The American Ridge Trail: a trail dying a slow death

A Trail on Life Support: the American Ridge Trail

—conditions as of mid-August, 2017.
It’s summer and for me, that always means backpacking. This time out it was to an area I’ve visited many times over the last thirty or thirty five years. The section of trail my shoes bit into on August 9 and 10 this year was a continuation of the piece my grandson, my neighbor Barrett, and I, failed to complete last year. That grueling grind year apparently did in Angelo’s backpacking aspirations for a while, and he declined to go this year. But, I hope he’ll return to it someday.

All that happened last year was that we ran out of water after dragging ourselves up slope after slope in the broiling sun. We’d slogged ever higher and higher to near 7000 feet, only to lose the trail across a grassy hillside and a and loosely

Backpacking the American Ridge Trail in 2016.

My grandson and I on the American Ridge Trail in 2016, with Mt. Rainier in the background.

packed steep peak awaiting us on the far side. I recalled have trouble in the same rugged vicinity several years earlier and the trail had deteriorated noticeably since then. We were already parched and because we had no assurance we’d locate the trail ahead, or reach the next water source (Kettle Lake) before we were really in trouble, we turned around. The water issue caused us to descend off trail in the spot the map called Big Basin. We hiked far down and an hour or more later found water in a forest stream, but when we attempted to follow this creek down to BumpingLake to shortcut our way back to the car, we soon learned the terrain ahead was more vertical than horizontal and overgrown with dense, forbidding ground cover. This left little choice but to camp for the night partway back up and in the morning hike out by another route.

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