August 14, 2013 at 10:26 AM
Cascade Pass Trail open, but expect damage throughout national park
The Cascade Pass Trail in North Cascades National Park remains open despite a weekend road washout, but storm damage to that trail and others in the region remains under assessment by wilderness rangers. Hikers should be prepared for difficult going in places.
For access to Cascade Pass, one of the most popular hikes in the park, hikers must trek an added three miles from a closure point at Milepost 20 on the Cascade River Road, which was washed out by a flood of water and logs during a Sunday evening storm. The Cascade Pass Trail leads to Sahale Arm, Sahale Glacier and Stehekin backcountry such as Horseshoe Basin.
The washout created a chasm 60 feet wide and 15 feet deep where Boston Creek crosses the gravel road, preventing 70 hikers and their vehicles from exiting the area overnight and through most of Monday. They were able to drive out late Monday afternoon after National Park Service employees built a temporary gravel driving path. The temporary path is not considered reliable for use by other motorists, however.
Hikers are being allowed to park at the Eldorado Creek parking area and walk over the temporary path, said Rick Acosta, information officer for the national park. A park service engineer is evaluating a permanent fix, but it’s too soon to guess how long the road closure might last, Acosta said. No other repair work is going on yet, he said.
The Sunday storms and others over the weekend likely caused other damage in the park that hasn’t all been reported or evaluated. One of the trapped hikers, Victoria Jurgens, reported of her Sunday hike back to the Cascade Pass Trailhead: “The water was running down the trail so hard that it was sloshing up over the tops of my boots! It was pretty wild…We encountered a fresh rock slide after we crossed over Cascade Pass, and the water was coming down in torrents.” (See her full account here.)
Cascade Pass wasn’t the only area slammed by storms. Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, remains closed indefinitely after a series of mudslides west of Rainy Pass (details here), and lightning was a hazard across the region. Doug Cantwell, a Seattle kayaker (and my brother) with a group camped on Ross Lake, reported, “Saturday night we all went out on the dock at Big Beaver and watched a light show that was way more exciting than last year’s Perseid shower….including two strikes on adjacent hilltops that resulted in instant fires. The ensuing downpour put them out, however.”
Acosta said wilderness rangers are starting to assess trail damage throughout the park. “There’s probably some trail damage in other locations, but it’s been only three days since a major event and this is huge country.”
If you’re planning a hiking trip in North Cascades National Park, you can check for trail reports by phoning the Wilderness Information Center at 360-854-7245 or checking the park website.
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