Horseshoe Basin

With a three day weekend for Independence Day the question was were to go? I don't like heat and it looked to be hot over most of the state. Janet was interested in Horseshoe Basin in the Pasayten and Suzanne and Barry were in. David signed on and I reluctantly agreed at 9:30 the night before the trip. Long drive, high temperature, and bugs. Still When Suzanne and I visited at this time of year in 2007 we had a great time. I threw together gear for a three day trip and arranged to carpool with Janet.

Travel Day
I met Janet and we were on our way by a little after 2:00 pm. Getting out of Seattle with the rest of the holiday traffic was a little snow but we were find after Marysville. We cruised over the North Cascades Highway and into the Methow Valley. Janet was there the week before and I was there for the Memorial Day weekend. On to Omak, north to Tonasket, over to Loomis, and finally onto the Toats Coulee Road as we climbed from 1200' to the Iron Gate Trailhead at 6000'. Suzanne, Barry, and David arrived just before we pulled in at 8:10 pm. They saw big horn sheep along the road.

There were seven or eight cars in the lot. Not as many as I expected. In fact, all weekend there were a lot less people than I expected. I'm not sure if the burn, the bugs, fears of snow, or fear of crowds kept the crowds away. Regardless of why it was nice to be there without seeing many people. After introductions we set up camp at the trailhead and by 9:45 we were off to bed.

Day One
Thanks to David's watch being set an hour early we were all up by 6:00 am. It's about 6 3/4 miles to Louden Lake, our destination for the day. The trail drops a little, climbs a little then ascends to Sunny Pass. That marks the first views into Horseshoe Basin. A big fire charred this area in 2006. Our 2007 visit was less than a year later and the ground and trees were burned and sooty. The smell was still in the air. In just two years things are changing. Green underbrush blankets the burned ground. There are many more wildflowers now. The burned smell is mostly gone. There are a few small fir trees though reforestation will take some time.

We hiked down from the trailhead and crossed Clutch Creek, the only stream on the way to Sunny Pass. Lots of yellow arnica, blue lupine, columbine, paintbrush, and more along this stretch. Nobody was camping the pass. The first views from Sunny Pass are spectacular. Green meadows and meadowy peaks all around. Windy Peak was once hidden by forest but is now visible much of the way though the poles of burned limbless trees.

Though still early the day was warming rapidly. I hoped that the 7000' elevation would keep it a little cooler. Down in the Okanogan Valley the forecast was for the mid 90s each day. All along the trail near and after Sunny Pass we saw shooting stars. Thousands of the small but colorful flowers. There was an equal number of golden yellow buttercup like flowers too. Horseshoe Basin is very dry later in summer but with snow only recently gone there is plenty of water.

We hiked on past the turnoffs to Smith Lake and Goodenough Peak at Horseshoe Pass and on under Armstrong Mountain to Louden Lake. We chose to camp on a higher arm just southeast of Louden Lake. Mostly open meadow with a few bigger trees. There are many larch trees here making this a prime fall destination. It took us 3:10 to reach camp at a relaxed pace. When we stopped we noticed that there were more than a few mosquitoes. There was a breeze so it didn't seem too bad.

Janet lost her glasses somewhere along the trail and we combed the area from the trail to camp looking for them. No luck. Janet decided to hike back to Sunny Pass to search. I checked around camp then followed later. The others searched for a bit then headed off to bag Arnold and Armstrong Peaks. The hike back to the pass without a pack was pleasant. Janet had no luck and I went on to the pass to take one more look.

No luck for me either. When I headed back I noticed the clouds moving in. They provided some shade which made it much easier to take photos. I took advantage and took a lot of shots of the flowers without the glare of the sun. My pace slowed way down. By the time I wandered back to camp the others were just returning from their summits hike. Later in the trip Janet miraculously found her glasses on the edge of camp under a tree. A real needle in a haystack.

The wind died down and the mosquitoes were voracious. I had pulled out my headnet at the trailhead the night before. I forgot to put it back in my pack. I was the only person without one. I have the skeeter bites to prove it. I had chosen not to do the summits in the afternoon heat and was happy with my 12 mile day with only 2000' of gain. I had done the peaks before. I was glad to be fresh for a much more strenuous second day. Janet and I relaxed while the others tucked in nearby Rock Mountain before turning in.

Flowers In The Trail
White Flower
Silver & Black
Bare Ground
David At Work
Green Ground Cover
Janet On Trail
Green, Black, & Blue
Windy Peak
Shooting Stars
Indian Paintbrush
Backlit Arnica
Sunny Pass Through Spires
Yellow Everywhere
Janet Near Sunny Pass
Louden Lake In Gap
Pick Peak
Peaks To The West
Windy Above Meadow
Yellow & Shooting Stars
Aiming For Armstrong
Another White Flower
Ground Squirrel
Near Horseshoe Pass
Small White Flower
Yellow Flower
Shooting Star Twins
Spring Beauty
Pond Reflection
Nice Colors
Sunflower Like
Another Unknown
Bugged Bunch
Pink Flower
Louden Lake
My Tarptent In Camp
Late Light On Armstrong
Colorful Clouds
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Report Page 2

Trips - 2009