This weekend, I drove up to Packwood via Skate Creek - finding out that it is just as quick to drive up I-5 to SR512, and take Hwy 7 to Ashford, as it is to slog through Yelm. Gawd, I hate driving through Yelm. I had my mind set to hike up the Carlton Creek Trail, if I could find it, and if it were passable. I couldn't find it. Where the road splits at roughly one mile, I drove up to the left. That ended in a timber sale operation, and I could not find a trail head. I went back down, and tried the right fork, which ends at a gate, but after walking it (with pack, in the noon-time sun), this road, too, ended in a tangle of log-loading debris. I dunno, maybe there is no trail head right now? The FS website didn't indicate as such.
My next plan - always have a plan B, amirite? - was to drive up to Soda Springs campground, off the White Pass Hwy and up Summit Creek, to the Cowlitz Trail, and see how far up toward the pass I could venture. I made it up to the pass itself, but no further - stopped by energy-sucking record heat and increasingly small clear patches in the deepening snow. I could make it only a short distance along the Potholes Trail, and none at all along the Cowlitz trail, so I camped at a meadow near the junction of the two.
All in all, I hiked a meager 12ish miles RT, with roughly 1700' gain. The weather was HOT - ranging in the upper-90s through the day, and dipping down into the low 40s during the night. The sun was blazing, the breeze mild but relatively constant, and the streams (there were three wet crossings) were deep, fast and cold. I encountered two elk in the morning near my campsite; they were shy and bounded off as soon as I made a noise. There were no other people up there, but already the hordes of the flying and bitey kind were getting populous. I suffered no bites, but in another week, that would be a different story.
While I was the only one at the Soda Springs campground when I set off, there was a family camping there when I arrived back. It brought back fond memories of picnicking there growing up. I took the opportunity to visit the Soda Spring while I was there. Its waters were sharp and carbonated, but not especially cold. Not really a pleasant flavor.
Today is a lazy day at home. That heat did not treat me well, it never does. Where's my Junuary??
Images taken on a backpacking trip up the Cowlitz Trail, William O. Douglas Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, June 4, 2016.