PCT Scouting Hike from Crest Camp – North Towards Indian Heaven Wilderness and South Along Lava Flows

Hike Distance: 7.4 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 794.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 927 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 93123 feet

Our first foray on the PCT in a while, and this area is certainly under snow for much of the winter and spring.  We parked at the Crest Camp parking area off of NF-60 in Skamania County.  Going north will lead you into Indian Heaven Wilderness, and south will lead you towards Cascade Locks, Oregon.

I wanted to see if Indian Heaven was accessible, as snow tends to linger there for much of the summer.  So, we filled out a permit to enter Indian Heaven Wilderness and headed north.  We bumped into a group of three people that were looking for mushrooms.  These were the only people we saw while hiking north.  There were patches of snow on the trail but not bad.  The trail continuously ascends and is an easy climb.  We had to cross two streams, and there were plenty of rocks to make this simple.

As we ascended the snow became more frequent.  We reached a switchback and the snow just disappeared!  After the second switchback we just climbed.  At about 3800 feet the snow just came up and was everywhere!!!  The snow was also deep but consolidated, so it was easy to walk upon.  We decided to continue but got to a dip in the trail, where a large pool had formed from a small seasonal stream.

This large pond was deep and we decided not to cross it, as we didn’t want wet boots.  It’s true that it was warm (about 75degF) but I hate wet high-top boots.  We could see Sheep Lake between all the trees, and it was very high (there is normally a small campsite at a small shore area) and flooded the camping area!

Turning around we headed back toward NF-60, and crossed it to head south on the PCT.  We noticed a huge number of Trillium flowers all around the trail.  They’re just blooming at this high elevation, and all were very small (don’t know what that means).  Going south of NF-60, on the PCT, follows an old lava flow.  It’s very interesting to see the lava either on the trail or just east of it.

We bumped into a PCT backpacker named Dan (trail name: Lieutenant Dan).  We talked quite a while before parting ways.  He has lived in Taiwan for 20 years and came back to hike the PCT for a few weeks.  He hiked about 200 miles in southern California before flipping up to Cascade Locks.  He will be ending his backpack tomorrow, and hitch back to town from the Crest Camp area.

We continued south until we reached about two miles from our car.  Heading back we met Dan, once more, while he was camped at Crest Camp.  We left him with a few Powerades and wished him well.  A very nice person and this is why we provide Trail Magic on the PCT!

The PCT appears to be in very good shape for the 3.7 mile length we scouted.  Only two downed trees were seen and all were easily avoided.  The level of complete snow cover is at about 3800 feet, and therefore Indian Heaven Wilderness will be difficult to access for at least another month or more, especially on the higher elevation north end.  We cleared many small branches there are no impediments for the trail section we saw.  Our two stream crossings were easy.  Where we stopped, at the deep seasonal pool, is easily crossed, but we had no interest in doing so.  Minimal mosquitoes early in the hike but they were coming out before we left.  It doesn’t have the alternate name “Mosquito  Heaven” for nothing, and it will be brutal in this area until August. 😦

A fantastic day and a nice change from local hikes and forest road hikes!