”Dream in light years, challenge miles, walk step by step” ~ Shakespeare
Buck Creek Pass Loop – Clockwise
They say you are supposed to buy each other China once you make it to the 20 mile marker. But, we chose to give each other something a little less traditional, less delicate , less fragile. Something that could be ours and ours alone, less predictable, more rugged and far more wild. Much like this life of ours.
We are always in search of that ‘sweet spot’, in life and on the trail. Sometimes it eludes us. Sometimes we find it only to discover its not actually what we had hoped for. Sometimes we make the journey longer than it needs to be, carrying more than was necessary. And, often – at long last, whence we’ve found the sweetest of spots it becomes hard to believe it can get any better. But, here’s the thing. It always does. This life, just like our trails, is full of sweet spots. An endless array of them. And the paths that lead us there, no matter how long or hard, are worth every step along the way.
We have learned that the parallels between a long journey down a dirt path and a long journey down the road of life are endless. We have chosen to walk this way together. Through the ups and downs, all the uncertainties, hiccups, blow downs and lost trails. And this is what we have learned.
There is beauty in ashes, if you chose to see it. There is magic and majesty around every bend, if you are willing to push on and find it. And the difficult legs in any journey only make us better, taking us places we never could have reached on the easy road. Sometimes seeing is believing. But, sometimes its the believing that lets us see. We cannot have mountain tops and ridge lines all the time. But we can reach for them. Always reach for them. Together.
The Buck Creek Pass Loop is traditionally done in a counter clockwise motion. We had been to Spider Meadow, up The Gap and on to the Lyman Lakes before. And we just kind of like going our own way, so we decided to start The Loop on the Buck Creek side of things at the Trinity Trailhead – working through it like clockwork:)
Per usual, I drug Mikey out of bed before the sun so we could start our journey by 8 a.m., with less travelers by our side and a softer sun on our backs.
The first four miles of the Buck Creek Trail were incredibly mild. A shady little traipse through woods.
But, after we crossed the creek on this forlorn looking bridge the scenery changed quite a bit.
Soon the trail weaved its way through a scarred burn zone.
The trail was dusty and the burnout was breathtaking.
But, there was a mystical kind of beauty in it all, with mountain views opening up in the distance and fresh flora bursting from the once charred forest floor.
It was a grand reminder of the resilience in us all. How life carries on.
And then after a little switching back and forth we rose above the burn back into the lush unscorched forest scape.
I read that Buck Creek Pass was sitting pretty dry by this time of year, so we stopped at one of the many creek crossings and filled up for the miles ahead.
And then we sprung forth into the open air.
Buck Creek Pass flaunts fabulous views of a bold and brilliant Glacier Peak. And there was definitely a sweet spot there – but someone else had already discovered it.
So, we pushed on down the trail a bit towards Flower Dome.
The climb up the Dome was our 12th mile of the day, making it feel like quite the ascent. So, when we reached the tippy top and discovered it was not the sweet spot we were looking for it was a little disheartening. The views up there were amazing. But, the trees hid Glacier Peak and the flowers had mostly faded and there was not a drop of water anywhere.
So, we climbed back down and headed back up to the Pass.
There were a couple other small dusty camp spots at the Pass – sitting very close to that sweet spot a few pics backs. But, you had to climb down the hill quite a bit, past the toilet and to the right into a meadow before you could find the trickle of water that still flowed here.
So, although the view was great and this spot offered excellent access to grand explorations up towards High Pass. We decided to try one more place.
We hopped back on the trail.
Up past the Flower Dome turn off and on towards Middle Ridge.
I had read lots about the Pass and Flower Dome. Enough to know water was scarce. But, Middle Ridge was a bit of a mystery to me. We found another camp spot at Small Creek, nestled deep in the shaded woods where we almost ended our journey. But, as we were filling up with water a group passed by and told us there was a camp spot up on the Ridge. We had endured 15 miles already and figured we could push on for just a couple more. So, Mike piled 15 lbs of water on his already heavily laden back and we set off once again.
At Middle Ridge a little mysterious trail pulls off to the right. And although there was a decent camp spot just off the main trail, Mikey wanted to see what we could find a little further off the beaten path.
So, we carried on for another mile.
Grand views began to open along this trail promising good things to come.
And then it opened up into a vast and vibrant meadow with Glacier Peak and all it’s buddies sprawling out before us.
Fun fact ~ that fine pine clothed dome to the left with the meadow at it’s tippy top is Flower Dome. That pretty place several miles back, that we thought was meant for us. When all along this little nugget was just waiting for us to discover it.
