Slate Peak and Cle Elum River – Camp – June 2018

With a weekend open for camping, my buddy and I planned on a visit to the Colville area but at the last minute decided on a alternate plan. Leaving the Greater Seattle area after work on Friday, with all it’s typical traffic, the road took me East over Snoqualamie Pass to the area north of Cle Elum once again. First pit stop was a late evening camp as we were going to continue on further north the next day.

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We camped along Cle Elum River at a spot we’ve previously scouted when travelling in this area. I arrived right at around sunset while my buddy, Dana, had arrived earlier in the day. It was the perfect chilly pacific northwest evening: overcast, with a slight hint of rain. It was quiet and peaceful, with the nearby river burbling. Great for sleeping in a CVT roof top tent or ARB awning tent. Precipitous mountains directly to the east and west with the lower hills covered in the bright green foliage of the delayed spring that arrives this time of year at around 3380′.

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The next day began as even more overcast, with some drizzly rain, but soon cleared up. We broke camp and continued on towards our next destination, Slate Peak. It was about 174 miles from our spot in Cle Elum, so the drive along WA Route 97, WA Route 153 and then WA Route 20 took a few hours. The scenery in this central part of Washington is something to be relished as it’s reminiscent of an Irish countryside.

This region, North Cascades National Park, is more remote than the rest of Washington state, with a very real chance of encountering Grizzly Bears, Moose and Wolf packs. Best to keep an awareness of your surroundings while out this way and keep all food in the vehicle or in bear-resistant coolers.

After stopping at the famous Mazama Store for supplies, we followed 9140 along the Methow River, and connected up with NF-5400, which quickly ascends in elevation. This road to Slate Peak is in great condition with very few trouble spots after the winter melt off. Most any vehicle can make it up. Be aware though that this road is cut into the mountainside and the drop off is nearly vertical.

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We made it as far as Hart’s Pass Campground, where the snow became so deep, (it’s 6223′ elevation), that it covered the trail leading to Slate Peak proper. We had hoped to camp at Meadows Campground, but that trail (NF-500) was also snow bound. Give it another couple of weeks and both trails should be open.

Coming back down the mountain we found an ideal spot for the evening camp.

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That smokey fog in the pictures? That’s pebble snow. At 5400′ in the North Cascades snow is a very real possibility in early June. This snow began at about 6pm and except for a few minutes here and there, just didn’t stop. Made me very glad that I always bring some cold weather gear: heavy winter parka, wool army blanket, gloves, hat and so on. We stoked a fire and sipped on Jameson whiskey to keep warm. The snow didn’t stop us from having a great camp meal: chili dogs!

 

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The next morning we made a hearty breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese muffins. After taking our time breaking down camp, we headed back down the mountain in the sunshine.

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We took Highway 20 west as it’s recently been reopened after the conclusion of the winter avalanche season. It’s by far one of the most stunning routes one can take over the Cascade Mountains.

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