Sunday, April 24, 2011

Big Beaver Valley

I went out to the Big Beaver Valley behind Ross Lake yesterday, which is becoming an annual thing for me. One of my favorite places, and my first trip into the North Cascades since last fall. I was excited all week just to make that drive up.

I got up early to go—5:30 AM, and by 6:00 I had received a ticket from the Washington State Patrol. C'mon.'s not like I was going that fast---the citation is for *5 MPH* over the speed limit!—he said he had me going 65 in a 55, at 5:50 AM on an empty road. I haven’t had a ticket in 20 years!! He was even coming the other way. I spent way too much time on the trail thinking about whether to contest and how. And now here I am blogging about it. Maybe it's good to be angry about something sometimes.

So anyway, this is usually a pretty easy 22+ mile out and back. I’ve done it many times. Yesterday was more of a challenge though, as the trail isn’t clear yet, and there is still snow on the last few miles to the old growth cedar grove up Big Beaver. Trees down everywhere—I counted 109 trees which I stepped over or crawled under going out. Most were small, but there were 13 even before the dam. Kind of interesting to see how tough winter is on a trail. I’m sure they’ll be cleared soon. The trail up Big Beaver Valley is actually pretty clear, but for snow and mud.

And the snow isn’t that bad, passable, but the last two or three miles to the old growth cedar grove involved falling a bit. Tough and slower than I would’ve liked. At first it is no big deal, but then the shins start getting cut by the ice, and you grab a pricker bush for stability, etc. There's a cumulative effect. But I made it, and it was indeed worth it, just to see the snow melt around the ancient trees I know well, and to watch the quiet of the wetlands in early spring. It might be interesting to snowshoe there some time, maybe next year.

The weather was perfect, 60+ degrees, with picture blue skies, and real UV radiation on the neck. Maybe the best day of spring so far, way too late in coming. And the trail was empty going out—not a car in the parking lot when I showed up. Highway 20 is still closed, right at the trailhead. I only saw one pair of backpackers the whole day. I didn’t run great—not a lot of snap to my steps, a bit of a tight hamstring. It was plenty of a workout, hopping trees and scrambling through snow.

Ross Lake is a beautiful reservoir, and the water levels are down right now, and so I explored a bit near the mouth of Beaver Creek, something I haven’t done in a long time. Fields of stumps from where the land was logged before the river was dammed, creeks cutting through sand. I kiled a good 45 minutes wandering around, looking at animal tracks, rocks, and stumps. I live on the edge.

The mountains were out in spectacular fashion. The snow is still deep in the high country. The valley is in a bit of a winter-spring conflict, with skunk cabbage sprouting next to melting snow banks. It’ll look different next week. And so it goes.

Saw a coyote on the way up, in a field. A deer, and some elk, on the way back. Annie’s Pizza on the way home.

A few pics below, more pics here.


Mike said...

Nice pics! I like the one of Avalanchee.

Scott Tomchick said...

Three reasons to drive a junker to the trailhead:
1)Thieves won't steal it.
2)If it breaks down then the adventure starts now.
3)"Honest officer it won't go 65, here you try."

Scotty said...

Scott! I have a clunker like that, but I've had my life share of those adventures, with seconds. This was so ridiculous! And the officer was too nice--"I can assure you this road is well marked and it is 55. Be careful up ahead, many places where the speed changes." Yeah, thanks. Woke me up more than my coffee ever did. Good luck with your training!!

And thanks Mike--like that one and the one after it too!

Murdoch said...

Nice Scotty!
Have you through hiked/run from the North Fork Nooksack side through to Big Beaver before?
That might be a good one if you could arrange a ride to either end.

Scotty said...

Thanks Aaron! Steve, Porter and I backpacked it right after Huxley. We hitched back. It was awesome. I have some friends who ran it last year, and I know someone else who ran it a few years before that. It's on my short list, but I'm planning on Wonderland and Cascade this year, so I don't know if it'll fit in, b/c the window will be tight. I might just try the hitch plan again. Hey--leaning towards doing Watershed--I'll let you know if I do.

Murdoch said...

Yeah, let me know on Watershed, I'll consider it as well if I can fit it in between the kids and buiding a house. Baker Lake registration opens tomorrow.