On to days 4 and 5! Here’s the trip header with links to the other reports. Felt like too much for one post so I’m breaking it into bite sized chunks because you know I’m a storyteller.
Day 1: Drive to Field’s Point Landing, express ferry to Stehekin, hike to Bird Creek Bivvy. ~10mi, 5000ft gain, 5hrs.
Day 2: Bird Creek Bivvy to Tupshin summit and back. ~3mi, 3300ft gain, 10hrs.
Day 3: Bird Creek Bivvy to Devore summit, Bird Lakes, and back, then move camp to Bird Creek. ~7mi, 3500ft gain, ~13hrs
Day 4 (this post): Pack up Bird Creek camp, stash ovenight gear at turnoff for Flora, Flora summit and back to Devore Creek, move camp to Ten Mile Pass. 13mi, 7800ft gain, ~12hrs
Day 5 (this post): Ten Mile Pass to Holden, ferry back to Field’s Point Landing. ~7mi, 200ft gain, ~2.5
PLOWING AHEAD with sparknotes:
- Flora is a walk, a really long walk
- Consider doing Flora during larch season if you’re into views, wow
- Tenmile Pass from the Devore Creek side is 85% cruiser 15% blowdowns
- Tenmile Pass to Holden is… decidedly not cruiser. 100+ blowdowns. PARKOUR
- There is no water at Tenmile Pass, but there is water if you’re willing to hike ~5min down the trail towards Holden
This was going to be a big day. There were a lot of unknowns ahead of us and we just had to trust things were going to work out and that moving slow and steady would eventually get us to where we needed to be. Most people who climb Flora do it from Bird Creek camp as an out and back, but we wanted to carry up and over Tenmile Pass and exit via Holden instead of hiking all the way back down the Devore Creek Trail to the Stehekin River trail, backtracking those stupid 3 miles to the shuttle, and taking the shuttle to the ferry. So our goal was to pack up camp, stash gear at the turnoff for Flora, climb Flora, repack our overnight packs, and hump all of our gear up to Tenmile Pass. Through trails that may or may not have received maintenance yet this year in the worst year of blowdowns/deadfall in recent memory. We had heard reports of 250+ blowdowns, 450+ blowdowns, and two brave volunteers going out to battle the brush a few days before we’d be there. Who knew how far they’d gotten.
We were moving by 5:30am with no idea what to expect. The volunteer crew seemed to have stopped at Bird Creek Camp, because we immediately started running into blowdowns, but nothing awful. We were able to refind the trail fairly quickly and I don’t think they made us much slower than 2mi/hr. Soon enough we were at the flat ish spot to cross Devore Creek and start the bushwhack up to Flora. We emptied our packs of overnight gear, tied up spare food, and shared horror stories of people stealing cached/stashed gear. Taking food to eat. Taking snowshoes thinking they were lost/forgotten. Straight up stealing nice gear because why not? Fortunately we were SO far out there I couldn’t imagine anyone would take extra overnight gear to hump out 8 miles over blowdowns and ferries. I tied my food in some leggings (still don’t have a bear bag… shh) and tied those to a tree. Usually I use my sleeping bag stuff sack, but it was holding my sleeping bag, so I had to get creative.
We crossed Devore Creek easily on some logs and began the bushwhack, aiming for the saddle south of Enigma Peak. It wasn’t as bad as the bushwhack up to Bird Creek high camp, but it wasn’t exactly open forest. Lots of spiderwebs, neck/head high blueberries and teenage pine trees. 50/50 hip high brush and annoying blowdown pickup sticks. We got a streak of like five walkable logs connected to each other and I announced it was the gift that kept on giving, letting us walk high above the brush. “We’re logging some serious elevation gain on these” “Ooh make sure to put that in the bLOG” the tree puns carried me for a hundred vertical feet. We broke out into a small treed basin with running water and cute flowers and took a short break. I kept thinking we were about to be above treeline and it just never came. The sun was lighting up the trees, the ground was getting flatter, but the trees continued. Until finally, we found a beautiful meadow (part marsh) around 7200ft, and finally, FINALLY we were in the alpine Stupid east side with their stupid high tree line. Our next break was brief as the bugs wreaked havoc on our bodies.
