Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bear Creek Mountain

No bears, no elk, but bugeling elk all around the drainages! Yesterday a good friend Dennis and myself headed far south to US 12, White Pass, and east to Rimrock Lake. Then the real adventure began as we left US 12, headed up the Tieton Road, then FR 1200, then steeeeep driving up FR 1205, then FR 1204, THEN the excitement of just a plain old fashion terrible dirt road, unlike the rocky gravel ones normally in the forest, that was rutted and with hiding big rocks. Fun those last three miles of FR 1204 were to the end, some long 13 miles from US 12, to the wonderful 6000’ trailhead for Bear Creek Mountain. A trailhead nestled in alpine meadowland from the start! It was entertaining to come to such a remote place on a weekday and find the area near the trailhead pretty well filled up with campers and tents. I’m sure many have their place now for the upcoming high-buck hunt that begins this coming week (ie. High hunt is in areas >5000’ only, and generally lasts 9/15-9/25 each September). For now most were bow hunting and I always enjoy seeing these folks. They are so nice to talk to and I enjoy seeing the tools they carry around – and their camo outfits are fun too! We spoke to maybe a half dozen or more of them during the course of the day. They are true lovers of the outdoors – one gentleman we found just laying at the edge of the first large meadow you hike through at 12:30pm and he had been relaxing since 5:00am listening to nature around him!

We hiked into the Goat Rocks Wilderness boundary in just ¼ mile then continued on the trail skirting along the base of the north ridge leading out from the summit area. After 2.6 miles went up the wonderful alpine setting of volcanic rock, heather, and ash in one steep mile and 1000’ elevation gain and found ourselves on top of 7337’ Bear Creek Mountain in short order. What a view! You look smack into the heart of the Goat Rocks area with Gilbert, Old Snowy, Devils Horn just across the valley to the west! Straight down was the North Fork Tieton River valley and its lush meadows at Tieton Meadows. Mount Rainier to the NW, Mount Adams to the SW, and eastward you could enjoy the line of Russell Ridge, then toward Bethel Ridge, then Clemen Mountain, and extending all the way into the Columbia Basin.

A difficult decision of the day was having to simply leave the summit! But we did have a long drive back out again, so off we went. Thanks for a perfect day in the high country Dennis.
(photos: hiking down from the summit area; meadow approaching Bear Creek Mountain; Mount Adams from reaching the ridgeline; view toward Goat Rocks and Gilbert/Old Snowy/Devils Horn; summit USGS benchmark; Dennis enjoying summit views at Mount Rainier during lunch)

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