Wilderness in a Day

Trapper Creek Wilderness, Washington
~14 miles, ~3200 feet elevation gain

Monday morning saw me heading out for a much needed solo hike with the dog. Still on the hunt for new-to-me places, I decided on the Trapper Creek Wilderness located in southwest Washington. Like Indian Heaven, Trapper Creek lies in the Wind River area just north of the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge… I have taken very little (if any time) to explore it.

Turned out to be a bit of a longer day than I expected.

The loop I picked consisted of following the Trapper Creek trail through the heart of the wilderness valley, committing to a steep climb up to Observation Peak before joining the extremely well-graded Howe Ridge trail back to the car. I chose this loop not only as recon for possible future backpacking trips, but also because it essentially explores the vast majority of Trapper Creek in one swoop: it’s a tiny, but significant wilderness, with only a little over 6000 acres, protecting beautiful old growth and spotted owl habitat. 

huge trees in the valley bottom

Although I had a map and a trail description, I just didn’t do something right on this trip. Still not sure what, but it’s been a looooong while since I’ve been creeped out on day hike; something about this loop spooked me. Maybe my Spidey senses were hollering at me. Maybe it was over exertion and fatigue (I just was not feeling my Wheaties on this particular day). Maybe it was that my trail description and the speed at which I usually hike did not match up at all, which created some concern that I was lost (I wasn’t), took a wrong turn (I didn’t), or that I bit off much more mileage than my feet could chew given daylight constraints (verdict is still out on this one but I did manage to haul the six miles back to the car from Observation in about two hours). It may have also had something to do with the “primitive and challenging” trail conditions that are maintained only by a Portland mountaineering club, the Mazamas. In retrospect, nothing was ever all that bad, it was just a combination of all the factors that led to me feeling like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Such is the nature of hiking. 

crossing Trapper Creek, the climb begins

I felt very small next to this fellow

no shit, Sherlock

little green details on the Howe Ridge trail

All told, it took me about seven hours to complete this very, very lovely loop. I traversed deep valleys filled with roaring creeks and the silence of giant trees. I sweated and cursed my way up the single-track, primitive climb out of Trapper Creek to Observation Point, emerging onto a quiet, empty high ridge that clearly sees little foot traffic. I cruised through magnificent, sun-dappled old growth, bird song and wind the only sounds. And I got my wish for solitude as I encountered not a single soul all day.

No comments: