"You know hunting season just opened today, right?" the friendly camp host smiled at us.
Yep... we're hunting too!
The U.S. government shutdown means facilities and campgrounds are closed in both the National Parks and National Forests but we weren't going to let that stop us from accomplishing our Thanksgiving weekend goals. The good news is that the trails are still open in the National Forests and with a bit of research, it wasn't too hard to plan a great trip to experience the wonderful colours of autumn in the Methow Valley: east of Cascade National Park and west of the town of Winthrop.
[u]Day One: Pearrygin Lake State Park</u>
It was a pleasant drive through at least four different climate zones to get to the Okanogan landscape of Winthrop. No larches here, but the deciduous trees circling the lake were putting on quite the show! After gleaning info from the camp-host and setting up, we donned our brightest-coloured clothing and wandered along the Rex <s>Deer</s> Derr trail for a lovely view of the lake.
Just by the "No Hunting" signs, we were greeted by some seemingly-literate groups of deer. At any rate, they didn't seem to be bothered by our presence, though their ears twitched at the sounds of guns in the near distance. They looked so cute that we shot a few:
[u]Day Two: Harts Pass</u>
Do a quick google search and you'll find adjectives describing the road up to Harts Pass as "treacherous," "terrifying," and "spectacular." While there are some very narrow sections with huge drop-offs, this road that climbs up to 7,200ft is actually made to be 2wd accessible and isn't any worse than a typical mountain FRS you'd find in BC. For the most part, the road bed is quite good, and it was actually preferable to be in a smalller vehicle when we met big Ford trucks full of happy hunters coming the other way in those tight spots- so much easier to squeeze by in a sedan!
We had thought of going on up to Slate Peak, but the snow started encroaching on the road, and we decided to park for a little stroll on the PCT into the Pasayten Wilderness, mingling with those larches.
It was such a beautiful day, and we thoroughly enjoyed the last couple hours of sunshine setting up camp in the snow, while the larches glowed above us.
[u]Day 3: Blue Lake</u>
We still had a bit of time left for a larch huntin' hike: so we stopped off on our way home at the Blue Lake trailhead for a shortish jaunt up to the lake. Snow started to cover the trail on the fourth switchback and microspikes were nice to have, but not neccessary.
The view of the back of Liberty Bell from here is awesome, as is the one across the highway of Cutthroat Peak. We'd had an early start, so we had only seen one other group on the way up, but those lovely larches and the beauty of the Early Winter Spires backdrop at the lake is a big draw- as a result, the trail was a whole lot busier on our decent.
Thanks, ShoelessJohn and Slipperypants for another fantastic long-weekend trip. [^]