Day 165 – Stehekin to Maple Creek – 10 miles

IMG_1445It rained off and on this morning, as we expected, but when we boarded the afternoon shuttle for the trailhead the sun was actually shining and we could see streaks of blue sky.  We stopped briefly at the bakery – not open today, but they left some day-old goods in their gazebo under the honor system and we loaded up for the trip north.  From there the bus took us by the ranch to pick up a group of day hikers and then cruised up to the trailhead.  We’d hoped to see a few other hikers waiting to come into town but no one was there.  With the government shutdown the National Park shuttles stop running in two days and it’s a 12-mile walk into town.  Not good news for hikers…

IMG_1447This marked our official entry into North Cascades National Park, our last park along the way.  We followed the Stehekin River a few miles upstream, crossing the many creeks that feed into it on fairly gentle terrain.  The trail was a little rocky and muddy in a few places but in much better shape overall than I’d expected from days of heavy rain. We reached the Bridge Creek backcountry camp – lots of nice sites with picnic tables – and turned east to follow Bridge Creek upstream.  The peaks of the ridges came into view around us, all coated with snow.  The foliage has turned a little, too – not the brilliant reds and oranges we’re used to, but a lovely yellow splashed with brighter colors.  Winter is coming…  We passed the North Fork backcountry camp, having made great time so far, and headed on to Maple Creek to take advantage of the remaining daylight.  We weren’t sure if there would be a good campsite nearby but there was a clear knoll just before the water. A good thing, too, because it was getting noticeably cooler. We wasted no time setting up – grateful that it was dry as we did so – and jumped into our bags. Tomorrow we’ll cross Hwy 20 at Rainy Pass, one of our potential bail-out points if the weather or snow are too much to handle. So far it’s been standard hiking but I know we’ll reach snow level sometime tomorrow.IMG_1446

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