Vista Camp to Suiattle Pass – 17.5 miles
I enjoyed a restful night at lower elevation. I got myself packed up pretty quickly but then sat and chatted for a bit over breakfast. I’m glad I did because someone spotted a bear! It was a juvenile bear on a steep slope across Vista Creek. We had front row seats without being any danger. We watched as he crept down to the water side and then clambered back up the slope, disappearing into the forest.
After that excitement I hit the trail. I had a bit of a boring day ahead, but after the past few days I was feeling just fine about that! The trail would take me downhill along Vista Creek to where it flows into Suiattle River. I’d march another few miles downriver before crossing a bridge and making my way all the way back up along the other side!
My trail guide had a great description of this section. The guide includes the story of when the original bridge near Vista Creek washed out and how it took them over a decade to get a new one in. They had to build the new one a couple miles downriver where there was bedrock to anchor it, otherwise the wild spring floods would take it out again. Of course this extended the trail by about 5 miles but it did now go through some sections of old growth forest.
I put my earbuds in and grooved down the trail. It was a very easy downhill slope and I got into my stride. The miles passed quickly and I found myself at the bridge across the Suiattle. It was about mid-morning and I took a break, sitting on the bridge in the sunshine.
I didn’t stick around too long, not wanting to lose my forward momentum. I pressed on, this time working my way gradually uphill along the north bank of the Suiattle River. After a couple miles I reached a crossing over Miner’s Creek and the junction with the original trail across the river. It was a perfect spot to take a long lunch break and to soak my feet.
The trail then turned away from Suiattle River to follow Miner’s Creek, gradually climbing up the valley. It was a really well graded, easy uphill section of trail. I found myself at Miner’s Creek Camp by 3 p.m. My original plan was to stay at this camp, but I rolled in with energy to burn. I decided to take a one hour break before hiking another 3 miles over Suiattle Pass.
There was a large group of hikers settled in at Miner’s Creek camp. They had the unfortunate job of having to tell me of a fire just north of Suiattle Pass and how they thought the PCT might be closed. I’d had other hikers tell me about a fire towards the north. The first I’d heard of it was a single tree upslope that had been lit by lightning. Then I heard that the fire had gotten a bit larger, but wasn’t threatening the trail. The last I’d heard was that it had gotten a bit closer to the trail but it was still possible to get through.
Knowing all this I decided that it was still worth pressing on. I’d head to the pass and have a look at the fire for myself. I knew there’d be a couple campsite options for me.
A little over an hour later I was looking north down the Agnes Creek valley. Yup, there was a fire. A large plume of smoke was rising from a section of forest barely a few miles north of the pass. I checked my map and was pretty sure that the trail would go right through that fire. Even more daunting was the amount of smoke in the valley to the north of the fire. I would not want to hike through that.
I had gone about half a mile beyond the pass and decided to turn around. I’d seen a decent campsite near summit of the trail and I’d seen on my map that there was a junction for a trail that headed east. It looked like I could follow that trail to Lake Chelan where I could then catch a ferry to Stehekin, my destination for a day off. At the same time I was messaging through my GPS to my family to let them know what was going on. It gave me a small sense of comfort knowing that they were keeping an eye on me from afar.