Beyond the marsh, we continued up an increasingly steep and unstable talus slope to an obvious saddle to climber’s left, starting out with large solid boulders and progressing into classic softball/football sized rocks ready to tumble around your feet any minute. I had the Grocery Outlet jingle stuck in my head, which sucked, because it’s literally four words long. Gro-cer-y Ouuut. Leeeet. Bar-gain Maaaar-ket. I asked the group what songs you could get stuck in someone’s head just by saying a few words. Examples are:
– Bye bye bye
– Shout (options)
– The final countdown
– What is Love
– Take on me
– Stop (hammertime? collaborate and listen? In the name of love? Too many options)
– 867-5309 (no one knows the other lyrics though)
This and pockets of wildflowers carried me up to the Enigma-Riddle(?) saddle, where we had maybe the most annoying part of the day: dropping like 800ft of elevation to the meadows below on steep, also loose dirt and scree. Fortunately the loose stuff only comprised like 200ft of that, and the rest was on heather through larches until we got to the ridiculously beautiful Castle Creek surrounded by wildflowers and larches and I just couldn’t believe no one comes up here to camp in larch season. I know, I know, lugging all your overnight shit up there is unpleasant, but this had to be one of the most larchy spots I have ever seen in my life. Numerous and DENSE. We picked our way through them until we gained the rib that would take us up to a final basin below Flora. The rib was step (you can traverse further north to make it less steep) but we found game trails here and there to help, and finally got above trees once again.
The final stretch to Flora’s summit was a talus walk. Also annoying, but easy, and the views were amazing. I really underestimated the scenery on Flora. Adorable patches of wildflowers, rock ranging from red to black to white, views of Lake Chelan and Domke Lake to Maude to Tupshin and Devore, glaciers may be missing but it’s a very cool viewpoint. At the summit we found some metal wire scraps, no idea what those are from. “I thought they might be holding the place together” a climbing acquaintance commented on Facebook a few days later. We did the normal summit routine again, I finally finished my cheez its and cheddar cheese, and we made quick work getting back to the first basin and then to Castle Creek.
Getting back up to the saddle south of Enigma was about as painful as expected. Baking in the hot sun, dust kicked up by someone in front of you just sticks to your face, sometimes you take a step up and your foot just slides down to where it used to be. But we found the ramp we had used on the way down, took another quick break at the saddle, and soon enough we were back at beautiful bug marsh meadow where our break was equally brief because the bugs were somehow worse than they had been that morning. We got back onto the topic of music because my head had been liked a jukebox all day. Do you ever think about song lyrics like a decade later and realize how terrible they are? The song in question was Smack That by Akon. Smack that, out on the floor, smack that, til you get sore, smack that – wait, what?! til you get sore!? Akon, get out of my vanilla life, I’m trying to enjoy the scenery.
My brain glazed over for the bushwhack down. It actually went decently, or maybe I was in a trance and just didn’t process anything we did. We were back at our overnight gear around 4pm and moving towards Tenmile pass by 4:30. Amelia and I started moving slowly thinking the others would catch up on the trail. We ran into a section of avy debris which was surprising. The slide must have been HUGE. Trees all down across the trail in the same direction, snow still frozen solid underneath them. Someone had cut all the branches off the logs which was very much appreciated. We went around both sections and refound the trail, wondering where the boys were until we heard their voices on the other side of the avy debris.
Crossing Devore Creek is your last convenient chance to get water before Tenmile Pass. We skipped it and grabbed water off a switchback, but that took 20ft of schwhacking to get to. I grabbed one of Jon’s spare nalgenes to fill up. I only need like 1-1.5L of water to get through a night but everyone else seemed super thirsty, so I figured carrying 3.5L meant others could use mine. And it was a good call, because it was all consumed by the next morning. Tim I think carried 5 freaking liters up to the pass! Tim’s tiny but that’s why he’s the gecko. Sticks to any slope angle and moves so freaking fast you look up and you’re like I saw him out of the corner of my eye but where’d he go?!
