Backpacking to Navaho Pass
11 miles roundtrip, 3000′ elevation gain
August 8-9, 2015
Since Maggie was taking ten girls on her 3rd annual girl’s backpacking trip, I decided to try my first solo overnighter a couple of weekends ago. I was originally planning on organizing the 2nd annual guy’s backpacking weekend at the same time, but a weekend later in September seemed to work better for the guys.
Originally I was planning on heading out to a lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness where I expected solitude and several easy peaks to bag, but on Friday night the weather forecast made thunderstorms seem likely. Since I didn’t want to get caught in the storms high above treeline I switched my plans to the more familiar Navaho Pass. I knew that treeline was close to the pass and cover wouldn’t be far away if thunderstorms rolled in. It seems like the forecast is also always the nicest in the Teanaway area which helped me pick Navaho Pass as an alternate.
I dropped Maggie off with the girls and hit I-90 at 8 am headed for the east side of the mountains. I reached the Stafford Creek Trailhead at 10 am and got started down the trail with my McDonald’s breakfast still settling in my stomach (this has become sort of a tradition whenever I do solo outdoor activities). It was a little hotter than I expected as I got started down the trail and my breakfast made me feel a little sluggish. I suppose McDonald’s is better suited for a ski morning than a hiking morning. The hike up to the meadows just below the pass were uneventful, but enjoyable. I covered those 5 miles in about two hours, arriving at the meadows just after noon. I lounged around a while here and enjoyed the solitude while eating lunch.
The weather was perfect at this point with not a cloud and the sky and I began to question the forecast. The ridge going from Navaho Pass to Earl Peak and back down to trail 1369 also looked quite appealing from here and doable. I decided rather than dropping my overnight gear at the meadow, I would carry it on up to the pass with me. I figured if the weather looked good, I could try to traverse that ridge.
I got started on the moonscape-like-trail up the the pass after a nice, long break at 1:30 pm and reached the pass 20 minuted later. I turned left at the pass and ventured over to the first highpoint on the ridge. I took a break here and enjoyed the views of Mount Stuart and a gorgeous basin (Hardscrabble Creek). I could see all the way to (what I think was) Mount Daniel. At this point, the clouds were starting to look gray. I realized I need to learn a little more about weather clouds. I decided to make the conservative decision of turning around, rather than trying to traverse the ridge. In hindsight, the traverse would have been fine as there was no thunder and hardly any rain all night. There is always next time. I made it back to camp at 4, setup, and took a nap before eating dinner. The evening was relaxing and I watched the colors change on the mountains as the cold air crept in the valley. There were no bugs and it got down into the 40’s at night.
Although I remembered at least a few rain drops at night, I awoke to a completely dry tent. I made breakfast and broke camp by 8 am and sped down the trail, making it back to the car an hour and forty-five minutes later. My first solo overnight trip was enjoyable and peaceful at Navaho Pass. I only saw a handful of other day hikers out on the trail and there were only two other groups overnight camping in the vicinity of me. As long as the weather isn’t too hot, this is a great hike for when the forecast is less than ideal in other parts of the Cascades. It seems like the weather forecast is always a little bit nicer in this area.