Monday, November 03, 2008

Introspection Pass

November 2, 2008

One hour from Cle Elum, the North Fork Teanaway Road ended at the Esmerelda Basin parking lot. Wildly popular in summer as a jumping off point to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, on this dark and rainy morning it was eerily quiet, as in absolutely no cars in the parking lot. That was just an exercise in curiosity on my part—my trailhead was actually a couple miles back at the equally desolate DeRoux Campground, Trail 1392, and my ultimate destination, an un-named, 1 mile off trail 1393A, about 4 hours away.

Starting elevation was 3200’, under mild, but drizzly skies. The trail begins flat in a thin pine forest, crosses DeRoux Creek and in a mile and half comes to a junction with trail 1392A. Here we hang a left, leaving the creek and start climbing—1200’ in less than a mile. Clouds were close at hand, rain falling harder, as the trail switchbacks up the ridge to Introspection Pass.

At the pass, a decision had to be made. Views to the south were obscured by scudding clouds and fog, and though I could clearly see the trail winding down the other side of the ridge, the view suddenly ended in a dark sea of green pines and firs. At this elevation, well over 5000', the weather was currently in a highly-changeable mood. On one side of the pass, the wind was coming up, blowing in snow from across the valley. Temperatures were dropping. The question was to go forward toward my dubious destination, into uncertain weather, or to retreat back to the north side of the ridge, in the lee of the wind and snow.

I sat on a convenient log to ponder my choices, as the snow and sleet mix continued from the southwest. It didn’t take long for me to make a decision. I was tired, beat-up and soaking wet from the long slog up the ridge. In the foggy, miserable weather, there was but little chance that I would ever find my destination, a tiny, one-acre, non-descript lake in the middle of nowhere. It was still another 2 hours down the trail, I would be losing my hard-fought elevation gain. all the while dealing with grumpy weather. It wasn’t worth the risk. The sensible thing was to regroup into familiar territory, where I was sure of my footing, and sure of the way back to safety.

The cold rain continued as I worked my way down the switchbacks, but as I got lower on the hill, it turned into almost a kind of warm mist. Just as I was getting into a zone and wishing the hike would continue, the trail came to a junction and I decided to take a spur to Gallagher Head Lake, 3.5 miles to the northwest. I had been to the lake once before from the Cle Elum River side, but that was probably 15 years ago. Two hours and 2500' of elevation gain later, I got a quick look at the lake and started back to the car. I arrived at the trailhead at approximately 2pm and was home by 3.

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