Bailey Range 1996
Hall of the Mountain King to Cream Lake
No one was in a hurry to move this morning: the views were great, and the goats were close. We finally had to chase the latter away, so we could get on with breakfast. We packed up, and after climbing a few hundred feet, soon came to our first challenge of the day: another gully. This one was a little different: Only a 50' drop, but over very sharp shale or some other flaky rock. (I keep promising myself to take a geology course, but with this job, it may have to wait until I retire.) Then a traverse across a convex slope: not horrible exposure: just about 50 feet or so (enough to maim, but probably not kill), into the maw of the creek. I crossed first, extolling the virtues of the "good, solid rock." (This usually meant that there was at least one square inch of bedrock sticking out onto which to get a foot hold.) Susie kept muttering: "I don't like this at ALL!" I found a dry place to stash my pack and guided the other across, pointing out each foot hold, and sometimes guiding feet when they came within reach. We all crossed safely (wrenched shoulders and minor cuts do not count). After a few more easy (relatively: the crew's experience was starting to show) gullies, there was several hundred yards of meadows sloping down into what I would call Eleven Bull Basin (about 5 miles from the Catwalk). Not much of a basin, and not very flat and no water. I remember from the '87 trip, and thought then, boy, I am sure we had not tried to camp here! After lunch, we came to the spine running SW off Steven Peak. The hiking guides talk about "more or less contouring into Cream Lake on elk trails. That is a total joke! Let me explain the contouring: First, you come to this little flat area where you might erect a tent or two. Then you start an extremely steep climb, ala the western approach to the Catwalk, of about 250 feet, to about the 5000 foot level. You traverse, slowly descending in meadows and patches for about a half a mile, following the strong path. Then the path begins what ends up being an 800 foot descent (I measured it with my altimeter) through deep woods on a path so steep you can barely stand up. You do reach a small creek that is shown on the topo map before you bottom, and the water is welcome. You drop down into a meadow at 4100' elevation, about 200 feet below the level of Cream Lake. Then you climb up, at a more normal grade, the natural dam that forms Cream Lake. That is not what I would call "contouring."
Susie and I got to the lake and the camp (about 200 meters upstream along the inlet creek in a grassy meadow) about 4:30 pm. Since is was warm, the mosquitos were out. But the campsite is big and lovely, and the creek had enough water in it for serious bathing. Susie and I did major laundry, and had stuff scattered on every available bush and tree. It should be noted here that in a walk near camp, I noticed a huge fir tree, which was hollow, and had a door opening cut into the side of it. I wonder if the Crislers (the ones who did the Walt Disney True-Life Adventure: The Olympic Elk) had used this as a blind or something. Seems like it cooled down: we ate on the dry stream bed: I think we had instant mashed potatoes with bacon bits and Parmesan and spices that night. What a wonderful concoction! There some comments to the effect that I had no respect for wildlife: apparently, everyone on the 800 foot descent behind me had come across a dead field mouse that was still warm. I must have been the one who crushed its little head in my haste to get to the bottom.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 1996