After our backpacking trip up
Thirteen Mile Creek
to start the long holiday weekend, Kim and I headed over to Sherman Pass.
From the 5575' pass we dropped down the east side to a right hand switchback
where a nice big gravel road goes off straight ahead. It is signed "Road
2030". This nice road follows below the Kettle Crest. After about 3 or so
miles we reached the Wapaloosie trailhead. Lots of parking for horse trailers
and for hunters in the fall. Although it was a holiday weekend we were the
only vehicle there.
The map shows about a three mile trail climbing up to the Kettle Crest.
It intersects that trail some seven plus miles from Sherman Pass. Wapaloosie
Mountain is only a few hundred feet above the trail here. Clouds were covering
most of the sky though it was still fairly warm. The trail begins on an
old road. It crosses the creek on two bridges and begins to climb.
The forest is littered with downed trees. In places there are dozens of
small trees which have been cut and removed from the trail. The route itself
is in good shape. The trail is never very steep though it climbs relentlessly.
We came upon a number of good sized rocks in the forest. They undoubtedly
came crashing down from high on the mountain long ago. There were some flowers
in the deep forest, violets especially. We could hear an occasional crack
of thunder that had us a little concerned.
The trail continued to switchback as we climbed up the side of the mountain.
At last we come out of the forest into a hillside meadow. It contained the
usual larkspur and paintbrush but also desert bluebells. Most unexpected.
The trail soon went back into forest. After a short way it again emerged into
meadows. Kim first pointed out the sagebrush. "Sure" I said, going along with
her joke. Except it was no joke. The hillside was covered with lush green
sagebrush. I've seen lots of it in the desert of central Washington but never
in a meadow at 6400'.
The sagebrush made up most of the ground cover. There were individual fir
and pine trees interspersed with sage and desert flowers. We saw ball head
waterleaf, and yellow arnica. There were more bluebells and bitterroot. Easily
the most diverse group of flowers I have seen in one place. Is it desert or
is it forest? A little of both. The rain began to pick up at this point. Kim
forgot her rain coat but she did have an umbrella. As warm as it still was
an umbrella was the best way to stay dry.
Kim then saw a faint rainbow below us. It began to darken and grow. It became
quite bright and formed one complete ground to ground arc. The occasional
claps of thunder began to grow more steady. Eerily they came from all sides.
Ahead then behind then off to the side. The weather was really unsettled.
Through all the thunder we did not see any flashes of lightning. We were now
in open meadow with zero cover. We went a little higher and stopped to reconsider
Our altimeters showed us to be only 600' below the summit of Wapaloosie.
The thunder was getting more than a little concerning. The rain was now steady.
We decided to turn around. After a quick descent of 100 vertical feet the
thunder seemed to be getting farther away. Another stop and conference. This
time we decided to turn around again and go higher.
With some adrenaline still flowing from our thunder induced descent we picked
up the pace. We could now faintly see some snowy peaks through the clouds.
A few minutes later we could see almost all of the peaks. As we turned from
the east to the south side of the mountain it was a bit clearer. The sage
meadow above us gave way to open grassy slopes. We were now just 250' below
the summit. I broached the idea of climbing straight up to the top but we
chose to continue on the trail.
We could now see the main Kettle Crest and were not very far away from it.
Snow appeared just before we reached the ridge. It was not very deep though
it did cover all the ground. We found the sign for the Kettle Crest trail
and stopped. The rain had now almost stopped and there were even a few shadows.
My altimeter showed us only 160' below the summit of Wapaloosie. The summit
was lost in the mist and we expected to have no views if we continued up.
Still, 7018' is a high mountain and we were so close. As we started down
it was time for another change of direction. We turned uphill and headed
for the top. Although there was some snow and small trees it was possible
to pick an easy route around it all. As we neared the top I saw a small summit
rock cairn. The broad flat top was still a little ways away and we then saw
another small rock pile. The actual top still seemed to be ahead and low and
behold we found the top. Not hard to mistake the real summit as it has a
five foot tall rock cairn marking it. What a huge summit cairn!
The clouds had lifted a little and we could now see some of the other peaks
of the Kettle Crest. As we were set to leave I took a quick look between the
summit rocks and was surprised to see a container. There was a summit register
after all. The register had about 20 signers since it was placed in the late
summer of 2005. Not many for a short easy walk up from the Kettle Crest trail.
Maybe many folks did not find the register at the top of the cairn.
With all our thunder and lightning concerns and changes of direction we
did succeed in reaching the top of Wapaloosie. The descent was much quicker
than the ascent. On the way down we did take a number more photos of the
strange desert meadow at over 6400'. We saw a small alpine larch tree surrounded
by sagebrush. That would be an interesting sight in October when the larch
would be golden. We had a little more thunder on the way down and near the
bottom one big flash of lightning.
Back at camp we set up our tents and got busy with dinner. Darkness was
fast approaching as we finished eating and dove into our tents. Within a
minute it began to rain and the intensity grew. By 10:00 pm it was a torrential
downpour. By far the hardest rain I have ever camped in. I was wishing for
my Akto instead of my tarptent. At first I had the back vent open as usual
but when I felt the steady drip of water I quickly velcroed it closed. There
was still a slow drip at the bottom of the window. I'll need to apply some
Thankfully the Rainbow is plenty wide as some water did come through the
netting. Not enough to get to my down sleeping bag though. While it seemed
like water was coming in all over in fact I weathered the storm very well.
My down bag was still dry in the morning. I finally fell asleep sometime after
1:30. The rain was still coming down hard then. By morning it was cold but
dry. I had no desire to get up. Kim was up much earlier than me. She had
left her cook pot on the picnic table overnight. We measured almost 2 inches
in it in the morning. That is a heck of an overnight storm.
All that was left of the long weekend was the drive home. We managed to
take a 25+ mile dirt road "shortcut" and only got lost once. It all worked
out well. It had been a long time since I was in the area of the Grand Coulee.
It turned out to be a memorable weekend. We saw more flowers than I could
have hoped for. The Cougar Mountain Loop was some first class ridge running.
I saw my first wild rattlesnake and finally crossed the North Cascades Highway.
I finally explored a part of the state I had never been to. All that and good
company made for a great time.