Personal Website for TED HENRY

Expedition 2023, Day 4

This would turn out to be a momentous day, I just didn’t know it yet.

Since I was a good ways up Eight Mile Creek, just after sunrise I decided to drive up to the trail head. Wow, what mountains! My rig is at about 4,000 feet and the tops are 8,000 feet.

Eight Mile Creek Trailhead

Trail into the wilderness area (camera flattens the perspective)

Pasayten trail

There was a cluster of hunting rigs at the trailhead and I briefly considered gearing up for a climb into the Pasayten Wilderness area but decided that was not a good idea. The hunters were limited to a small area and by law are required to wear high viz clothing of which I had none. I might have pissed them off unnecessarily so I passed on that idea. I had plenty of country to roam that was not currently open to hunting.

I motored on back to Winthrop and stopped at the other sporting goods store for some thinner socks. Before leaving I asked the young lady running the store if there was anything I shouldn't miss before departing. Once she heard about my rock and ashes routine she said I absolutely should climb Goat Peak, the highest active lookout in the state. I had 50 years on her but she had so much enthusiasm and her descriptions sounded so accurate that I had to give it a try. She did warn me that the trail is very steep with loose rocks over bedrock. The trail is 3.7 miles and gains 1,400 feet to a 7,000 foot elevation. The top and bottom were a reasonable pitch but that middle section was brutal.

The access road was about as nice a gravel road as one could imagine. No washboards or chuckholes. It was 40 mph all the way except for the curves. Yes the trail was steep, as steep as any trail I can remember. It went straight up with no switchbacks. I could see the occasional horse poop which is how I guess the lookout gets resupplied. However I cannot imagine bringing a horse down that pitch. Maybe they use mules or donkeys. On the steeper sections rocks would dislodge and tumble down the hill.

About halfway up I met a retired couple and a friend carefully sidestepping down the hill, keeping one hand out toward the hill to maintain balance. They had moved from Seattle when they retired and filled me in on how much they loved living in Winthrop.

It would have been useful if I had brought my barometric altimeter, although sometimes it’s just demoralizing to know exactly how far one has remaining to go. Once I reached the false summit and could see the lookout I knew I had it made. I wasn’t fast but my triking quads pushed me up the hill just fine.

From the false summit

Goat Peak Lookout

There was a rock memorial for past lookout employees at the top that would have been a great place for a Holly rock but I sure didn’t want to horn in on someone else’s memorial.

Lookout Memorial

At the top I met a young couple that owned the Subaru Forester parked at the trailhead. The wife mentioned how hair raising the road was and I tried very hard not to react. I could have driven my Mini up that road. Then the husband said they wanted to drive up to Harts Pass so thinking I could cut this off I asked if they had a full sized spare (I knew they didn’t). A long discussion ensued. I explained the rough conditions, the narrow track, no cell coverage, and that the cost of getting rescued was far greater than a full size spare. I suggested if they wanted to do more of this they should think about tougher duty tires and other things but in the end I suggested that there is all kinds of off-roading info on the web. They have a lot to learn. Here they were at 7,000 feet in a strong wind at 50 degrees wearing running shorts and a sweatshirt. They each had a water bottle but they didn’t have a daypack so there’s no way they had warmer clothes, first aid kit, food, fire starter, etc. There was no cell coverage except at the very top. The nighttime temps were expected to descend below freezing. I don’t think they realized how far out on a limb they would be if anything went wrong. Oh well, at least they have youth on their side.

Also at the top I was greeted by a very bold chipmunk. While standing there soaking in the scenery I saw movement. It was a chipmunk scurrying through the rocks and it was headed right at me. I stood there patiently to see what it was up to. To my surprise it came right to me and put a cute little paw on the toe of my boot and looked at me expectantly. It was begging. I shooed it away, sat down, and went about getting out a Holly Rock and camera. It was still begging so I decided to mess with it. I held out my hand like I had food. It jumped right over my hand onto my sleeve, ran up my arm, across my back, and dove into my pack. I could feel the vibrations of it rustling around in there. Like I said, it was bold. I took my pack off and shook it vigorously. That got him out but not deterred. I had to watch very carefully while eating my lunch.

Looking down on the Methow Valley

Methow Valley

Holly rock with mountains on the other side of the Methow Valley as seen from the top of Goat Peak.

Goat Peak Holly Rock

Going back down the hill was grueling. I don’t have those muscles anymore and my legs turned to jelly by the end. I think I would have killed myself trying it without trekking poles.

Once back in the 4runner near sunset I motored down the hill a short ways and found an old landing of some sort that made a perfect place to spend the night. I knew a dry cold front was expected overnight and indeed the temperature was dropping. I quickly made dinner and crawled into the sack to rest my weary bones. I thought I would read until bedtime but my body had other ideas. I did however find an oddball Winthrop radio station with really good music, the vast majority of which I had never heard before. The station had no talky bits like news or adds. Just music with the occasional station identifier. The was no hard core country, or harsh aggressive tunes. Just good music which was very welcome. Apparently it is a community radio station. Here’s a link: directory/ktrt-97-5fm-the-root/

It did indeed cool off during the night. I had to get up and put on a layer of fleece, hat, and socks. After that it was back to toasty sleeping.

So there ya go, one very busy and satisfying day in the bag. It could hardly have been better.

On to Day 5