After breaking camp the next morning, we set out northwesterly along NF-38 and continued to climb in elevation. Leaving behind the valley of the North Fork Salmon Creek, the general area has a different look than other parts of Washington. I believe in part this is due to the area all being relatively close in elevation, even though we were quickly surpassing 6200′.
Once we passed over Lone Frank Pass, a large, high elevation meadow opened up in front of us. Rain had been off and on on the trek up to this meadow but now became more continual as we made our way over to NF-39.
Heading even further, we made our way to Tiffany Springs Campground, at 6800′ elevation, where a heavy sleet was coming down. The two people camping there were riding out the storm in their vehicles, and one persons tent had already collapsed from the sleet accrual.
Time for a reminder: Even though my trip to Washington was in late June, I knew we were going to be heading up into the mountains were it would definitely be much colder. This sleet storm is perfect example of how unpredictable the weather can be at this high of an elevation. Maybe unpredictable is not the right word to use. See, as a general rule, for every 1000′ feet of elevation gained it should be expected that the temperature will go down about 4 degrees. At 6800′, that comes out to about 27 degrees cooler. A nice 70 degree day becomes a 43 degree day. That’s low enough for hypothermia to quickly set in. If you’re reading this overlanding blog you are probably already prepared well enough to have some cold weather gear in your bags. That being said, I’ve seen plenty of people who travel around the outback with barely any sort of preparation or forethought if something were to happen, like a vehicle breakdown. For me, packing my rig with enough supplies, (food, water, clothing), for a minimum of a three day stay, even for a day trip, gave me peace of mind that I would be returning home to my family.
Back to the show – Not wanting to camp in the sleet, we continued on with our backup plan: Slate Peak. It was getting to be later afternoon by this time and we still had to make our way down the mountain from Tiffany Springs. We followed NF-37 down to Chewuch River, and then west again along Cub Creek Road. This route took us much longer than we expected. We didn’t make it to The Mazama Store until well after sunset.
We pressed on to Slate Peak by way of the sole route, NF-5400. Anyone who has been on this forest road in the daytime knows it has some serious drops offs. So much so that this road is listed in some websites as one of the scariest roads to drive in the U.S. At night, since it’s pitch black beyond the headlights, it’s not as thrilling.
We finally arrived at Meadows Campground late at night, no idea what time. It was windy and pretty damned cold. We entertained the idea of staying for just a short before we moved onto Plan C, Goodell Campground along the Skagit River.
We didn’t roll into Goodell campground until sometime late in the night. Even though exhausted, we managed to get everything set up in just about 30 minutes and were snoring away within another 10.