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Colter - Desert Trail Journal - 2012

Entry 87 of 102
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City: Fairbanks
State: Alaska
Begins: Mar 1, 2012
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sun, Jun 24th, 2012
End: Weller Butte, Washington
Trip Distance: 1,853.0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 797
Journal Visits: 81,151
Guestbook Views: 6,829
Guestbook Entrys: 83

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Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness

I am on a beautiful ridge in the Wilderness and am going to get caught up while I have coverage.

After my last post two days ago I climbed a gravel road until I hit snow. Luckily the road then started heading down out of the snow. At one point I was startled that I'd dropped so far, a map I was looking at showed to stay on the ridge. Luckily the old map was wrong because I reached my goal of Timothy Springs Campground. This campground was also vacant of people and a rainstorm was bearing down. I set up under a big Doug Fir. It was soon pouring down rain with loud thunder rumbling all around. I noticed something peculiar: it was pouring 20' away but not on my tent, the tree branches were shedding the rain that well!

It was a soggy morning so I wore my rain pants that Boats had brought me. Up ahead something moved: a cow elk coming up the trail, hair dark brown and wet. Somewhat screened by trees I stood still. A tiny calf walked up behind her and then a string of three more cows with calves. The calves would sneak a quick drink of milk when they could while the cows browsed on one side of the trail and then the other. The calves sampled different plants too, likely trying to figure out what tasted good. Finally the lead cow spotted me and they ran off.

The trail was reasonably good. The river ran on the right hand side for many miles. At one place it disappeared at the edge of the water and I waded across, but not finding a trail there waded back where I finally found that the trail had washed away. After climbing up and around the washout I then climbed back down and found the trail again.

Today there were many large land snails on the trail, a trail which was now often heavily overgrown with green plants. I jumped two coveys of grouse, the mothers frantically trying to lure me away but the chicks could fly enough to perch up off the ground. The day had cleared which seemed to coincide with better trail and more ponderosa pines appearing. But in the evening dark rain clouds appeared over the mountains and I raced to find a campsite and beat the rain. The rain won but then stopped again long enough for me to cook dinner and get comfortable. It was a good camp, mostly protected from wind but on sandy gravel next to a beautiful dark pool on the river and with a great view of the mountains downstream.

I was walking by 5:30 this morning. Within a half hour I was confused. The only trail I could see was heading up a side drainage. I left it to look for the main trail where the map showed it to be, and finally found a washed-out bridge. Wading across an icy creek for the third time I hit a good trail. It will be even more confusing to explain, but I was dealing with four trails:
The main trail running downstream on the Wenaha, and three others heading north, one of which (3142) I was planning to use. None of them were visible despite my walking up and down stream and climbing up and down spur ridges. Even the trail following Butte Creek wasn't there as far as I could tell. I finally decided to just go for it and follow the route of my trail even if the trail wasn't detectable. On this south slope it should be doable. The jury is still out.

The views have been great on this climb. So have the wildflowers. I scared up a nighthawk from its nest where there were two eggs right on the ground.

On a large tree was an old white sign: WASHINGTON STATE BOUNDARY. Yahoo!!! It was an appropriate spot for such a landmark on this hike.

As I write this a hummingbird has been feeding on some red flowers a few feet away. The Eagle Caps in Oregon and another snowy range in Idaho are visible as well as the nearer ridges of the
Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. I hope to make it to Oregon Butte today yet. Everything is going well. Thanks for reading!

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