Sunday, August 31, 2014

Grand Dishpan Gap Loop - Wild Sky / Henry M. Jackson wildernesses

Today I finally completed my triple crown of highly-scenic routes done on days with limited-to-no views! After Rainy-Harts and my North Cascades Traverse, all I had to do was find one more beautiful route that I could do on a foggy, rainy and cold day. The whole three-day weekend looked to be providing the appropriate weather, so as good a time as any for another classic loop.

The Grand Dishpan Gap Loop starts off on the West Cady Ridge trail, heads up to meet the PCT and turns north to Dishpan Gap where you start looping back on the Bald Eagle trail, heading to Curry Gap and then descending down Quartz Creek back to the same trailhead (N. Fork Skykomish River trail also leaves from the same parking lot, providing a shorter loop option). Allegedly there are great views in the 22+ miles of ridges you traverse, but unfortunately I only got a few glimpses...I guess I'll just have to go back!

Also had my first bear encounter of the year spooking what I believe was a mother and two cubs. I only saw one cub (30 yards ahead on the trail) and as soon as I started yelling at it there were two other animals crashing through the bushes, one to my side and one behind me.

West Cady Ridge and the PCT are in super-maintained shape. Bald Eagle has some grass and flower overgrowth and a bit of erosion but the last mile down to Curry Gap is brushed and fixed up (thanks FS trail crew!). Quartz Creek has a bit of mud and some light brush, but still is a fun, gentle cruise down. Note that there is not a lot of water on the ridges, especially from the PCT until half a mile before Curry Gap; only a small seep or two.

Wilderness areas get fancy trailheads; all three trails leaving from this lot had these
A mostly-gentle climb up to West Cady Ridge
Up on the ridge after only three miles
West Cady Ridge
Rolling along the ridge
Pacific Crest Trail junction
Broken, but still pointing the right way
PCT along the Snohomish-Chelan county line ridge, below Skykomish Peak
Mr. Marmot
Many grouse
Lake Sally Ann
The dreaded PCT-grade extra long switchbacks up to Wards Pass
Looking south down the PCT from Wards Pass

Looking down on Dishpan Gap after turning onto the Bald Eagle trail
Contouring toward June Mountain
Back in the fog; more contouring
Bald Eagle trail, the ridge east of June Mountain (r), Blue and Little Blue lakes (c) and Johnson Mountain (center-left)
Blue and Little Blue lakes
A bit brushy and eroding, until...
WOW...they can't be far away...
Some serious trail work; THANK YOU!
Thank you FS trail crew!
Kyes Peak, with ridge to Monte Cristo on the right
Kyes Peak from above Curry Gap
Nice little set of falls and a pool on the Quartz Creek trail
Time for some rest and healing...