all that remain of a once unbroken expanse of wilderness that stretched from coast to coast; they are the last remaining tid-bits left over from the carving up of America. As the number of visitors to the Okanogan increases, the stress on wildlife and ecosystem function increases in proportion with each mile of trail, and ten-fold with each mile of road. The Pasayten Wilderness that once seemed so large, seems more crowded now as endless trains of horses head up Eightmile Pass each season. Our roadless areas are beginning to swarm with a collective roar of snowmobiles, mountain bikers, jeeps, skiers, snow cats, motorcycles, ORVs, and the intrepid foot traveler, all determined to enjoy their piece of the pie at whatever cost to the senses...and the land.
In order for these fragmented landscapes to continue to function correctly, overused trails need time to heal, and excess roads and trails need to be put to rest. The Forest Service has recently begun to move away from commodities management and more toward recreation, however on the Okanogan, the result has been that funds are being invested in promotion and use (i.e., recreational) of some of the last, remaining, remote, unvisited places. Is this any different from a guide such as this describing equally wild places? On the one hand I would argue that the Forest Service, as a management entity, has no business promoting recreational use. That is just my opinion. But in the case of causing increased exposure, and use / abuse through excessive promotion, I will agree is no difference. For this reason, many of the trails described here will hopefully be allowed to vanish over time as will their explicit locations with further revisions of this text.
We need to work out equitable preservation proposals that balance the need for existing motorized and mechanized routes with their impacts on the landscape and other users. Advocates of increased mechanized recreation include both incidental as well as dedicated users. Most are considerate of foot and ski travelers, while some are oblivious egotists that roar past in a cloud of dust, exhaust and noise. There needs to be a place where people can get their kicks this way, on hardened sites, far away from these fragile landscapes. There are already hundreds of miles of territory available for considerate motorized and mechanized recreation users to share access to these roadless areas, but this needs to be limited to less intense means as one travels further into the interior of these special places.
Although we can expect increased human presence in these roadless areas, there is presently there is no consensus about what will happen to them, except that to be eligible for Wilderness designation they must be larger than 5000 acres. The future of these roadless areas depends not only on an informed public and the support of their representatives, but also on the active support of the Forest Service in the management of ecosystems as more than commodities. Some day, the Forest Service may very well become ecosystem managers, but for now, Wilderness designation is the only way to protect the clean air and water of these areas for our children.
The decision not to publish every known trail location in an area played a part in the creation of this guide. A number of people approached me at the outset of these writings to warn me against blabbing about where the best local secrets were, lest they become crowded with tourists. With that in mind, the trails in the guide were chosen from better-known routes, leaving the off-trail explorations for the next generation of explorers. Also left out were easy unofficial trail hikes leading to knock-your- socks-off splendor. Some routes were chosen to garner a concerned constituency, more aware of the threats of targeted road construction or logging. And most of the hikes are described in a way as to leave much to be discovered by the traveler who will take the time to explore a little. By visiting and hiking the areas described in this guide, the hiker learns more about them, even as their solitude is diminished by the act. Try to use good judgement about whether to travel a trail on foot, skis, mountain bike or snowmobile, and whether or not to bring the dog along. Be considerate about the needs of wintering deer, nesting hawks, or migrating fish. It is my hope that you have the opportunity to visit some of these areas, and as you become more familiar with them, share in their secrets just as the first visitor did.
The following features are described in a consistent format throughout this guide: Hike, Roadless Area & Quad(s): These are the name of the hike (or vista), according to a prominent landscape feature it accesses or references; the roadless areas as named and mapped in the table of contents, and enclosed in parentheses if the trip does not actually enter the area, e.g., as in a described vista; and quad names referring to the USGS 7.5 minute series. Hike length: This is the length in horizontal map- miles for a hike, and specified for either one-way or round trip. Difficulty & walking time: Difficulty and walking time are estimated for an average male or female hiker in good condition, hiking at an pace free from strenuous exertion, usually 2 miles per hour on flat ground. Elevation gain: This is given in feet above sea level for each route, rounding off to the nearest 50- or 100-foot multiple for approximate figures. Directions to site: Directions are given from the nearest town, along roads up to the point where the hiker would typically begin walking. Route directions: Directions are given for one or more trails or destinations. Routes include both one-way hikes as well as loops. Specific guidelines or difficulties: This section lists specific difficulties, possible dangers and important considerations for an area. Be sure to read this section before going on any of the suggested routes. Area features: This is a free-form description embodying at least one event, historical perspective, scene, landscape feature or ecological feature of an area. Descriptions range from the mundane to the prosaic, with occasional personal anecdotes, and when absolutely necessary, more sordid details as the author felt was minimally necessary.