The trail from Devore Creek Crossing to Tenmile Pass was blowdown free. You don’t see the pass until you’re right below it. I saw Jon on switchbacks above me and was determined to catch him. I pushed the pace for a few switchbacks before remembering he’s a fucking machine and I had no chance. Cresting Tenmile Pass, there were no clear established campsites, but there was a huge open clearing with minimal vegetation where we felt okay pitching tents given the circumstances. There are supposedly campsites a mile below the pass, but we never found them. Tim was next to arrive at the pass. “Are we camping here?!” he asked. “Yes, if that’s okay!” His face stretched into a huge smile and he threw his arms up. “THANK YOU!!!” I just started laughing. “I’m old and happy!” was one of my favorites from Tim.
We set up tents, everyone checked on each other to make sure we had enough water and food and see if anyone needed help with tents or cooking. Everyone. Was. Wiped. I think we had the full spectrum of emotions between the six of us, from “don’t talk to me i’m exhausted” to “i’m pissed i’m exhausted” to “i’m happy but also exhausted” to “i’m relieved and exhausted” to just “i’m stoked to be here and exhausted.” Amelia trotted to my tent and dumped a bunch of electrolyte mixes in front of me. “I’m sick of my energy gels what food do you have that you’ll trade for these?” We bartered some stroop waffles and chia seed mixes for electrolytes. I think Andrew was on day 2 of his mashed potato diet. Tim had leftover vegan noodles he couldn’t convince anyone to eat. “Andrew, I can carry the rope tomorrow morning” I offered. “No! That’s CHEATING!” Hahaha! “You can’t carry the rope into Holden after not carrying it the past few days!” I had been carrying the trad rack (3lbs vs 7lbs for the rope) since he took the rope from me when I was dying Thursday night. Well. Fair point. Enjoy carrying the rope another day then!
We made do with the water that we had, and the next morning we found water a five minute walk from the pass, maybe not even. So if you camp up there, there IS running water, you just have to look for it a bit. Not sure if it was a spring or snow, but there wasn’t much snow that we saw, so I’m thinking it’s a natural spring. There was also a LOT of wildlife up there. We were clearly encroaching on a deer’s favorite spot, he came around and snorted and clomped and sniffed out all of our gear. I had hazy dreams of a dear shredding my sleeping-bag-stuff-sack-turned-food-bag. Oh, and you’ll be camping on like 2″ of ash, so be careful what you touch and where you dig. Your tent’s going to be duuuusty.
We got moving at 5am to make sure we got to Holden in time for the 10:45am shuttle to the ferry. This was the stretch of trail we thought would have the worst blowdowns. The tenmile trail drops into the valley and connects to the Company Creek trail officially, but there’s also a connector trail to the Tenmile Falls trail out of Holden. It’s not on most maps for some reason. It does receive annual maintenance according to the rangers, but.. not much. The first ~2 miles down from the pass were cruiser: beautiful trail, beautiful switchbacks, beautiful burn zone scenery.
And then we hit the junction with the Company Creek trail and the connector to Holden. And it turned into miles of parkour. Over logs. Under logs. Around logs. We crawled. We jumped. We scrambled. Amazingly, a volunteer crew had trimmed branches off all of the logs, which is an INSANE amount of work given what we saw. Hilariously, Jon had ripped his pants about an inch at some point, and with every log shenanigan, the rip grew longer, and longer, and longer until he had a 16″ rip from waistband to where the pants zipped off into shorts. RIP his pants (get it). But eventually, there’s a view to skiier’s left of a huge waterfall coming down from Tenmile Pass, and finally, FINALLY we started seeing fresh sawdust. Boom. We were where the volunteers had ended. Deer prints abounded. Guess we aren’t the only beings who appreciate a beautifully cleared trail. From there, it was a long but quick cruise to Tenmile Falls (pretty, but underwhelming after everything we had seen) and down into Holden Village.
