Horseshoe Basin, Rock Mtn, Goodenough Pk (Jul 4-7, 2013)

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horseshoe_basin_coverConditions: Backpack
Gear: normal overnight gear
Map: USGS Horseshoe Basin
Area: Tonasket
Reference: Day Hiking North Cascades
Stats: 26.4
mi, 4250' gain (round trip)

Day 1: TH to Horseshoe Basin camp (7.2mi / +1548' / -599')
Day 2: camp to Rock Mtn summit and a bit of wandering around (.6mi / +714' / - 717')
Day 3: camp to Goodenough Pk and back (9.6mi / +1430' / -1430')
Day 4: camp to TH (7.2mi / +1556' / - 605')

Good weather window. Three of us on board. I suggested Horseshoe Basin. I'd been there exactly 4 years ago. Weather was HOT!. bugs abundant. This time, cooler temps (~ 60 during the day, mid to low 40's at night with a slight chance of t-storms). We came prepared.

Day 1 - Hike in from the Iron Gate TH to Horseshoe Basin camp

Temp in Tonasket was near 90, temp at the TH was 69 :)

The old burn along the beginning of the trail and up to Sunny Pass is awesome. Who says burns can't be beautiful. I remember the old pre-burn trail as dark, stagnant, no views. The burn has opened the area up, made the soil rich, and made for a pretty stunning hike. The flower show to Sunny Pass has got to be the BEST I've ever seen in my nearly 20 years of hiking in WA. Absolutely stupendous flower show. Too many flowers to name. You think of's likely blooming somewhere, consistently, abundantly all over the place.

The trail to Sunny Pass is in decent shape. A few spots are a bit muddy but nothing horrible. Just walk through it all. The trail is pretty gradual all the way to the pass. The views continue and improve the entire way.

A short break at the pass...we'd had a late start driving from north of Seattle early that morning. Looking down across the valley we could see our campsite. The burn from several years back ends at the pass...thankfully. The trail drops a bit from the pass but continues to be an easy trail that contours around the basin to Horseshoe Pass and then over to Louden Lake and our intended campsite.

After arriving it was time for a late dinner and then watching as the sun set across the basin...awesome...

The winds this night (Thursday) were constant (10-15mph) and made the night seem colder that it really was.

Day 2: Horseshoe Basin camp to Rock Mtn with some wandering added in

It wasn't an early start for any of us. Jim sounded the wake up call. After breakfast we talked about plans for the day. We settled on something nearby as I wanted to save up some energy for a longer hike the next day. We headed off past Louden Lk to the far side of the basin and then found a direct but steep route up Rock Mtn. Steep yes, nothing too bad. The top of Rock Mtn offered wonderful views in all directions. Cathedral way in the distance. Haig, Bauerman Ridge, Teapot Dome, Armstrong, Arnold, Horseshoe, Pick Pk.... The summit was covered in zillions of tiny and beautiful small anemones. We lingered here...lunch and soaking up the views.

Eventually it was time to leave. We dropped down a more northern side of the peak. Jim and Gwen wanted to tag an un-named bump further west and north. While they continued on an up, I wandered...slowly...very slowly back to camp. Along the way taking notice of where the burn came up this far side of the basin. The edge of the burn burning the campsite from my first trip to the area to a black crisp. I found the fire ring. It brought back lots of fond memories of that trip.

Back at Louden Lake I lingered in the shade on a small peninsula and took a short nap. Then off back to camp to read and wait for Jim and Went to return.

The wind was more calm the rest of the trip. The tradeoff being the mozies were a bit bothersome. The sunset the second night lit the sky up in nearly all directions with shades of yellow, red, orange, pink, purple... There was a sighting of a dear which eventually came nearly into camp.

Day 3: Horseshoe Basin camp to Goodenough Peak and back

The plan was for a hike out to Goodenough. Wow. The section of trail from Horseshoe Pass to the Peak is part of the PNT (Pacific Northwest Trail). It looked nearly deserted of foot traffic except the faint impression of a couple of boot prints. It was apparent the trail gets a mere fraction of the traffic of the other trails in the area. Sad's beautiful. The flower show along this trail better than in the basin. Constant mile after mile after mile of meadows filled with all colors of the spectrum.

A few muddy spots down low. Higher up the trail appeared to be recently rebuilt/improved. Hmmm... Near the saddle along the ridge between Goodenough Pk and Arnold and old fence and horse/cattle gate??? The trail continued up towards the top. We followed this. The peak is treed nearly the whole way. Near the top exposed granite. easy walkup. Views abound. Wow...

We returned to camp on the same trail. Views of the backside of Horseshoe Mtn and Arnold. We did notice an old cabin, just the few foundation log really, long neglected. What was this structure. An old high camp from when sheep were run up and down the basin???

Another nice evening. Less color in the sky than the night before. Less windy too which was more than welcome by all of us. Bumped into a new WTA friend Steve camping on the far side of the bump. A nice chat with a fellow hiker.

Day 4: Horseshoe Basin camp to the Iron Gate TH

Last day of the long holiday weekend. Time to head out. Jim and Gwen were both nearly out of battery power. A long drive back to Seattle ahead. None of us could resist a few more photos on the hike out though...

A stop in Tonasket for ice cream. While it was cool when we left the basin, Tonasket was a toasty 82. We bumped into two PNT workers and chatted a bit. Nice chaps. We learned the horse/cattle gate at Goodenough was the old Wilderness boundary, the new boundary about 1/2 mile downhill to the north. We also learned the old cabin has stood in ruins for decades. Neither of the gents knew the history behind the structure. When I asked if it could be a high hut for the sheep herders the response was "there isn't anyone alive to know if you are lying so that sounds good to me" :) We heard stories of before the place was Wilderness of plans landing in an old airstrip in the valley below the basin... Wow.

I've been to Horseshoe Basin probably 1/2 dozen times now. This trip by far has to be the best one ever there, and for that matter anywhere, for flowers. Go now...they won't last long...

List of flowers seen over the weekend (in no particular order):
spring beauty
paintbrush (red)
lupine (purple, pink, white)
death camas
salsify (ageoseris) (yellow and orange)
bog orchid
old man's whiskers
scarlet gilia
bracketed lousewort
jeffery's shooting star (pink and white)
dwarf dogwood
wild strawberry
marsh marigold
columbine (red and yellow)
small flowered penstemon
yellow penstemon
cicer milk-vetch
rue (thalictrum)
desert parsley
mountain aster
jacob's ladder
woodland star
pink mountain-heath
little-leaf silverback
lyall's goldenweed
western saxifrage

Note: the last 6 miles of the drive to the Iron Gate TH requires a high clearance vehicle.
Horseshoe Basin Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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