Metric measures were not used for the sake of personal preference, this is probably a hold-over from my indoctrination in the Forest Service culture, but in any case feet can be converted to meters by multiplying by 0.3048 and miles to kilometers by 1.6093.
Left out of the guide were addresses of local establishments, and public and private campgrounds. The Forest Service can give out such information by calling them in Twisp at 509-997-2131. Descriptions of trail and road embellishments are limited to those expected by the foot traveler or those using handicapped access trails. My apologies to those traveling on horse, llama, goat and mountain bikes. Until a more comprehensive version of this guide is published, you will have to find out where necessary amenities are by calling the above number.
For all of the routes presented here, all-weather gear is strongly recommended. North Cascades weather can undergo dramatic and life-threatening changes for the unprepared. Maps, compass, extra water, extra food, extra clothing, fire-starter, a first aid kit, a whistle, a candle, a flashlight and batteries, a raincoat, and a tent or waterproof blanket should always be carried. If you have a cell phone, remember to bring spare batteries, and don't depend on reliable communication from it. A clear signal is most likely from unobstructed, high summits. Wear sturdy shoes and hike with friends. Don't cross snowfields or avalanche chutes with snow on them unless you know what your are doing. Consult good books or knowledgeable friends about backcountry travel and hang your food away from bears. In certain seasons, mosquitoes can be thick; walking at a steady pace seems to keep them from alighting, but mosquito net headgear is a lightweight addition to one's gear that can be most useful when they come out near dinnertime.
I have long since abandoned the practice of recommending what people do with their dogs and other pets, unless it is a hike I am leading. A well-behaved dog can be a wonderful companion, but a misbehaving or uncontrolled dog is a disgrace to its owner. In such cases a kindly offer of leash rope is more likely to get the cooperation of the owner than is cursing.
Some discussion of wilderness ethics needs to be made. The areas described here are fragile and beautiful ecosystems in need of your stewardship. If you must have a campfire, only use existing fire pits and collect only dead wood. Keep fires small and put your fire out when done. Better yet, carry and use a portable stove. Stay on trails, or if none exists, avoid making a new one. Resist the temptation to pick wildflowers, particularly along trails where others might enjoy them, and be considerate of existing solitude by keeping sounds and visual appearances subtle. Don't let the bad behavior of other visitors or wanton cattle herds demoralize you, but consider reporting gross behavior to the local authorities. The days are fast disappearing when campfires could be lit wherever it was convenient and travelers simply tossed beer bottles over their shoulder when they were finished. On some old trails such items of historical debutage are found in context with less dated abandoned sardine cans and the stratigraphically recent twist-tie. The discussion of how much to carry out always seems to arise in my circle of friends. I consider it fair game to pick out two such items to carry home, whereas my Seattle friends are inevitably zealous curators of traveling backpack museums, which may involve mine as well as theirs.
Maps are available at the Winthrop or Twisp Ranger stations as well as information on trail conditions and some introductory books about the Methow area. An Okanogan National Forest user fee of $5.00 per night is required for vehicles parked on National Forest lands. Fees are payable locally or at the Methow Valley Ranger Station, 509-997-2131, PO Box 188, Twisp, WA 98856. Back country roads in the Okanogan are sometimes in poor condition, and road banks are often unstable or eroding. In spring, you may be the first vehicle on a road, in which case a saw or shovel might get you out. Come to think of it, consider taking a hike right where you are, and when you get back, ask the Forest Service if they have plans to close that road.
A number of excellent guides have been published in the past; my personal favorites are the technically profuse guides by Fred Beckey, but the references by Crowder, Darvill, and Spring, as well as a slew of newer ones, are worth considering for one's shelves. Hopefully this guide will help fill some of the void in information about lesser known trails in the Okanogan, although some of the descriptions also appear in the other books.
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- Arora, David. 1986, 2nd. Mushrooms Demystified - A Comprehensive Guide to the Fleshy Fungi. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.
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