Friday, November 4, 2011

The right wrong turn on Thorp Mountain

Distance: 15 miles

Elevation: Probably 2,000 feet or so

Location: Salmon la Sac near Roslyn

Thorp Mountain was meant to be an easy, somewhat snowy summit to tag on a rare sunny day this time of year. My partner and I could practically hear the songbirds serenading us as we neared the end of our picturesque drive and began a hunt for a forest pass. After three stops and some backtracking, we were told no pass was needed since it is off-season so we parked and loaded up. We hadn’t gone but 100 feet when we were faced with our first challenge: crossing a cold, cold creek that offered no stepping stones or bridge. I bravely rushed forward and stretched my foot out to touch a rock barely breaching the surface. It was covered in ice. Somehow though, using our trekking poles and encouraging laughter (cameras at the ready for a fall), we made it over without incident.

The narrow path pushed through fields of crackling dry plants that had died some time ago. With the blue sky above and snow-capped mountains surrounding us, the brown only added to the kaleidoscope of color. We marveled over several bear tracks and settled into a comfortable hiking zone. After three hours, we passed a junction with the Kachess Trail and found ourselves staring out at the Cascade Range in the distance and No Name Ridge to our right. We had no luck finding the lookout tower that was supposed to signal the summit so we dug out our map and trail description and argued over where we were. Our answer came at the next junction that read: Thorp Mountain, 2.5 miles, with an arrow pointing back where we’d come.

More amused at our “detour” than discouraged, we followed our tracks until we found where we’d gone straight instead of curved left and continued our upward surge. I snapped a shot of the Thorp Mountain sign – just to prove our success, even if it took an additional five miles. The last stretch of trail was a bit unforgiving and I felt the soreness in my ankle settling in but I was distracted by the Christmas-looking trees that lined the trail and sparkling Kachess Lake below.

Then, in a blessed moment for my tired mind and body, I saw a rustic tower (built in 1931) perched atop the hill. We threw our packs down and stared in wonder at the Enchantments rising in the distance, the lakes glistening below. Our celebration was stinted though since the approaching night spurred us down the trail, barely pausing on the hidden ice patches. Despite it all, can’t say I regret our poor navigation a bit!

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