Some Fine Hiking Experiences, Summer 2001

Poet's Ridge August 8th-10th: we car camped about 20 miles west of Lake Wenatchee, at Little Wenatchee Ford in the North Cascade Mountains. The campground is below this long navigable ridge, which runs between several mountains named for famous American authors. Access to Poet's Ridge is by a 1/2 mile zigzag signed trail to Irving Pass. From the pass we took two day hikes.

We hiked the ridge first to the right toward Irving Peak (after Washington Irving). There is no maintained trail in this direction between Irving Pass and Irving Peak. Five of us hiked this stretch as a bushwack led by my brother, who thrives on this sort of thing, and keeps up a stiff pace.

Hiking was fairly rough for me, with short but steep ups and downs, requiring use of the many available "veggie" handholds; thank goodness for trees! We saw fabulous flowers, including columbine, lupine, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, stonecrop, Davidson's penstemon, and more. We had good weather with fine views, especially after the heart-in-mouth scramble required to get onto the summit of Irving Peak. It was a short but strenuous day hike, with opportunities for extra exercise getting a bit lost on the return to Irving Pass.

The next day Michael and I hiked the same 1/2 mile trail up to Irving Pass, but headed west on Poet's Ridge. In this direction there is a maintained trail which goes to Poe Mtn, and continues along the ridge. At the summit of Poe we ate an early lunch then turned back in order to be back to the car at 1:00. The Poet's Ridge trail continues on to Longfellow peak (accessible as a longer day hike), then to Mt. Whittier (which would be an overnight trip). I don't know if the trail or navigable ridge continues past Whittier.

The ridge is fairly narrow (think North cascades, and steep sharp peaks) with small but often steep ups and downs between serious scrambles up to the mountain summits. The trip to Poe was not difficult, but I would not choose to do it with a heavy overnight pack or in rainy weather. The ridge is narrow and a bit unsettling for anyone made nervous by heights. The unnerving bits were short and just OK for me; enough to be an exciting challenge, but also enough to be slightly dreaded on the return hike out, and a relief to be past! It was truly gorgeous up there, with fine views of Glacier Peak, etc. We watched a pair of black swifts (uncommon in this region) feeding on the (many) bugs. Mosquitoes and black flies made dinner time at camp less than relaxing, but our big tent with lots of mosquito net windows gave us comfortable options.There are other campgrounds in the area, but we were warned that Soda Springs was more mosquito ridden and the least appealing.

Shi Shi Beach, July: we returned to Shi Shi via Neah Bay after about ten years, to park in almost the same spot. Checking in first at the Makah cultural center, we purchased the necessary recreational pass for a modest $7, and paid $5 to park inside a fenced yard. Immediately upon leaving the car we heard a Swainson's thrush, and were surrounded by ripe thimbleberries. The access trail to the beach, about 3/4 of a mile long, was drier than ussual but still a challenge to anyone trying to stay clean! We tromped through the mud in our hiking sandals for the outbound walk to the beach, but managed to stay clean on the return trip with only reasonable care.

We at lunch on the small rocky point just north of the trail head, then walked south along the beach to Point of Arches. Our wildlife sitings were the highlights of this trip; we watched an otter feeding in the surf close to the shore for at least ten minutes, then watched a peregrine falcon standing astride his prey on the beach before us, feeding and plucking the feathers. Having already decapitated the gull, he soon took of with the heavy carcass, flying in low into the trees above the beach. Nearby a camper told us they had watched the same activity the day before; the falcon was taking regular meals home. Nearby nesting gulls spend part of their day hanging out at the spot where this freshwater creek as it drains across the beach.

After the hike we drove up to Cape Flaherty and walked the short boardwalk trail to watch tufted puffins (pufted tuffins, toased muffins) fishing, nesting commorants, murres, and pigeon guillemots. We drove away from a gorgeous sunset, and found a halibut dinner at about 9:00pm in Clallam Bay.

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Sandra J. Stowell, mailto:,
Aug. 8, 2001