It says "would I do this hike again?". Not the North Slope for sure unless there is some trail maintenance. You do get some sweeping views, nice flora from time to time and it does make a loop but not much else to say altho you know I'll end up with several paragraphs.
After a nice nite, other than all of us getting cold feet in our sleeping bags for some reason, we had a leisurely breakfast before heading off for our various hikes of the day atop this mountain. Wendy wanted to go say hello to Helen
so we headed northwest out of camp. Once again, there are sweeping views as you get to the edges, and there are lots of edges up here. We stopped for a selfie with Wrightson in the far background since we both were up there together in 2010. From this same point we could hear and then see Karl on Helen walking around so we got a couple pictures before heading on our way.
We continued on a nice trail across to the other side of the mountain where we met up with K&K as they were coming down from Helen. They headed off to Spud and we continued toward Italian Spring via the so-called North Slope Trail
except that Wendy decided she was hungry. We stopped so she could fuel up and then she decided she wanted to go up and close with Helen. I waited below as I was still a bit sore from the previous day's climb, I mean hike. I could hear K&K up on Spud Rock and soon Wendy came back and off we went.
Well as soon as we rounded the corner to the other edge of the mountain, the trail blazing began. I think both of us thot it would be short-lived so we pushed thru ferns and over downfall and searched out the missing trail. But this went on for nearly two miles. We were going thru a burn section (I think from 1994). It was quite obvious there hadn't been any trail maintenance for a very long time. By the time we were wanting this to be over, it was really too late to turn back. My hopes were that after Italian Spring that the trail conditions would improve. So we pushed thru trees and brush and over and around deadfall that was on a narrow path of this slope. We were constantly having to tie our shoes :bdh: on top of trying to find cairns and metal blaze markers. Many times we found the markers but they were in the deadfall that we would have to negotiate. Oh, and one time we saw a big pile of bear scat and went "oh ya, bears"... kind of forgot about that.
We did stop to take in the views as you could see quite far today. As we paused for lunch not too far from Italian Spring
in amongst some boulders, I pondered that we were the only ones up here; what would happen if something happened to us? No one would have a clue where to find us. Well that soon passed and we headed on down to Italian Spring. The trail from here on out was not too bad altho there were still moments when we lost the trail. Glad we stopped where we did too because there was nowhere to really sit around the spring area as it was surrounded by ferns and bees. At the spring there are two different trails to take too.
We continued up the hill thru the turning ferns with the light coming thru the forest for the trees. I'm still not fond of this "UP" process again but it wasn't too bad. Toward the end of the climb I was doing my tired dog imitation and hiking from shade to shade
. Now our original goal for the hike was to do this little loop and then head back to camp where we would go to the Devil's Bathtub. Well that plan went out the window so Wendy suggested we hike to Reef Rock, a place she hadn't seen up here. We used the Fire Loop Trail
once we topped out.
Now this plan worked out very well and we had a nice hike on this east side of the mountain. We came to where you could start seeing far yonder and came upon a flat rock area with a big boulder. I thot this was Reef Rock but it wasn't. So I just call it the Eastern Overlook. We had incredible views here including of Rincon Mountain. We checked out the area and then continued on our way to Reef Rock
at 8300 feet. The views were equally awesome from here and you could see the trail we came in on way below between the Park Boundary and the TH saddle.
From here we headed UP again but I knew there wasn't much elevation to be gained on this mountain so we eventually ended up on a nice forest floor and headed toward Mica Meadow
. We hung a right and headed up to the meadow but then realized we didn't want to go that way. The signs are a little confusing up here so you have to decipher them. For instance,
the question became: are we on the trail to Mica Meadow or is this the Mica Meadow Trail? The trail we eventually took is somewhat marked on the topo but not a named trail. So we took that and when it didn't quite match up we got a little worried but once it hung a left, it joined up with the Mica Mountain Trail... at least I think it did. We're not sure if that's a re-route or what.
But from here it was pretty much clear sailing back to camp. We followed a creek, altho those are not named on the topos, and thru some more fern-covered forest floors back to Manning Camp. It wasn't quite what Wendy had in mind for the day and I certainly didn't want to put those kind of miles on but it was quite an adventure and we covered a lot of the top of this mountain. We did encounter water everywhere too.
This mountain top has so much to offer as to its terrain with meadows and rock mountains and overlooks and creeks and all sorts of stuff; definitely worth a two-nite stay. However, please heed our warning, the North Slope Trail is really not and according to Karl, neither is part of the East Slope. It's too bad but if there's not enough traffic to justify the maintenance, I guess it's understandable.
K&K showed up about 1/2 hour later I think. I had quite a few scratches at that and some bruises from the day. K&K covered a lot of the mountain as well. We made ourselves some dinner, Karl kept a nice fire burning or we would have retired much earlier.
2-14-17 Part 1 to Helen's Dome and starting on the North Slope Trail [ youtube video ]
Part 2 North Slope Route not too far from Italian Spring [ youtube video ]
Part 3 Italian Spring via Fire Loop [ youtube video ]
Part 4 Reef Rock to Manning Camp via Mica Meadow [ youtube video ]