Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Suiattle Sooner can't wait to hike the Suiattle any sooner!

Count me to be one of the Suiattle Sooners. That is, I plan to rush the magical Suiattle Valley as soon as the road is reopened which should be sometime late this summer. Finally! Access to the much of the Suiattle Valley and Whitechuck River Valleys was lost in 2003 when devastating floods claimed the Forest Service Roads leading through them. Lost was access to miles of some of the most magnificent hiking trails in the Northwest. And with loss of access, came loss of maintenance and a threat of permanent loss. Which was the case for the Whitechuck, the road washed out in so many places that not even the most stimulus happy Congress could ever justify or provide the funds to rebuilt it--not to mention new environmental concerns as well.

The Whitechuck Trail was a favorite for many and I will always cherish my Halloween 1999 hike on It to Kennedy Hot springs. They're gone too-reclaimed by the earth they once bubbled up from. Lake Byrne will still be accessible via Lost Ridge and the upper Whitechuck still accessible by the Pacific Crest Trail-now fixed and fortified as well. These destinations will be within the backpacking domain-and that's okay, leaving them for the more adventurous intent on a bigger payoff of solitude and true wilderness. But day hikers have plenty to rejoice about too, for Green Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, and Huckleberry Mountain will once again be within their sights.

Thank God-my Day Hiking North Cascades Books has been pitching them for years. And the most glorious spot of all in the Suiattle Valley, Image Lake and Miners Ridge will once again be hikeable from the west. I hiked this area from the east this past summer for my upcoming Backpacking Washington book and can conclude that Image Lake is truly one of the most spectacular places in all of Washington-make that the nation! Yeah, sure there will be a few more people there in 2012-but it's still a 16 mile slog from the west-one that only the hardiest and most determined backcountry trekkers will attain-and they deserve it! Bring on the Suiattle-I can hardly wait-hope to see you on the trail-I'll be there first thing on opening day, pack on and boots ready to kick up some tread!

(photo-Glacier Peak rising above the Suiattle River Valley from the Miners Ridge Lookout 08.10)

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