East Royce and Wild River, 8/5 and 8/6/06
Sat, 8/5/06: Left Bedford 6:15 AM. A couple of quick stops on the way north (3 to 93 to 3 to 115 to 2, through Gorham) and arrived at trailhead 9:35AM. Looks like a beautiful, cool day. Parked at the Royce trail head on Rte 113, about seven miles south of Rte. 2.
Paid the $6 to USFS to park, put on the boots, On-trail by 9:50. E. Royce trail has a beautiful cascade just a few minutes from the trailhead. Lots of stream crossings and running water. The trail is pretty steep, from the get-go. I was expecting that from the map. It’s also obvious from the trail head and the
from the approach on 113.
In a bit over an hour I came to the juction where the summit trail branches off, and took the summit trail — ok, it was a mistake. I hadn’t intended to do that extra 500 feet up and back down, but it was a nice view. Great views (and photos) from E. Royce summit. I already mentioned the nice weather.
I didn’t linger at the top, just long enough for water and a few photos and a short sit-down. Felt a bit stupid for being there, but what the heck. That “mistake” probably cost an hour or so (doing the spur trail to the summit and back.) I got a good view of what I was about to be hiking. It was really quite beautiful. Between where I sat and the Basin Rim Trail was a col, about seven hundred feet down and a mile or so wide.
So back to the junction of the summit spur trail, this time following the proper path. The trail breaks out into open ridges with nice views, but then turns nasty. This part of the trail is not well-traveled. I’m thinking this must be a very ancient trail, poorly designed and not well maintained. The trail was heavily overgrown in many places, to the point where I was nervous about losing it altogether. Where it wasn’t overgrown, it was intensely boggy. Roots and roots and more roots. No puncheon (“board walks.”) Just punchin’ your way through the growth on either side, looking for signs that this really *is* the trail.
So after a official 0.6 miles of that (it felt much longer) one arrives at the junction of Basin Rim Trail, or rather a path *to* Basin Rim Trail. Whatever. It’s another steep uphill for a while, then you’re back on the rim, and again it was a rough trail. Not quite as bad as that stretch I just described, but still pretty ratty. For the first mile or so there are a lot of short ups and downs, but then the trend is unmistakeably downward, at times quite steeply. Occasionally good views to the west. Very poor (or nonexistent) trail blazes.
Eventually I arrived at the junction where Basin Rim Trail, Basin Trail, and Black Angel Trail meet. My goal was the Wild River valley down below and to the west. I opted for the “shorter” loop, the Basin Trail, which led me directly to the Wild River Campground. There was a beautiful cascade near the bottom of the Basin Trail that I stopped at for a long break and a few photos.
The “campground” was a bust. I think I got there around 4:30 or 5:00. There were no tentsites available. This place caters strictly to car-camping — folks get here by a gravel road that branches off 113 at Hastings and follows the Wild River along its east bank. At the small parking lot were eight or ten pickup trucks. Road camping. Hikers not welcome.
The woman from the “caretakers” trailer warned me of the $250 fine for illegal camping. Gee thanks. Said there was a bridge over the river (to the west bank) a mile north, so there I went. Over the bridge, and then followed the trail that runs along the west bank, down stream, in the direction of Hastings. Without any reference points, it was hard to tell how far I was walking.
So at this point I was a bit bummed but walking fast nonetheless. I really would have preferred not to be camping all alone, and was a bit apprehensive about that. I half considered walking the distance to Hastings, in the dark if need be.
I walked and walked, and it got darker and darker. Eventually I picked a spot — it turned out to be a
good one — in the woods by the river. Set up the tent, strung the line for the bear bag. Made myself tea and a Liptons’ dinner. Watched a full moon rise across the river. Once or twice I could hear a vehicle going up or down the road on the other side — but I couldn’t see any headlights. I was a bit nervous about being discovered or spotted (via my own headlamp) but from what I discovered the following morning, that was highly unlikely, even setting aside the oblivious state of the habitants of Wild River Campground.
Slept with the tent fly up. During the night I could tell it had gotten very cold out — but I was getting enough warmth from the summer-weight bag. 6:15 AM I decided to emerge from the tent and start the day. The pack thermometer read 40 degrees F. Put on the polypro top and bottom beneath the shorts and t-shirt. Started walking (er, fording) at around 7 AM.
Rather than continue on the west-bank trail, I decided to ford the river and walk along the road. That was the only chance I had of finding the trailhead for Burnt Mill Trail. So ford I did, barefoot, with the
hiking boots in the pack. I wouldn’t consider this without hiking poles. No real problems. The water wasn’t particularly cold, and at its deepest it got the cuffs of my shorts wet. There was a bit of an issue at the east bank of finding a non-occluded stretch of river bank. There were thick brambles along much of the river’s edge. Quite impassible.
I just had to walk upstream a bit. Then it’s a couple hundred yards across woods (barefoot) to the
road. Just before the road two more minor obstacles: a water-filled gully to wade through and then a very steep bank to climb, which I did with a long traverse. Good call (though quite by accident) to walk through that patch of woods barefoot.
Back on the road. Dried off the feet. Put on socks and hiking boots. Take a chance that the desired
trailhead is in the direction of Hastings. Start walking. Must be my lucky day, hit the trailhead
after about 15 minutes of walking. Had it gone the other way, it would have been a *long* day of road-
walks — first, the gravel road back to Hastings, and then a looong walk uphill on 113 back to the car.
Burnt Mill was a slog — a bit more uphill than I had bargained for. Maybe the ascent from Wild
River is larger than from 113. Whatever.
It’s a low-maintenance sort of trail, doubling as a stream bed as required. A bit easier to follow than that 0.6 mile overgrown stretch. Some beautiful cascades off to the left about half way up, though
well off the trail.
At the end of Burnt Mill, all that was left was to double back along the same trails on which I’d started
the hike — that nasty 0.6 mile boggy part, and the 1.5 miles or so down E. Royce trail back to the car.
Reached the car at exactly 11 AM, so the days’ walking was exactly four hours. Weather once again
was beautiful. Air temperature was probably 60 F for most of my hiking today (Sunday.)
I met no other hikers except on the E. Royce trail. A couple, on the summit spur, on Saturday AM. And
a solo hiker with a backpack, ascending, as I was coming down on Sunday. It was a bit lonely up there.
E. Royce trail, from the road to E. Royce summit, is a decent trail. Fairly steep, but well-maintained and well designed. The rest of the trails on this trip weren’t up to that standard.
I get the sense that many of these trails just aren’t well traveled or maintained any more.