Home Pacific Crest Trail PCT: Fire Detour

PCT: Fire Detour

by Lisa

Suiattle Pass to Holden Village – 11 miles

My night in Suiattle Pass was cold and a bit worrisome. I definitely had some odd dreams about the trail. There was also a small bit of worry about the state of the trail further north. Would there be more fires?

At least I woke up up with a plan. I’d had a good look at my map and was pretty confident that the trail to Holden would be a decent one. I’d be passing by a couple lakes and should have lots of access to water.

I had to back track about 5 minutes to reach the trail junction. Turned out the rangers had been through and had marked the PCT as closed. They had also put up a detour sign. It marked out the 11 mile trail east to Holden Village that I’d figured out with my maps. It also included a 17 mile trail going north from Holden to near Stehekin Village. It would be about 6 miles longer than the PCT section that was now closed and included climbing over another 6,000 foot pass. I knew I also had the option of hiking directly down to Lake Chelan and catching a ferry to Stehekin. I figured I’d decide on that segment of my day once I got to Holden Village and could learn more about the trails.

Hard to miss this trail closure

The smoke settled a bit through the night but it didn’t look good.

But first I had to climb up and over Cloudy Pass, about a mile east of Suiattle Pass and another 400 feet higher. Of course the sheer rock face between the passes prevented the trail from staying high and so I had to descend a few hundred feet into the bowl between the two passes and then ascend. I was feeling a bit more worn out than previous days. There were many contributing factors like having hiked 17 miles the day before, sleeping at 6,000 feet, and the moderate anxiety of the detour. Thankfully it was cool and shady and I made the trek easily enough.

Hiking through the bowl between Suiattle and Cloudy Passes

Beautiful Lyman Lake beneath Chiwawa Mountain

The top of the pass was meadowy with pretty views to the east. I had a great view of Lyman Lake to which I’d be descending. A marmot whistled at me a bit while I took a short break and some photos.

For the rest of my morning I’d be gradually descending about 3000 feet over 10 miles. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That is, until a log stopped one foot and sent me sprawling forward

I was pretty shaken up. As I sat by the lake I considered my options. I could stop for the day and set up at the campground or I could start hiking and see how I felt. The girls who’d helped me had also reassured me that there’d be other people on the trail, especially as I got closer to Holden. I also knew that there was another lake and campsite about 3 miles away.

I decided to push on. I was achy and a bit shaky at first but still able to move well enough. I really slowed down my pace, pulling in my stride and easing myself along the trail. I got a bit frustrated with some overgrown brushy sections, but that was more a focus point for my fear and anxiety about the whole situation. Was I concussed? Would I hurt even worse later on? Would I be able to continue the trail?

Looking down the valley towards Hart Lake

Waterfalls above Hart Creek

I did get some nice views of Hart Lake and there were pretty waterfalls flowing down the steep walls nearby. Unfortunately the waterfalls all came together to make Mica Creek, which I had to cross to get to Mica Lake. There wasn’t a bridge and the creek was flowing really fast and high. After scouting up and down I realised that I just had to go for it. I switched into my sandals, lengthened my poles, and slowly crossed the creek at it’s narrowest point with water rushing past above my knees. I didn’t bother putting my boots back on but hiked for a few minutes to reach the shore of calm and beautiful Hart Lake.

The absolutely gorgeous waters of Hart Lake

There was a bit of a rocky beach to sit at – a perfect place to spend my lunch hour. While I ate I chatted with a few people who’d hiked to the lake from Holden. Once again I was reassured that I’d be well taken care of once I reached the village. I was definitely still achy but was feeling a bit more relaxed. I enjoyed a brief (cold!) swim in Hart Lake and took a bit more time to dry out and relax in the sunshine. Sometimes it’s worth sitting somewhere quietly for a bit – a doe wandered alongside the lake for a drink!

Sometime during my break I decided to go only as far as Holden Village for the day and to hopefully enjoy a meal in the village. The four miles down the valley to Holden seemed to take a long time. Air temperature became hotter and hotter as I descended further to the eastern slopes of the mountains. I kept an easy pace and took lots of water breaks.

I felt quite a bit of relief when I reached the trailhead sign. There were even some forest service yurts at the end of the gravel road. The first signs of civilization in a week! There was a woman near the trailhead who greeted me and asked if I was a PCT hiker. She then told me that the village had been told to expect us and she’d be happy to walk me into town and show me around. I gladly took her up on her offer.

The central area of the village

It turned out that Holden wasn’t so much of a town as it was a family summer camp. It had been a mining town until the mid 60s at which point it was gifted to the only person who asked for the town – a Lutheran minister. He invited others to join him in Holden, creating a community of nature-lovers tucked away from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

I was shown the gathering hall, bowling alley, ice cream parlour, schoolhouse, bunkhouses and the dining hall. I was also introduced to some of the other people (both guests and volunteers) around the village. The camp was at full capacity, meaning there were about 400 people staying there.

Colourful cabins for the permanent residents of Holden

The original bowling alleys of Holden Village

I ended up relaxing in their central square, chatting with some of the other visitors and relaxing more fully now that my hiking was done for the day. I got to enjoy a cup of coffee and was even treated to a shower. I stayed in the square until the dinner bell was rung at which point I got to join in on a fantastic chili dinner, complete with fresh baked cornbread. I learned that everything was sourced as locally as possible and all meals were prepared from scratch by an amazing crew of kitchen staff and volunteers.

After dinner I spoke with a staff member at the registration desk who got me booked onto their morning bus to the ferry landing, about a 30-minute drive further east and down-valley. I’d skip the rest of the detour and go straight to Stehekin where I was meeting my husband and a couple friends for a couple days off trail.

The gathering hall in Holden Village

The central area of the village

I relaxed in the dining hall for a while and then joined the camp for a short evening program of poetry, songs, and readings. It was a really lovely way to close off a rather challenging day. I made my way out to the campground on the edge of town where I set my tent up near Hart Creek. I was relaxed, well-fed, comfortable and feeling more connected and taken care of than I’d felt all week. I had a plan for the next couple days and would then make a decision about whether I’d continue hiking north.


sheila September 12, 2018 - 8:41 am

as usual, I have really enjoyed hearing about your hike and I love the pictures.
I am really sorry to hear about your fall. Did you get a concussion ? How about your poor knees and I am sure your arms and hands got some good scrapes. I am looking forward to seeing you at knitting.

Sheree September 16, 2018 - 1:48 pm

Wow, your photos are amazing! I have always been interested in doing the PCT so I will follow with interest.

Lisa September 18, 2018 - 7:06 am

Let me know if you have any questions about planning your own adventure!


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