Buck Creek Pass (Aug 8th-9th, 2012)

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buck_ck_pass_coverConditions: backpack
Map: USGS Suiattle Pass, USGS Clark Mountain, USGS Holden
Area: Trinity
Reference: 100 Hikes in Washington's Glacier Peak Region: The North Cascades
Stats: 23.5mi, 3700' gain (round trip)

I had it in for Buck Creek Pass. I tried this as an overnight nearly one year ago but turned around hot, bug eaten and nearly dejected because I couldn't seem to get my quads to want to take me uphill. My what a difference a year makes. I made it. Bug weren't bad. Quads were working. It was still hot though. Darned hot.

I started out early wanting to beat the heat on the climb in. I left the car at the Buck Creek TH (~2800') at 7:45am. This is the "new" TH...not the old one from the older 100 Hikes guide books. The new one is obvious, starting at the large parking area before the bridge into Trinity. It stays out of the old townsite adding about 1/2 mile each direction. To be honest, the trail down low, at least the first 2+ miles is boring. The first part wanders within earshot and eyeshot of Trinity. Then it transitions to road...hardpacked road. Yuck. I tried not to think to much of it trying to avoid the thought of hiking out on it. My attention was thankfully diverted by the sound of someone following me. I didn't think much of it until the steps got close...really close. I turn around and was half startled by the site of a deer following me. It looked me right in the eye. I clapped my hands and off into the woods it went but never did it get in front of me. Finally, when I got to the next stream crossing I kept going and it stopped. I guess he/she was just thirsty.

At about 2 miles (~3200') the "trail" (road) forks and the Chiwawa River trail heads straight, the Buck Creek Pass trail heads left. The trail now looks and feels like trail. Dense forest. Lots and lots of stream crossings. Those frequent stream crossings I would find a blessing on my hike out. The trail doesn't gain much elevation up to the Chiwawa River crossing which is about 3.5 miles in (~3300'). After the crossing, the gain picks up a bit. At about 5.5 miles in (4200') I reach the spot I turned around in 2011. This day was different. I continued on and just a few minutes later got my first real views. The trail below this has nearly no views except of the forest. From about 5.5 miles on the views are grand.

Slowly creeping up, up, up the trail follows Buck Creek until at about 8 miles (4582') the is the first BIG switchback in the trail. From here on out the trail grade is steeper. Not bad, just steeper. The breeze I had down lower was nearly none until I hit the second BIG switchback at about 8.5 miles (4887'). From here the trail does a long rising traverse until reaching the "head" of Buck Creek at 10.25 miles (5573'). The trail then continues a beautiful traverse along the southern flank of Helmet Butte. I finally reached my campsite at Buck Creek Pass at 2pm (6.25hrs) , 11.5 miles from the TH (5918'). I was the first one there (at least that I could tell) and had my choice of spots. I picked the one with the in your face view of Glacier Peak and set up camp. I wandered around a bit, taking photos. Other arrived later. One, a group of noisy teenagers. TIP: don't yell at other campers when you arrive late to your site asking "are we there yet?", "where is the water", "are there any sites free", "how do I get down there" all the time with your music player playing so loud I could hear Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody loud and clear without headphones. Please be polite and respectful of others. Most are seeing solitude and reflection and not seeing to share in your mobile party.

In the morning I took my time packing up. I was just up for the one night. I wasn't looking forward to the long hike out. Finally, about 9:30am I was moving. Bumped into a nice couple who was completing a loop that started at Spider Meadows. The grunt hike out was finally done about 2:30pm (5hrs from camp).

I have to say that I'm not sure the pass is a real destination. The beauty of the hike is the sites of Buck Mtn and the surrounding peaks as you hike in. The pass itself, was pretty underwhelming except for the stunning view of Glacier Peak.

Notes: Bug were not bad...thankfully. The trail to the pass is completely logged out. There are a few minor mud holes along the way but the trail is in great shape. My regular clearance car had no trouble making it to the TH. A few bumpy spots along the way was it. Oh...and the trail hasn't been brushed out so some areas get pretty darned brushy/overgrown.
Buck Creek Pass Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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