So often, God’s plans for us make our grand aspirations seem so small – reminding me that our disappointments are often times just doorways opening up into bigger and better things
With free flowing streams of flourishing water to boot. Thank goodness Mikey hauled in all that water:)
Mikey tinkered around with his night shot set-up while the hills flushed with the last rays of the days light.
And then we pitched our tent.
And tried to soak up the boundless beauty that surrounded us.
As darkness crept in and the sky continued to put on a show, we wondered about the views just on the other side of the trees to our right (West).
So we meandered that way to see what we could see.
We found ourselves sipping wine on a boulder with front row seats for the grand finale to a grand day.
As evening covered our lovely meadow and the stars began to twinkle above us I crawled into our humble abode so very thankful for where we were at – at this exact moment, and in life. It took a long time getting here. And although none of it was really easy. The entire journey has been absolutely priceless. And I wouldn’t have change one step of it. Because every one, even the extras and unnecessaries and mistakens got us to where we were at. A dreamy little spot in the middle of Middle Ridge.
We woke the next morning to a magnificent sunrise.
Being in a sweet spot, on the trail and in life, can paralyze me a bit. I can lose sight of the epic-ness of now and begin to worry that as life goes on or the trail continues to wind around the bend, that this will be as good as it gets. That the moving on will only move us away from the beauty around us and within us. But, then Mikey reminds me that there is always more to discover. And that we get to choose where to go and how we get there. And that is the adventure we love. Stepping forward into the unknown, with the only certainty being that we are venturing into together. When we first began this journey we had no idea we’d make it to this place, or that this place even existed. The discovery of it was merely a testimony of things to come and the endless array of sweet spots out there just waiting for us to light upon.
So, we broke camp bright and early to see what the dirt path laid out before us had in store.
With miles and miles ahead of us.
Certain that another ‘sweet spot’ was out there just waiting for us to discover it.
One mile down the path we hopped back on Trail 789, headed North.
Where we dipped back down into the adumbrul forest with its cool and comforting air.
And then we hopped on the PCT for a bit.
Climbing back up towards Suiattle Pass.
At this point we were feeling pretty torn. I had high hopes of camping up on Cloudy Pass. But, we didn’t know what lay ahead. Here lies the magic and mystery of the trails set out before us. We could either drop our packs here and day hike to Image Lake before heading up to the Clouds. Or we could carry our packs in, just in case that ‘sweet spot’ we are always searching for was just around the bend.
In the end we chose to pack it in:)
On a hike or two ago with our middle gem, Matti, she wondered at the absence of weeds in the wild. I assured her that the little critters were everywhere and that perhaps out here where wild things grow they just blend in to the scapes that surround us. Perhaps out here where time and space is void of pretty little lines and edges and hedges they are no longer pesky invasive plants but rather just another pretty flower. Maybe that’s a truth that belongs to us all. Maybe that’s why so many of us long for unrangeled ranges, meandering meadows and lonesome lakes. Maybe the wild allows us all the space to simply be. And maybe, just maybe, some of us need that freedom a little more than others.
A mile and half off the PCT we parted ways with Trail 795 and ventured on up towards Image Lake.
Then, after a few more switchbacks we came upon Lady Camp.
It turns out you can gerrymander up our Marmot tent into an even more temporary abode using just the footprint, poles and fly. So, we did just that, unsure of how long we’d stay, and then tucked our packs inside and set off on a little side note.
The path between our fine Lady and Image Lake was breezy and light and breathtaking.
With the same view we had at Middle Ridge – only even more capacious.
And Image lake was just as we had imagined it to be.
Once upon a time when the trees were younger, you could see Glacier Peak’s image in the lake – thus its name. Some claim it has lost a bit of its luster since the pines have taken its place. But, I still thought it was a wonder.
You cannot camp up at the lake and the overnight spots down below were hidden in the trees as well – making our fine Lady even more alluring. So, we sat on Image’s wild blueberried shores and lunched a bit savoring her allure.
Then we headed back down that light and easy, breezy trail.
Back to our orange little dome, sitting so fine on the meadowy hills of Lady Camp.
Being the Lady that she is – she even had her own toilet!
By 2pm we had traveled 10+ miles and still weren’t sure if this is where we belonged. So, we slipped inside and let the mountain breeze lull us to sleep for a bit.
At four we found ourselves lounging about contemplating climbing the ridge behind us when a familiar clanging rang down from the path below. Suddenly our resplendent little sprawl was interrupted by the approach of a man and his donkey, whom we had run into the night before at Middle Ridge. He was no happier to see us here than he had been the night prior, especially in a spot that could house his loyal companion.
