There’s a toad on our tail!
This was our maiden voyage with the toad, about which we were a bit nervous. We hooked up down the road from home where there was more level room to work. Other than the sight of a vehicle so close to the back of Arvie freaking me out whenever I got up or when we stopped for fuel, I’m happy to report the only hitch was the one between Toad and Arvie. I am also happy that the vehicles’ colors coordinate, which wasn’t planned, and will probably bother me if they don’t when we get our big rig someday.
Where we towed the toad.
The park itself (pronounced con-con-ULL-ee) isn’t much of a destination on its own — it’s not very big overall, there is no privacy between sites, and not much is accessible by foot directly from the park. Also, this year the water table was still high so many of the sites were flooded out, luckily not ours. The primary reasons folks visit this park are to make a home base for ATVing (more on this later) and fishing, with its access to myriad forest service roads and two bodies of water, the lake and the reservoir. Being trend-buckers, i.e. people who don’t ATV or fish, it provided us with a base for some North Cascades hiking.
Above the flood zone in space 15.
After getting the toad unhooked and the utilities hooked, we set off to explore the park and check out the short nature trail that connects the main park to a smaller south section.
Buggy, soggy mess!
We gave it a valiant effort, but the mud was too annoying to slog all the way through. The bright side of the park being sodden in some areas was that it meant fewer campers in the loop opposite us, and a pair of entertaining mallards that thought two inches of standing water was a swell place to make their home.
Argh, forgot my hat.
TBG walked with me over more squishy and goose-poopy turf to get to the reservoir’s edge where I puffed up my little ‘yak and took a short paddle.
The evening was passed in our oft-repeated usual way. I don’t need to spell it out every time, do I? The only incident of note was that the book I had loaded onto my Kindle prior to the trip was not there when I went to read before bed, which sent me into a temporary panic as I don’t have good night-light reading options since going Kindle years ago. I settled for a non-fiction e-book I own and read in between downloads, which was okay, but not the one I had been looking forward to. It may have helped me fall asleep faster, though, which is a good thing since we were up at 0415 the next morning to prepare for a big day of hiking. (Don’t let me fool you; we’re always up that early, vacation or not because we like it. You heard me.)
TBG espying a critter.
Scenes from a Conconully morning #1
TBGuide doing his job.
The planned hike was at Clark Ridge Trail. It was a beautiful morning, and we were alone at the trailhead. So far so good.
A well-kept bridge and gate.
According to the description on the print-out the ranger gave us, this trail is 4.5 miles one way and traverses terrain through the former Isabel fire area, which you can see in the above photo.
At first, climbing over the deadfall was okay.
It became progressively challenging, but still passable.
Soldier on, hikers! You’ll be rewarded richly for your efforts!
Oh, for cryin’ out loud.
It occurred to me as I was crawling under one of too many obstacles as the day was warming up, the chances of literally coming face-to-face with a snake were also warming up. Crap!
It wasn’t long after this photo, about 40 minutes into the hike, that my stomach dropped, but not because of a snake. It was because I remembered what we forgot, and I wrestled with whether or not to tell TBG. I decided I had to.
We’d forgotten to hang the NW Forest Pass in the car. Oh, we’d remembered to bring it with us all right, just not hang it. “We’re MORONS!” I shouted. “Not only did we have to buy two NWF passes this year because we lost the first one, but we can’t even remember to hang the stupid thing when we have it!” Then I swore a lot and whacked a few bushes with my walking stick because something had to get whacked.
Heated debate ensued about whether or not to go back and and hang the tag or what. It was decided we’d continue on and take our chances. It took awhile before I could clear my mind of running the calculations of how many hours of work it would take to cover the costs of two NWFPs and a possible ticket. It kept my mind off snakes, though.
We managed to bushwhack our way to the trail junction.
Anybody seen my chainsaw?
After struggling for nearly two hours and only gaining two miles, we decided to bag it and turned around. Back at the trail junction, we temporarily parted ways, and I waited there enjoying a packet of Sqwinchers and watching out for man-eating critters, while TBG went back to the car to hang the tag if we’d not already gotten a ticket. I could see the car through the trees from my vantage point, and saw TBG when he got back to it, but couldn’t tell if it was good news or bad.
It was good! Whew!
Bolstered by the happy news and our snack, we decided to try the trail to Tiffany Springs instead. After about 50 yards, it was painfully clear that this would be no better, so we cursed a bit more, and turned around.
