With our Ireland trip looming closer, and the anxiety over having to complete 19-20 mile days on the trail while there, we decided to fill our backpacks and head for Icicle Canyon for a weekend of backpacking. We had hopes of avoiding the rain that was forecasted for the western Cascades so we made our way through the pass on Friday evening.
We hoped that the 80 degree and sunny weather forecasted for the nearby town of Leavenworth would be our fate in the mountains only 20 miles away. We should have known better… We also should have been more suspicious of the trail conditions when the road leading up to the trail was closed due to snow… We hadn’t brought along snowshoes thinking that the heat that had been in the area for more than a week would have taken care of the snow on the trail. How wrong we were!
On Friday night we arrived in Icicle Creek Canyon around 8:00 p.m. and made camp at a closed Forest Service Campground called Chatter Creek Campground. This is a very popular campground in the summer months when its open. With 12 spacious campsites, mildly good screening between sites, and the chattering creek that ran through our campsite it’s no wonder why.
In the morning we headed for the Icicle Creek Trail trailhead, when the road became impassable due to snow and several downed trees we pulled our Explorer off to the side of the road and set off for the trailhead on foot. It was only about a mile ahead from where we had parked. The plan for the day was to hike as far in as we could, we were hoping for fifteen miles, and then to camp and make our way back out the following day. Once at the trailhead we were pleased to see that the trail was primarily clear with only small patches of snow scattered about.
This being a river trail, The Icicle Creek Trail, we had hopes that the elevation gain would be minimal and therefore the snow levels would remain pretty constant. Again, how wrong we were… As the trail began to rise, so did the snow… The once, scattered piles became longer and more frequent. Eventually we were traversing more snow than dry ground. Because of the warmth the snowpack wasn’t set. Instead, it was sloppy and proved difficult to traverse at many points. Our legs began falling through with greater frequency the further we went until I fell in up to my waist followed closely by three successive steps of falling in up to my knees.
We had only made it in 4.5 miles. It had taken us almost three hours. Our pace was slow and we were continually loosing the trail because of all the snow. Thank goodness for our GPS app Gaia, without it we would have been easily lost.
With no trail condition improvement in sight we opted to turn around. We discussed the possibility of continuing along a lower, clear trail once we had made it back to where there was no snow. Our journey out was faster, as we were able to follow the trail we had already forged.
We stopped for lunch once out of the snow and then the rain started. For the remainder of our hike out we were treated to intermittent showers. The temperature wasn’t nearly as high as we had hoped, it was in the high 40s to low 50s.
Once we had made it back to the trailhead and then another mile out to the car we had gone close to 9 miles and were fairly exhausted.
The lower campgrounds and trails were packed with people and the thought of being on a crowded, short, loop trail didn’t appeal to us. We decided to head for town for some well deserved ice cream! We discussed camping another night in the Chatter Creek Campground but decided to head for home and do a city hike the next day.