Sometimes we know where we want to be. And sometimes we’re unsure. But, most often, we always know where we do NOT want to be. That man with a steadfast donkey as his only company knew he didn’t want to be anywhere near us. And without any angst in our hearts, we were fine moving on. So, we left that fine Lady Camp – thinking he needed it more than we did and believing something else out there was just waiting for us… as always:)
So, we hopped back on the PCT just for a bit and then took the Hikers Trail towards Cloudy Pass.
Here the trail was rocky and rugged and that cloudless Pass just ahead looked like quite the push.
But, there were stepping stones along the way.
And unremitting views ~ reminding us of the vast artistry of the wild that surrounded us and the seemingly endless resting places if offers.
There is no ‘one’ place for any of us. The wild, nor any little nook or cranny in its capaciously sweeping scapes, belongs to anyone. It is its own. That’s what makes it wild.
No matter how many steps lay ahead of us, I was beginning to feel really grateful that we got to temporarily reside just about anywhere its opulent arms.
And then we stepped up upon Cloudy Pass.
And I realized this is where we belonged all along.
And it was worth every extra step it took to get us there. We had Lyman Lakes and Spider Gap sprawling out ahead of us.
And Glacier Peak blushing above the setting sun just behind us.
As our adventurous day drew to a close we set up camp at a spot even sweeter than the one from which we came, intimating a truth my heart already knew but often disremembers along the way. Wherever we are at, is where we are meant to be.
The next day we rose before the sun.
For one last remarkable rise.
Our original plan was to camp one last night just beyond Spider Gap, off there in the distance. But, after over 34 miles in two days it seemed silly to just meander 6 miles down the way. So, we decided on setting out upon one last epic day of trails – pushing passed Spider Meadow on the other side.
So we packed up our tent.
And our perch.
And headed on our way.
Down through a meadow sparkling in the morning light.
Into the tall timbers.
That surround Lower Lyman.
We ventured right around the lake where Upper Lyman Falls into Lower.
Following the snow route.
Up a cascade of boulders.
Until we were looking down upon its vibrant shores.
Here we scampered across the falls.
Draining from Upper Lyman Lake.
Making our way towards Spider Gap.
The path through this area is easy to lose track of.
But, all along this rusty rocky sprawl friendly little cairns show you the way.
Soon we had views of that Cloudy Pass from which we had begun.
But, there was a tad bit more up to go.
The trail zigged and zagged its way on up to the snow.
Where we slipped on our Yaktrax.
And shimmied our way on up The Gap.
Reaching for the sun.
Once we were all the way up on top we wandered around a bit.
Following an allusive little trail to the left of the Gap peppered with more of those auspicious little cairns.
Which lead us to this marvelous mount.
Where Mikey made use of his handy-dandy tripod one last time.
Capturing us up above the meadow instead of the stars this time.
Then we Yak-ed up once again.
For the descent.
Before long we were at the base of The Gap…
And our ‘original plan’s’ final destination for the day.
Yet, another “sweet spot” peaking down on Spider Meadow.
But we were way past ‘going as planned’. So we filled up the Nalgenes.
And kept on keeping on.
Down towards Spider Meadow.
Past Phelps Basin – where we had stayed the last time we passed this way.
Through The Meadow.
And on into the woods.
To the Phelps Creek Trailhead.
Down a never-ending 3mile stretch of a dry and dusty road – completing our grand loop-de-lou, one day ahead of schedule.
And then down the way just a bit more to Leavenworth.
Where we found one last unplanned sweet spot at the Bavarian Lodge.
Adventure (n.) risky or unexpected undertaking.
Thus is life. We can plan all we want but sometimes they best thing you can do is hold tight to the one you love and enjoy the wild ride. Here is to all the sweet spots in our life – past, present and future.
I love you Michael John.
Trinity Trailhead to Buck Creek Pass – 10.9 miles
Buck Creek Pass to Flower Dome – And Back:) – 2 miles
Buck Creek Pass to Middle Ridge – With Lots of Unnecessary Water:) – 3.8 miles
Total Map Miles – 16.7
Total Garmin Miles 17.8
Middle Ridge Camp Back onto the Main Trail – 1 mile
Middle Ridge to Suiattle Pass/Image Lake Turn off – 4.4 miles
Turn off to Lady Camp – 2.4 miles
Lady Camp around Image Lake and Back – 2.8 miles
Lady Camp to Cloudy Pass – 4.9 miles
Total Map Miles – 15.5
Total Garmin Miles – 16.7
Cloudy Pass to Spider Gap – 3.2 miles
Spider Gap – 1.5 miles
Spider Gap to Phelps Trailhead – 7.9 miles
Dusty Road Back Down to Trinity Trailhead – 3 miles
Total Map Miles 15.6
Total Garmin Miles – 16.5
Grand Totat – 47.8/51 Miles