Arriving back at the cool bridge and gate, I decided I wanted a picture of it, and TBG realized that his very expensive new trifocals were missing. “Why do you hate us?!” I railed at Mother Nature. Again, TBG traversed the section of trail between the gate and the junction, and again the news was good when he located the glasses.
Even after all that, we hadn’t been out very long and certainly hadn’t made any real distance, so we decided to motor down the road and try to pick up a shorter trail.
TBGuide looking doubtful.
We found the TH to Angel Pass, and as you can see, the NWFP is prominently displayed from the mirror this time.
A quiet walk through the woods.
This trail, also included on the print-out from the ranger, is a 1.5+ mile loop.
Which carnivore do you suppose made this poo? I have examined many scat charts, and my Sleuthing Skillz tell me it is either cougar or wolf. I lean towards wolf.
Covered patio seating.
The temps were well-risen by lunchtime, and we found a place to sit in the wolf-free shade.
The day was salvaged when the trail broke into a pretty wildflower meadow.
Red and blue and yellow and pink and white!
We paused and enjoyed the sun and the view.
Is there a wolf behind me?
The trail connected to some boondocking campsites, where a couple large rigs were making their homes and making us jealous for the days when “they” will be “us,” and connected to the road which led us back to the car.
We recharged back at camp, where I discovered that when I bashed my knee into one of the blowdowns earlier in the day, I’d actually sustained a cut on my skin which, mysteriously, hadn’t torn my pants. Yay pants, boo knee.
Feeling up for more activity, we motored down to the south part of the park where the boat launch accesses Conconully Lake.
TBG paddling away.
The lake is so much prettier than the reservoir, and you don’t have to stand in squishy goose poop to set up your kayaks.
My favorite part of the lake.
Except for the houses and cabins near the boat launch area, the land around the lake is house-free and so peaceful. We saw deer up on the hillside, and when we paused in the area shown in the photo, a zillion little trout swam up to our ‘yaks, probably drawn to the shade they provided in the water. Even though I could see vegetation and rocks under the water, it didn’t give me the willies at all. I can’t really say why.
Returning to camp, we ponied up for the showers because we were covered in sunscreen and bug spray. After dinner, we sat outside in our chairs and were highly amused listening to a group of our neighbors play cornhole. One of the participants was named Dick, and his fellow players were very encouraging. You see where this is headed, so fair warning for the following paragraph.
We could barely stifle our inner twelve-year-olds with each shout. “Nice, Dick!” “Get it up there, Dick!” “Slide ‘er in, Dick!” I do not know how they were not laughing themselves. Who needs TV?
While I was spraying the next day’s clothing with tick spray, the ranger stopped by.
Ranger: Is the Honda staying? Me: Yes, it’s our tow vehicle. Ranger: OK, but the tag expired at 1 p.m. today. Me: What? Well, shoot we got that printed at the same time the one for the RV was printed yesterday! Ranger: Well, it can stay, but you’ll have to stop by the office tomorrow morning and have Bob print you a new tag. Me: (thinking to myself) Gee, thanks for letting it stay considering WE PAID FOR IT and you’re the dude WHO CHECKED US IN! Me: (saying out loud because I know better than to argue with a dude and his pen and ticket book. And gun.) Oh, thanks, we’ll be sure to do that.
Then I fumed to myself for a few minutes that we could’ve gotten a ticket at the boat launch since we were there after 1 p.m. I figured we’d used up all our lucky breaks for the day, so we packed it in for the night.
Scenes from a Conconully morning #2.
For Saturday’s festivities, we drove 24 miles on forest service roads to get to the trail head for Freezeout Ridge.
The hard-to-read sign reads 3.7 miles (one way).
While this trail did run through the burned out areas, the surrounding underbrush wasn’t overgrown, and skirting blowdowns was no problem.
Climbing through the skeletons.
TBG says, “We’re going to the top of that hill.”
So I did.
And so did TBG.
“That hill” was Tiffany Mountain which provided a 360 view from over 8000′.
If you insist.
We had the whole “place” to ourselves to enjoy the panorama, have lunch in the sun, and explore the rocks.
The summit was lousy with ladybugs.
Happy, happy hikers who remembered to put up their parking pass.
A view of everything.
We were having such a good time, we didn’t want to leave, but we could see distant hikers catching up to us, and when we saw them crossing the final stretch, we packed up and headed back down. We encountered lots of other hikers on the way back, and patted ourselves on the back for being worm-gettin’ early birds.
By the time we arrived back at the park, our friends Shean and Mady had arrived. They visit this park yearly to tool around on their ATVs (UTVs?) and their trip this year overlapped ours. We had plans with them and another couple to ride later that evening.
