Horseshoe Basin (Jul 3-5, 2009)

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horseshoe_basin_coverConditions: Backpack
Gear: overnight gear
Map: USGS Horseshoe Basin
Area: Tonasket
Stats: 27.5mi, 3645' gain (round trip)

It's been almost a 9 months since my last overnight. With a holiday coming up I was going to be darned it I stayed home. I'm a little nervous about heading out solo but I did hear back from Sadie's Driver that we should be able to coordinate something. Thank you SD!

Originally the plan was to do a loop going in Poet Ridge and out Cady Ridge. But, SD's trip to Benchmark showed there was just a bit too much snow for us. We decided to go east....way, way east. I suggested Horseshoe Basin in the Pasaytens and it seemed like that was a plan that appealed to the group.

The Group: Sadie's Driver, Barry, Opus, JimK, me, and Gus.

We drove out, way, way out, to the TH on Thursday afternoon. It was about a 5-6 hour drive for the two cars. SD came over 90/97 and I went over 20 with JimK. We arrived at the Iron Gate TH parking lot around 8pm. We stayed up a bit, watching the moon and getting acquainted. I'd met SD before and Barry and had done many trips with JimK but this was my first trip with Opus. It was really nice to meet everyone.

I was the first one out of the tent Friday (sorry guys) sometime after 5am. That roused the rest of the group and after packing up we headed up the trail.

I should back up a bit here. I've been trying hard to shed some weight from my pack over the past 1-2 years. Two surgeries have mandated that I really needed to make some gear changes. I tried hard and think I succeeded. I still need to make changes though. Last year I shed the tent and went with a Black Diamond bivy (under 2lbs). This year I shed the old Fairydown down bag and got a really awesome Feathered Friends Hummingbird Nano down bag (20F and 27 oz). I managed to get all my gear and food into what is normally my day pack and I think the pack came in around 25-30lbs. JimK helped by allowing carrying the stove/fuel and water filter and allowing me to share. Thanks Jim.

So off the trail we went Friday morning. I was last to the basin maybe 6 years ago before the fire. JimK warned me... About 1/2 mile in the ponderosa forest makes way to the charred remains of the recent fire. The first extends all the way to the edge of Horseshoe Basin which was thankfully spared. One might think the burned area is an eyesore (which might explain the lack of crowds to the basin on a holiday weekend). They couldn't be more wrong. The silver and black of the burned snags is set among the fresh green of fireweed, arnica, lupine, paintbrush and countess other lush and colorful flowers and plants. We could have spent hours taking pics.

We continued up to Sunny pass below which the fire did stop (5 mi and 1391' from TH). From Sunny Pass the views open up north to the high basin areas of the Pasaytens. Boy was this a sight for sore eyes. From here we continued on toward Horseshoe Pass and Louden Lakes to our campsite on a ridge bump off SE of Rock Mtn (7.5 from TH).

JimK and I dawdled around camp, the sun had pretty much sucked the life out of us (it had to be in the mid 80's in the basin). SD, Barry and Opus went off to tag Armstrong and Arnold). When they arrived back at camp we made dinner, watched the clouds and rain dribbles come in, and then retreated to our tents to escape the skeeters.

Saturday morning I awoke to the sound of a tremendous buz outside my bivy. The skeeters were back! We donned the goretex and bug dope and managed to cook up a nice breakfast and then it was time to head down the trail. I was just glad to be out and only planned to walk the trail. No peaks for me. The others somehow managed to tag Haig, Bauerman, Teapot Dome...all in the blistering sun and heat! I walked the nearly 4 miles of trail over to the base of Haig taking my good old time having lots of fun just enjoying the sights and sounds. I then headed back to camp and dove into JimK's tarptent to escape the skeeters. I managed to overtake Opus in our duel to see who could read more of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods". (My favorite part so far is the tale of Mary Ellen...OMG!) The others arrived back into camp around dinner time. We were all starved and parched.

This morning (Sunday) we were up and the plan was for JimK and I to take out good ole time hiking back to the car the same was we came in. Opus decided to join us. SD and Barry and Gus took off to tag Windy Pk. At least it was overcast and cooler than yesterday. I'm really looking forward to the pics from Windy.

JimK, Opus and I arrived back at the car around 11:30am. We stopped in Okanogan for lunch (it was 95F) and drove through Twisp wondering how Quark was doing at Scatter Lk (Twisp was 105F). Then it was over Hwy20 and on to Cascadian Farms for a raspberry chocolate chip shake. Home by 6:35pm.

My stats including my roamings were: 27.5 miles and 3645' gain (RT). I'm surprised I was able to do the mileage and elevation gain. We'll see how swollen the knee is in the morning.

The trail is free of snow all the way to Louden Lk and well beyond. Other than a couple of muddy spots on the trail (I walked through them, they weren't that deep) the trail is in excellent shape. No blowdown, not much brush.
Horseshoe Basin Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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