Suzanne, Bob, Kollen,
Barb, and Darryl for a hike on the Walt Bailey Trail to Cutthroat Lakes
and on to the summit of Bald Mountain. Gary and I did the hike as an
afterwork trip last October. It was cloudy on the summit and we had
almost no views. With a forecast for sun and mid 60s I was looking
forward to returning. The forcast turned down the day before and it was
now mid 50s and mostly overcast. Oh well, we drove up the Mountain Loop
Highway to Red Bridge and on up the road to the trailhead. There is not
much parking and 4 cars were already there.
We were on the trail by about 9:35. Some trail work has been done this
year on the first few miles. Logs removed and drainage installed.
Finally getting caught up after the road was washed out for several
years. It was an hour later and warmer than my start the day before. By
the first small meadow I was down to shorts and short sleeves. There is
a lot of gentle downhill on the way up. It's hardly noticed coming in
but the resultant uphill coming out is not appreciated. Berries began
at the first meadow and continued off and on all day. Bears were
reported the day before and by a group of scouts hiking out. They have
been enjoying the berries. Many piles of purple scat proved that. We
did not see any bears.
We passed as few groups coming and going then had the trail to
ourselves. The day was mostly overcast with some sucker holes. We
climbed into and out of the clouds all day. The trail is a little
narrow, a little slick, and a little rooty but is never hard to follow.
We stopped to wait for the rest of the group at the first tarn. No
mountain views over the water this day. No views at all. We followed
the trail as it winds through the meadows. Lakes and tarns all around.
Offsetting the lack of views was the lack of bugs. Reports just two
weeks earlier spoke in terms of black clouds of bugs descending upon
the unwary hikers. We had almost no bugs at all. I had one lone skeeter
land on my arm.
The trails by the big lake just seem to wind around passing campsites.
We finally were on the trail heading up towards the ridge. This trail
wanders around through berry meadows and a little forest before
reaching an easy to miss sign on the ground. It points to the route to
Bald Mountain and eventually to Ashland Lakes. It is unmaintained
beyond Bald and the trail is completely grassed over at the junction.
No feet seem to go that way.
The route contours around the back side of Bald Mountain with views
straight down to the large Spada Reservoir. It might not have been
there this day. We saw not a glimpse of the big lake. The brush is all
along this part of the trail but enough feet have kept it under
control. A few switchbacks brought us up to just south of the summit.
Here is the junction. The summit scramble route is much more obvious
than the old trail to Ashland. We dropped poles and followed the faint
path to the right side of the summit block. Once on the ridge we turned
left and scrambled up the slabs to the summit.
To my surprise there was no wind on the summit. Some blue sucker holes
appeared and it was actually warm enough not to need a jacket. The
largest Cutthroat Lake came into view a few times below but otherwise
there were no views. We signed the summit register but I noticed Gary
and I had not signed it last October. We somehow missed it. Although
the summit is only 4871' the terrain above the lakes is sub alpine.
Meadow and small trees belie the low elevation. We took 2:35 minutes to
reach the top with a number of stops. It was just after noon when we
summited. After a nice long stay we headed down.
On the backside traverse we again passed a group we had passed early in
the day. They were not far from the top. Progress was slowed by the
berries. This has been a strange berry season. Just down the ridge at
Ashland Lakes I found lots of big green berries in mid May. On most all
my other trips this summer I have found small green berries that have
no change to ripen. Above 5000' it has been especially dismal. The
bears along the Mountain Loop Highway should be fine but in most other
places they will have a tough time getting fat enough for winter.
Other than that uphill on the way out the descent went fine. We were
back at the car some time after 3:00 pm. Although the weather was not
perfect we had a very nice day on the trail. No rain and no bugs were
much appreciated. I really like this hike and the summit is a fun short
scramble. I'll be back in a few years.