Ye Olde Cemetery.
Shean rode his dirt bike and led the way, Mady and I were in her Razr, TBG drove Polly’s Can-Am (thank you, Polly!), and Ron & Polly brought up the rear in their other Can-Am.
Glad to be above ground.
Our ride was a fun and different activity for us, but when Ron asked if riding up to the cemetery was better than hiking up, we had to answer honestly and say, “No way!” While we really appreciated the experience, we don’t see ATVing in our future. What those who do it love about it (the dust, the noise, the feeling like you’re going to roll sideways or backwards, the ‘wahoo!’) are all things we generally seek to escape. I was also a little terrified of not just hitting a deer, but of one hitting us from the side since the ATVs have no sides.
When we got back, TBG had to go take another shower because he was one big dust ball. While he was doing that, I used up our Q-tip supply digging dirt out of my ears, blowing dirt out of my nose, and licking the grit off my teeth. And to think, our ATVs had windshields!
Scenes from a Conconully morning #3.
Our plan for the third day was to hike through the nearby Sinlahekin Natural Area, which was said to offer at least 8 miles of trail. We drove and drove along the main (dirt) rode through the center of it, and we did manage to find an official trailhead marker and map, but the actual trail was so overgrown with meadow grasses that it was indistinguishable. So much for that!
Prior to the trip, TBG had printed out info on some area hikes, but when he talked to the ranger, the ranger indicated that one we were particularly interested in was quite a drive. We, of course, didn’t have the printouts in the car with us, but TBG remembered basically how to get there, and if we hadn’t spent an hour getting nowhere in Sinlahekin, we wouldn’t have had to take the route Napoleon to get to the trail for Bonaparte Lookout.
After the long drive, TBGuide was hungry.
Some disagreement was had here about the distance. I insisted that this was the beginning (I remembered the printout described the first few miles to be along a forest service road) and TBG insisted this sign meant it was five miles to the trailhead. We decided we were going five miles from this sign, and wherever that ended up, that was it.
Read the fine print.
After two miles of climbing on the road, we came to this sign which indicated the lookout was another three miles up. I don’t like to say I told you so, but I kind of really do, so I did.
I’m not going to be predictable and complain about going uphill — our destination was, after all, a seasonally active fire lookout — but these three miles? They were hard. We gained 2900′ in the five miles, which isn’t the most we’ve ever done, but the pitch and steepness were pretty extreme. It was a slow and steady plod.
Step by step.
TBG can see it!
Demonstrating how not to crowd and shove.
Picking out a lunch spot.
The bugs up here were extreme when the breeze would die down, which required careful selection of a lunch spot that was both in the warm sun and the cool breeze. There was a big butterfly that liked my shirt, and again lots of ladybugs.
Another great vista.
Once again, we had the top to ourselves and were enjoying our lunch break so much it was hard to make ourselves leave, especially since going back down can be as hard or harder than coming up.
TBG traverses the snow pack.
As we made our way back, we were pleasantly surprised that it was not as difficult as we’d feared.
We saw a lot of this type of scat, but we did not know what critter had made it. What we did know was that it was not feline, canine, ovine, bovine, ursine, equine, cervine, lapine, or lupine. Do you recognize it? I’ll tell you later.
When we got back to the car, the temps were in the 90s. TBG dunked his head in the stream, then walked with me back so I could do the same. We saw not one other person the entire time. Perfect!
We often talk while we hike about all the food we want to eat when we’re done I’m going to have a milkshake! I’m getting French fries! But we’re usually all talk, unable to waste money on stuff that’s likely going to make us feel like crap later. This time, though, we did stop in Tonasket and treated ourselves to a sugary cherry soda and a gluten-full bag of chips, both of which we shared, and which was just enough to make me feel a little crappy later. All things in moderation my ass.
Once back, we visited with our friends for a bit, then with two tiny dogs that ran over to greet us from our new neighbors’ site. We hit the showers again to wash off the layers of sticky lotions and sprays that were ostensibly keeping cancer, Zika, West Nile, and Lyme disease at bay. Why must everything be so complicated?
We did a whole lot of nothing much for the rest of the evening.
Scenes from a Conconully morning #4.
I had toyed with the idea of an early-morning paddle on the lake for our last day, but couldn’t really muster up the energy for it. Besides, we had one more stop to make on the way home.
Our 57th Washington State Park
This is a pretty park connected to Chief Joseph Dam and stuffed with marmots.
We took a short walk around, then pointed Arvie and Toad west once again.
Oh, the poop we saw on the Bonaparte trail? Tetraonine. Grouse!