Ross Lake: Lightning Creek to Little Fish (Day 4)

Distance: 9.0 miles

Start: Lightning Creek

Camp: Little Fish Shelter (2420′)

Highlights: feeling like I’m Superman as I climbed like a monkey through nests of deadfall and balanced along fallen trees all while making the burly climb up the disused Three Fools Trail.

“Don’t try and get all the way to Little Fish tonight,” Bob was telling me. It was 2:30 already. Briefly, I entertained the possibility of covering just the 4 miles to Deerlick camp.

Bob had wandered into my camp an hour before wet, overloaded and dejected. He’d given up trying to reach the Canadian border and was planning to start his PCT hike further south. (See more about what Bob had tried to do in my Evolution of an Adventure post.)

I acknowledged that Bob had failed at exactly what I was about to attempt but I thought I knew why he had failed and how I could succeed by sustaining my moral and not getting lost. The hike up Lightning Creek was no joke, starting out with steep switchbacks to gain shallower ground to pass through the gorge on. Climbing and serious exposure kept up all the way to the descent into Deerlick. But by 4:30 I had found the Deerlick cabin and acknowledged the fact that, after sleeping until noon, I would not be able to sleep tonight without burning up a lot more energy.

I cooked a pot full of whole wheat rotelli using as little fuel as possible in the only spec of sun around – a glowing patch in the middle of a long wooden bridge with a single hand rail over the ferocious Lightning Creek; the Creek had carved away the trees to form the only unfettered sun in the deep ravine that flanks Desolation Peak. By 5:40 I was on the Three Fools Trail bound for Little Fish. My first thought was that it was not nearly as bad as Bob had indicated. It was, in fact, a finely maintained trail. That was for the first mile. Then the blowdowns began – numerous small trees that lay across the trail and require you to swing under or climb over them, sometimes two or three or four at a time. The trail tread was good and level and didn’t fatigue your feet though and I found myself bounding and jumping. I had, in 4 days, gotten comfortable with my pack weight. It only gets better from here. When in the last quarter mile the sun disappeared and the trail did too, into deep winding thickets of wet bushes I was not slowed at all, I just put my arms up and pushed through. I made Little Fish in two more hours to see the tops of the trees still aglow with the orange light of sunset. I was 14 miles from the PCT.

Little did I know what grizzly conditions await me above Little Fish. This what I would find by the next afternoon...

Little did I know what grizzly conditions await me above Little Fish. This what I would find by the next afternoon…