September 2 - September 9
I told Burton my plan was to head out by the 9th and much to my surprise he said he would go along with me again. So today, September 9th, we left Mena, Arkansas with Issy in the trailer for my third trip back to the PCT.
I had already started to whistle and even Burton seemed happy. He told me it was easier to leave the farm now that he saw that everything was okay. So off we go for another 2,000 miles of fast tracking back to Washington.
We arrived in Mazama, Washington yesterday and found a good camping location at the foothills of Robinson Mountain in the Wenatchee National Forest. The camp was in the river valley of the Methow River with great grazing and river water. Originally, I thought we could drive up to Harts Pass with the trailer but found out the treacherous road was accessible only with vehicles during the summer months.
So I saddled up and rode Issy the 10 mile almost vertical road to the pass.
The elevation was about 1800’ to 6500’ at Harts Pass so Burton met me and we camped there.
The ride up was exhausting and waterless but Burton brought plenty of water for both of us. The temperature was in the low 30’s at night but I was comfortable and warm in my tent, Issy had his blanket on as usual and Burton slept in the truck without complaining. In the morning I went to talk with a commercial packer who had a base camp about a mile north of the pass to find out about snow and trail conditions and was told that there was snow at 6,600’ but they expected more. I had no interest in getting caught in deep snow with Issy. I grew up on skis so I had no fear for myself but with Issy’s lack of experience I was cautious. The packer thought that if I waited a few days, it might warm up enough for the snow not to be an issue so I rode back down to our camp at River Bend. The packer also told me about the Methow River trail and that even though it was 8 miles longer than the road it was significantly safer than repeatedly traveling Deadhorse Point with possible cars or trucks meeting us. This was to be the plan in a few days, to take the river trail and follow back on the PCT to Hart’s Pass and then on to Canada.
With the morning air robust and clean, I saddled up
and rode the river trail for 10 miles just to keep Issy from getting sour by staying in his makeshift stall for too long.
I encountered downed trees all along the way, most small enough for Issy to just pop over.
There was a couple, however, which were too close together and, at the same time, too far apart for him to jump. I left camp without my saw and made a mental note that I would need to cut those when I headed towards Canada. Otherwise the trail was lovely, following the river from a ridge then passing along side for miles.
The ridge was such that trail riders could get a real feel for “ridge” riding but was not as dangerous as the ones we had encountered in California and Oregon.
The underbrush was thick at the west side. Issy would barely move forward, being on high alert the entire time.
I knew there was something big in the brush, but never saw any tracks. I couldn’t see the tread for that matter, nor any other signs of bear or cougar.
If Shanty hadn’t been leading I would have had a hard time convincing Issy that we had safe passage.
I even had a strange feeling something was lurking close by and really was hoping not to have to dismount. The gorge was breathtaking pulling my attention away from the chill of worrying about some encounter.
On the north was Deadhorse Point east of Hancock Ridge
(the only spot where I could make out the almost vertical road to Hart’s Pass).
On the south was the Methow River shadowed by Tower Mountain and Straight Ridge.
Even though the area experienced a fire a few years ago, I am almost brought to tears as I write about the beauty of this forest.
I wish I could adequately describe it’s contrasting topography. Although this was a special hunting season for the area, hunters were infrequent and I enjoyed the trip out and back, thinking that Burton would enjoy it as well.