Tuscohatchie thru hike

Tuscohatchie thru hike

The plan: Hike from the Talapus Lake Trailhead to the Franklin Falls Trailhead

Day1 in red - Day2 in blue

The planned stats:

Day 1
Day 2

I was hoping for 4 - 4.5 hours hike days. Boy I was wrong...

The reality was: 8 miles each day, 6:00hrs each day. (Measured by both GaiaGPS and a Garmin Fenix)

It all started one day before. Alvaro arrived at our place to spend the night so we could do the drive in the morning. We had a few beers. Okay, I had more than a "few", but nothing warned me of what was to come. Turns out that I had been eating low carb, and keto diets make hangovers orders of magnitude worse.

We went to bed at 23:00 or so, and I was a bit tipsy. I woke up at 5:00 or so and I felt half drunk!? The world was moving. Daniela had decided that she was feeling unwell and was not going to go. I popped in some NSAIDs and hoped for the best and waited a few minutes for the pills to kick in. I asked Daniela if she was sure she wasn't coming; and explained I wanted to ask, but not to pressure her. She decided to come after all.

Jose and Karla made it to our place, we got into two cars and went to the end trailhead. I half-slept most of the way and as soon as we made it to the parking lot, I immediately jumped out and went to puke... Yeah, just the kind of omen you want to have before an adventure...?

Off we go into a single car to our starting trailhead. I had resolved to just bid them adieu and go home; they had their car at the end after all. I told myself that if Daniela was brave enough to go on the trip unwell, I should do the same.

We started hiking and look each other in the eyes. I'm sure we saw the pain in misery deep within the other. "What a duo" became our motto.

The trail from the trailhead up to the ridge dividing Olallie Lake and Pratt Lake was in superb condition. All soft dirt, with few rocks here and there. Some bridges to cross rivers and some boardwalks to cross creeks.

Our first destination was Talapus Lake

Even though we were feeling bad, we made a very good time to Olallie Lake, the second destination. We stopped there to gather the views and source some water. After all we'd need to retrace our steps to head up to Pratt Lake (or look for the climbers trail up the ridge, which we were glad we didn't)

Unfortunately Jose realized his Platypus filter just wouldn't let water through. It wasn't clogged, it did let air through on the reverse direction. We joked an how an email saying that a Sawyer had to rescue them from dehydration due to their faulty Platypus would do the trick to get them a new filter. From then on we knew we had a single filter for everybody.

Our last moment of smiling in the day, right before the technical terrain began

Pratt is a beautiful Lake. It is well worth the trip, I just wish I was mentally prepared for how exhausting it was going to be and how slow we would be moving along the rocky and narrow trail.

Walking along this vegetation was harder than it seems in here

We made a planned stop next to the campgrounds at Pratt so that we could recharge water (and ourselves). Lower Tuscohatchie was very close, but felt distant still.

I think it was about a 20 minute walk to Lower Tuscohatchie. My plan was to do the scramble to the upper one, but I was wasted by then.

We scouted for good campsites. We saw a tent set up in a very inclined slope and thought that if somebody had decided that was good, then there were no more camp spots available there; we quickly decided to turn around and grab the very first one we saw.  It was a cramped site, but at least we would somehow fit in there. Normally it would feel like a cramped 1 tent spot.

I'm happy we made that decision, as we saw several parties, including single persons walk by and then walk back to Pratt defeated by having found nothing.

We lunch, and Leeloo tried to get into the tent to sleep as soon as it was up. We went for a swim at the lake and then came back to share stories. By this moment I decided to have my half avocado. My stomach couldn't decide what to do. One moment it felt like best decision ever, and the next I would feel terrible nausea. After 20 minutes or so I think my stomach accepted it and I could finally get in food. albeit slowly.

Off we went to sleep. Daniela and I feeling unwell; Karla and Jose without sleeping pads; Alvaro without... tent - a sleeping pad that didn't insulate, a synthetic sleeping bag that packed so small a chihuahua could've carried it and it'd still look small, and an emergency bivvy. We thought the air hammock would do a more comfortable night and better insulator. Alas, we had our first rain in two months that night. The air hammock worked like a puddle and collected water and due to the high pressure sounded like a marching band's percussions when the droplets hit it. We had offered at the very least the vestibule for rain protection, and since he didn't crawl in there at night we assumed he was fine. He was... miserably cold.

