“Last trip without snow for Mr H or so different from last week…””
Little Bulger (5111', p631')
Via Dingford Creek trail (FST 1005) and Myrtle Lake
Nov 8, 2012
Carla Schauble, Gabriel Deal, Jack and Franklin Bradshaw
Weather: partial sun, below freeze in morn. Snow level at c3100, 2" on summit
Forecasts are predicting snow on Friday and big snow dump Sunday. Maybe this will be the last hike before the winter snow hits and remains. Not to be confused with fall snow that comes and goes to falsely have you thinking time to pull out the skis. Several options were floating around. Carla saved the idea of Blanca for Matt and the weekend. Out of all the options Little Bulger was the day’s winner. Little Bulger appeared to be a shorter trip. I was contemplating doing it before the Bulger Party, but became distracted.
Will we get past Cascade Pass
Early enough to have no traffic, we met and loaded into one car. Driving up the Snoqualmie Middle Fork in the dark, I missed some of the familiar landmarks. After the Mailbox trail parking lot the road degraded to ever increasing potholes. The going became much slower, though no less entertaining. A brief stop to the Middle Fork Campground and onward to the road in better condition. At Dingford creek the road is gated. Last time I was this far the road went all the way to the Dutch Miller Gap trailhead now 7.1 miles further up road.
It was cold and I wasn’t sure about the day. I had about everything but the kitchen sink (and my lunch) in the pack as I would for the next several trips. After warm temperatures and very light overnight packs, it was time to get back in condition for heavier winter packs. After checking out the posts at the trailhead (7:25a, c1420’) we headed up the wet rock and rooty Dingford Creek trail. Up and up switchbacks to a leveling trail at c2400’. No water finding issues this time of year as creeks crossed or were the trail.
A waterfall flowing over a slab (Pumpkinseed Creek), more crossings, past Goat Creek and the climbers path to Sorcery (1.8m, c2600’, 1hr). In 2.7 large timbered miles the fork in the trail (1h25m, c2920’). Right to Hester lake and Mt Price and our route left to Myrtle Lake and Little Bulger. The trail was easy, not too steep, not too flat, but at times slippery all the way to flattening at Myrtle Lake.
Jack had been taunting us by stopping ahead of us and howling… we hear you Jack… Now in the snow he was trying to be one with it.
Crossing the creek was easy enough in my freshly greased boots. A slippery log and a few slippery rocks with water running over their tops. Another inch of water would have spiced it up (2h28m, 4.7m, c3790’)
Myrtle Lake was the formal start of severe shutter delay. Three of us were struck hard by it. Jack didn’t come to our rescue. Totally oblivious to our trek stopping plight, Jack found a flip flop and proceeded to have a great time making it his favorite toy. The lake was glassy smooth, grasses growing out them bent back to return to their roots. Frozen patches and surrounded by white snow covered trees. Above and NW vertical rock, treed ridge and two fang spires on Little Bulger’s ridge.
We tried and tried to continue, but the full effects of shutter delay had us even to our knees. One by one we pulled away, then up the trail struck again.
Finally, we extracted ourselves back to the darkness viewless woods. Wheh! Some logs, a webbed field of exposed cedar roots, and best a trail. Looking for a place to head up to the ridge we stayed on the trail as it rose on the west side of the creek.
Now a few inches of snow on the trail making for slippery footing. A sunny dry patch for a nice place to take a food break. The several shutter delay attack had taken a toll on us. Up a few switchbacks and past a scenic waterfall the trail flattened more and to our left looked like a perfect spot to leave the trail and head to the ridge (5.4m, c4200’, 3h30m). The going up was simple cascade brushwhacking. Followed a creek to avoid the brush, then worked up weaknesses.
Rock features to our south to avoid, then a short patch of brush led us to a long sloping slab with an inch or two of snow (c4550’). Yikes, we walked gingerly hoping for traction. There’d be no stopping if we started sliding.
Rising like a Mayan ruin from the trees two spires were impressive, very impressive.
We’d gone north of the peak and gained the ridge half way between the fang towers and the summit (5.8m, c4995’). The view was stunning. The north side of the ridge was a cliff with impressive and tall vertical cliffed ridge running north.
A boulder field needed to be negotiated to get to the final slabs leading to the summit.
Little Bulger summit is a broad round rock slab with a cliff on its NW side, a few small trees and views in all directions (5.9m, 5111’, 12:00, 4h35m).
A couple inches of snow and no sign of a cairn or summit register. I found a few stones and made a small cairn for a register tube under a little tree on the high point.
After some checking out the general area and enjoying the warm sunshine, we ventured northward around the east side of the two ridge towers. Looked like it’d be fun climbing.
A slippery navigation brought us back to the ridge on the north end of the spires. I started up the ridge, a dead end, then another route option. The others had not followed, so I returned saving these for another adventure.
Carla told us it was 3:00. YIKES! How’d it get so late. We had so little time before dark. Time to get a move on. Down, intersecting our up trail. Then the Myrtle Lake trail. Down a few swtichbacks and the waterfall.
Careful across the exposed cedar roots and a creek. Crawling over a log I looked at my watch to see it was only 2:35. LOL, Carla had not reset her watch to Standard Time. Whew! About 6 miles out… thinking, thinking… yeah, we would be out right about dark.
Shutter delay was still afflicting Carla, like an addiction she wanted a view spot across the lake. We all had a shutter delay relapse, luckily we only needed a taste to satisfy.
Jack again made use of the flip flop having more fun than I’ve seen him have all day.
Passing the lake view we resisted succumbing once again to the sirens call. Carla, Jack and I were able to pull away. As we left, it looked like Gabriel was trapped and was not being released (just his shutter was released…). The trail down seemed twice as long. It was warmer as we dropped below snow level (c3100’). Still wet and slippery, creeks to cross, slippery roots and a break at the cutoff to Hester Lake (9.5m, c2900’, 2h53 from leaving summit).
Three miles to go. Wet, dank, rich greens. The feel of deep woods. The taste of it to the senses different from the bright summers. As long as I’m dry and wet, I enjoy the feel of the different seasons. Soon the wetness, browns and green underbrush would morph to a covering of white. This year autumn has been a different experience. Warm and colorful, then cold and wet.
I was waiting for the switchbacks to indicate the final drop to the road. Mile markers hints help to break up sections. The path to Sorcery, Goat creek, Pumpkinseed creek and the switchbacks.
The woods were getting dark and no sign of the trailhead. The trail just starting to get hard to see, when ahead the trailhead board could be seen, then the opening of the road. Perfect timing, not another minute of “daylight”. We’d filled the whole day. It’s all about timing, right?
Little Bulger was a wonderful surprise. Sometimes the lower peaks are treed and just a brushwhack up, sometimes there are gems like this one that present a variety of easy hiking and brush, easy navigation and stunning views to mountain features I didn’t know were there. I’ll be going back with rope and pro.
Thanks Carla and Gabriel (and Jack too) for getting me out on a work day. Nicer walking in the woods and enjoying the sun from a summit than thinking about it from an office.
Thanks for reading, and happy trails,
Ascent: 5.9m, +3720', 4h35m
Descent: 6.3m, +180/-3900', 4h9m
Total: 12.2m, +/-3900', 9h31m
Gear: Gators, warm gloves and hat
Copyright 2012, FWB, all rights reserved