Holden Village was more welcoming than the last time I was there, but THERE WAS STILL NO ICE CREAM. I don’t understand the economics of this. The tourists all have to leave at 10:45am to catch the ferry. Why. Does the ice cream. Not open. Until 1pm. That’s so stupid. Are you just making money off your volunteers? That’s cruel. Milk the tourists, guys, come on. TAKE MY MONEY. Getting breakfast was an event too, because breakfast ends at 8:30 but the Hiker Haus and Registration (necessary for any hikers to get access to buildings, like the building that has breakfast) don’t open until 9am. ONCE AGAIN. HOLDEN. DO YOU WANT. MY MONEY. OR NOT.
We split into two groups, I found someone willing to sneak us oatmeal but the others found someone who actually worked Registration and was willing to get us registered in time for breakfast. Breakfast was $10 for mostly oatmeal and toast and canned fruit. And apples! I ran over to Andrew, who was still wearing his headlamp despite being indoors at 8:30am. Andrew they have apples!!! You’ve been talking about them for days! I made toast and loaded it up with cream cheese. Except a few minutes later the cream cheese was melting and sliding down the bread… because it was actually butter. I had just taken like a half cup of whipped butter and everyone just watched and never said anything. In their defense, I still ate all of it. After adding salt, because it was unsalted. $10 for toast with unsalted butter. Holden. Come. On. No eggs no cheese no protein and NO ICE CREAM.
Holden had one redeeming factor for a nerd like me: the library. We couldn’t go in it last year, but it was open this year. Amelia and I darted inside. One of my favorite children’s books was front and center – Officer Buckle and Gloria! An adorable story about a policeman and his dog educating their community on safety. We read that and then started picking up reference books, reading about mining history, local native art, newspaper clippings from the early 1900’s, reading random trivia to each other from whatever we were reading. A guy who found a ton of gold by Mt. Stuart, only to have it buried literally that night in an earthquake. Two guys who escaped the Wellington avalanche that killled nearly 100 people back in 1910. Origins of lake and peak names from native languages. Pictures of miners 1500ft underground before the mines were shut down. Enough to easily keep me entertained for the hours we had to kill until the shuttle arrived.
The shuttle took us to Lucerne (where the ferry picks you up/drops you off for Holden) where we had over an hour to relax and swim before the ferry arrived. We all jumped into the fucking freezing water, which was amazing. The forecast had said 109 degrees but it certainly didn’t feel that hot. Either way, jumping in a cold clear lake after five days of layering sweat/sunscreen/bug spray felt phenomenal.
On the ferry, we ran into Matt and Anita, who had just hiked from Cascade Pass to Stehekin, and picked us up some surprise bakery treats from the Stehekin Bakery! Jon ran into an old college friend, and we chatted with Selena, Max, and Steven Song (his amazing blog here) who had just done Bonanza, Martin, and Copper out of Holden too. Small world. Party on the Monday morning ferry. We whooped at a jet skiier who was cris-crossing the ferry’s wake getting air cresting every wave. Looked like a total blast.
I can see why no one through hikes Stehekin to Holden or vice versa via Tenmile Pass and Devore Creek. Even aside from the 150 blowdowns in like a two mile stretch, the Tenmile Pass trail only has views thanks for the forest fire, and the Devore Creek trail doesn’t have much in terms of views at all. It seems to primarily be an access point for the three Bulgers we had climbed and not much more. But i’m a nerd, and it’s cool to get a glimpse of these less frequented trails, and it makes me appreciate that they’re still being maintained, even if minimal. Seems more and more trails get abandoned every year, and it’s not like we’re gaining new trails. Always makes me wonder how a certain trail comes into existence and what its use case was when it was first built. Recreation? Hunting? Transportation? Mining? Logging? I have no idea why Devore Creek or Tenmile Pass trails exist.
This was an incredible multiday trip with a really great group. Thursday solidified it, I can be a mess with that group and they’ll come together to support me. Hopefully me floundering like that is a rare occasion, but it’s really amazing being able to trust a crew like that. Good company, great views, awesome experience. There are still some peaks in that area I need to get but I think it’ll be a while before I feel like revisiting some of those bushwhacks.