So happy on a cold morning, not knowing that sauna weather was coming

Both Daniela and I woke up feeling better; Alvaro woke up with an upset stomach; Leeloo and her family seemed to be in good spirits. We used the pit toilet, which happened to be the best backcountry pit toilet I've been to, and headed out towards Melakwa Lake. Mosquitoes were surprisingly good there, considering that Melakwa is the Chinook word for mosquito.

The trail towards Melakwa was obviously recently maintained as we saw tons of trimmed devil's club stems, as well as berry bush stems. It was very rocky and muddy in sections. It was tilted towards the cliff side. The grown vegetation made it seem less steep and less intimidating, but Alvaro saw a rock in the trail he deemed hazardous, threw it to the side and we heard it roll and keep going. We kept going for a bit and then a wasp stung Jose. Daniela once more became the unofficial medic of the trip and treated Jose with NSAIDs, an antihistamine and some lidocaine to avoid itching.

The rest of the trail up to the lake was demoralizing. Incredibly warm; super humid and very steep. Although to be fair, as soon as we started climbing towards the ridge, at least we parted ways with the cliff and the rocky, muddy steps.

Alvaro had decided he'd need 1L of water for the whole trip out, and he had drank most of it by Melakwa. I had planned to stop there to get some water. It was the most beautiful lake we saw and I'm glad we spent some time there filtering water (1 filter for everybody?). We were all soaked in sweat and got cold, so most t-shirts came off to dry.

We head out towards the worst of the trip. Exposed talus and boulder fields that made way through thick, humid bush walls. The areas that offered reprieve from the sun were far between. We averaged less than 1mph in these sections. There were a bunch of very nice switchbacks close to the ridge, but they became rocky loose steps soon after.

We found some avalanche debris that had created its own shade and prolonged its life into August! It was excellent to cool ourselves, and Leeloo seemed to enjoy it the most.

Close to the waterfall viewpoint Leeloo sort of collapsed. Turns out she was just hungry :) She had something to eat and gained some more strength. This was an important learning moment. We need to be more educated in doggy snacking and doggy first aid!

Making the best of a small shade before continuing
The waterfalls offered an emotional boost with their beauty. We've got to hike there to swim in the upper pool there.
Can you spare some shade, bro?

15 minutes or so later the trail got under canopy and it seemed obviously maintained by WTA. Nicely allocated rock steps here and there. I saw people going up and I couldn't feel sorry for them. They seemed so fresh and giggly. They didn't know what was about to hit them :(

We soon crossed Denny Creek in the "Waterslide Falls" and the whole group got a mood boost. Alvaro had taken off his trail runners and put on some sandals; he was able to fully enjoy a long cold feet soak. I soaked my buff in the cold stream and used it as a bandana to cool off.

Soon after we found the sign telling us we were leaving the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. An omen that the trail will come to an end soon!

Alvaro left for the car. I think that either he needed the restroom or we were too slow for him. We crossed Denny Creek over a high bridge as well as below I-90. The end is nigh.

We saw the trailhead and the restroom. Turns out it was a fake trailhead! It was closed or something. The restrooms were closed too. I have never been such disappointment before as I saw right there in both Leeloo's Karla's and Jose's faces. Daniela and I walked, found the restroom and made a stop there. Soon after we headed finally out and were able to find the car quickly thanks to Alvaro sharing the location pin for the car.

This is Daniela at the end of the trail. I hope she remembers this and not how she felt during the grueling parts

We were happy to go out. AC in the car, nice plush seats. Life's good. We have to have a beer now.

Mike didn't make it into the pics. But he came in and we talked a lot. Probably nonsense. It was fun still.

Definitely type 2 fun. It was harder than planned, but in hindsight it seems fun and I'm looking forward to the next adventure.

Mexicans exploring the PNW