Now out of the Recreational brush
and on an actual trail, I decided to keep going until nightfall and find a good camp spot hopefully near water. The trail looked well traveled and semi-recently maintained- cut back and wide enough for two. It was also cairned heavily along the way. The old topo and the posted route would have kept me off of this easy path and in the thickets higher up.
I made it to the first unnamed creek in no time and found it trickling and still holding some nice pools. I contemplated camping here but thought with the light left and the trail so hospitable, I would press my luck at the next creek over. Unfortunately the trail began petering out as it continued up and along the ridge. By keeping my feet in the high grass I was sometimes able to make out the overgrown trail but the further along I went, the more it disappeared. At the point where route, map, and path all dictated a downward commitment, it was just following drainage courses down the steep hillside. A scramble would be too nice of a word for what ensued. I was trying to keep on the stable rocks but many turned on me trying to goad me into following them on what they touted as a faster path. I gave up persisting in the correct path, even as random cairns appeared and I skied down random old waterways. I can't imagine attempting an upward assault on this side of the hill. The light was fading fast but I could see the water steadily growing closer. I paused a few times to reassure my mind I was just overexerted and not panicking. I finally made it down on my own terms and well off any map lines that entered downstream. The good thing was I had spotted a great pool that looked like it had a small beach on the way down, so I hiked a hair upstream further to check it out. With a little rock rooting, I made a great bed in the soft silt two feet off the water and still had room for a small fire ring. I gathered a little dry wood from the immediate area in the almost dark, and lit up my accommodations to begin dinner and to ward off the early animals visitors. A private party creek dip after dinner and I was ready for the moon to see me to sleep.
The next morning I woke to the buzzing of yellow jackets quite interested in the leaves of the tree next to me. I stayed brave in my bag for as long as I could but then figured it was morning enough to begin breakfast on the other side of my pool. I got going again shortly after and decided to stay in the creek for as long as I could, giving up on the route completely. Still no animals but a fair amount of tracks including bear in the soft soil.
After rock hopping a ways, I came to the confluence (I really like saying this word for some reason- really, it's on my fun list of words I try to insert it all the time into everyday conversations) at the real Horsethief Canyon and found a decent waterfall that told my backpacked self that I shall not pass, so I had to back track a smidge and get up the hill and around.
More ghost cairns appeared in drainage shoots down the other side until I got to the creek and what the old topo iconed as the Algonquin Trail
beginning. With a little searching I found a trail and cairns popped up everywhere as I walked in the tall grass between the creek beds. Near an old pen fence I lost it and moved towards the main creek where I gave up again trying to regain it. I headed downstream admiring the much prettier surroundings and better waterflow and pools. I saw that the mapped route climbed out again before the next...confluence and figured it was probably due to another unnavigable fall, so I refilled my water and looked and found the way out. The detour switchbacks weren't bad and were quite short and in no time I was close to the creek again and next to the old mining cabin. The creek pools got larger and deeper below as I made my way onto the old road along side. I was excited to see the road in the distance thinking my footsteps would be easier until I was actually on it and the catclaw began to thorn rape my legs. Halfway through the unshaded and unseasonably hot "trail," I joked out loud, "Well, Michael, maybe we should turn around and go back," and that was when the only other hiker of the trip, relaxing on the creek below heard and hailed up to me and my hiking partner. I thought about shouting ahead, "What? No you keep going I'm going to talk to this guy and then catch up," but the many times being caught talking to myself on seemingly empty grocery isles has weaned me (us) of that prideful behavior.
We shouted for awhile, about where I had come from, and then him telling me he had tried the Algonquin with his wife from the top only to lose the trail, have to set up camp and then give in and hike back out. He mentioned some catclaw but the ones still holding me in their embrace all the while during our discussion assured me this man had no idea what real catclaw love was.
I struggled free and plodded on and was refreshed to see Poland Creek coming into view. The last part of the old road that hovers over Poland seems immune to overgrowth and a nice flat camp spot can be found. I hiked down, took off my heavy pack and rolled my tattered pad out under a rock outcrop for some napping. I woke to find I still had 3hrs before I should see my Big Dipper companions so I left a note and my large pack and small packed it down to the confluence and large pool I had passed above. Poland was almost completely fry until this feed hit but the deeper pools still held strong. I got into the water found a nice submerged seat and continued my read in All The Pretty Horses (man as macho as that book can be that title seems uber-gay out loud) for a few hours until I heard the brother-in-law's voice on the ziplocked 2-way.
He made it to me and I found out everyone had canceled except his mentor kid (Mentee). It was still ok since neither of them had been to the Dipper
before so I led them on down without too much frustration.
The long swim had turned into what we called the poop channel ("All poop, All the time") and we were able to wade through it. The stinky mud wanted our shoes as souvenirs, especially the part towards the end that had no water but still sunk you in a good foot. Black and sloppy, our slippery steps continued the rest of the short way to the now just trickling fall. To my great surprise, the Dipper was only down maybe 6 inches which is nothing to for the depth that lies beneath. The water wasn't as cold as it was in April but it was still chilly out of the sun. We stayed for a goodish amount of time and then hiked back so that we could make it to the climb out before 6:30 so we weren't rock hopping by flashlight. I was saddened to see that even the trail to the creek here was thorny, of course I didn't care at this point because my damage was already done. We made it up in 50 minutes with lights on the last half, then drove down the hill for home and In and Out.