PCT Round Two Warmup – Emerald Park

— December 11, 2013

Trail to Emerald Park - North Cascades
I feed Blaze a worm. She’s still got excellent worm eating form. Photo by Brett Fisher.
July 5 – 6, 2013

Blaze shows up late morning. She must’ve run up the hill from Lucerne. I wasn’t expecting her until after lunch. The Luck Dragon is happy to see another member of the pack. She and Blaze tear around the campground for a bit. Then it’s time to walk.

We head back around the north end of Domke Lake. We take a break and refill water at a creek and then start our ascent. Emerald Park is 4,300 feet in elevation above the trailhead in Lucerne, which puts it about 3,200 feet above us. Five miles and 3,200 feet to climb. Here we go.

Blaze and I haven’t walked trail together since she left the Pacific Crest Trail near Donner Pass almost a year ago. We talk. We catch up. We reminisce about the PCT. We laugh.

As we climb, we get into the area burnt in the 2007 fire. Now and then, we hear trees crashing down around us. This is unnerving. Frequently, we climb over or find a way around burnt trees that have fallen across the trail. It’s a relief when we clear the burnt area and walk under living trees. As the trail cuts and climbs west we see Domke Lake below us, and Lake Chelan to the east behind Domke Mountain. This is a climb with amazing views.

At a water break by a creek in shade, I feed Blaze worms. She likes them. I took to feeding my daughters worms last year on the PCT. Gummy worms, that is. She even remembers good worm eating technique. We learned this from birds. One holds the worm in beak or mouth, shake it well, then chew and swallow.

There are plenty of seasonal streams crossing the trail. In early July, water is not a problem for us on the way to Emerald Park.

We continue our ascent. We come to a well used camping area and debate whether this is Emerald Park. Neither of us has been here before. Everyone we talked to said the views are amazing at Emerald Park and we’d find several obvious camping areas. This spot has only one area for camping and no views. We decide it’s not Emerald Park and hike on.

The sun starts to set and we start to encounter small patches of snow. For a stretch, the trail becomes both a creek filled by snow melt and the only place to walk. Blaze, the Luck Dragon, and I are getting tired. We start talking about just finding a relatively flat place and camping. We’ve got to be close. We decide to hike just a little longer.

Then we are there in the midst of peaks surrounding an emerald green valley. Definitely worth the climb.

Trail to Emerald Park 2 - North Cascades
Look closely. You can see Domke Lake down there in front of Domke Mountain. We started out way down there. Photo by Brett Fisher.
Trail to Emerald Park 3 - North Cascades
Dusk and we’re still looking for Emerald Park and camp. Photo by Brett Fisher.

Emerald Park

We set up camp as it gets dark. Mosquitoes come out. The Luck Dragon chases after something and won’t call off of it. I go after the Luck Dragon. This is not typical behavior for her. Then she’s trying to go up a tree after whatever it is. I settle her down in a stay and peer up the tree. A porcupine peers back. Maybe the dog thought it was some kind of large squirrel. We’re lucky she didn’t tangle with it. She would be an unhappy trail dog until we got to a vet to pull porcupine quills out.

It starts to get cold. So in addition to setting up tarps and tents, cooking and eating, and securing our Ursaks so bears don’t get our food, we build a small campfire. I’m not much of a campfire person in the backcountry. Campfires are mostly a psychological thing. Maybe a human history, only a few thousand years removed from hunting and gathering but still hard wired in us sort of thing. If you need to get warm, don’t build a fire. Eat something and get in your sleeping bag. But we enjoy this small fire and the little warmth and comfort it provides on this cold night.

In the morning, we enjoy Emerald Park’s stunning panorama. Blaze tells me one of Dances With Lizards favorite lakes is above us on one of these peaks. Maybe we’ll see it another time.

I’ve got a ferry to Chelan to catch that leaves early afternoon and eight miles to hike to get to it before then. Time to leave. The hike out becomes sore then miserable walking. At each water stop, I use cold water in my water bottles and in my Platy bottle as cold packs on my knees.

By the time I finish the hike out, my knees are clearly telling me there will be no finishing the Pacific Crest Trail this year. Just like that. Done again.

Guess I’ll go to Madagascar with my wife instead.

Day 6-7: 14 miles hiked. Camped at Emerald Park and hiked out to Lucerne the next day.

Emerald Park - North Cascades
Emerald park in the morning. Photo by Brett Fisher.
Emerald Park 2 - North Cascades
Blaze and the Luck Dragon in Emerald Park. Photo by Brett Fisher.
Emerald Park 3 - North Cascades
Peaks above Emerald Park. We definitely earned the view. Photo by Brett Fisher.