Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Backpacking: Copper Ridge Loop in North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park 

Last summer, Cody and I got a small taste of Copper Ridge Loop, which made us want to complete the whole loop this summer. We had backpacked to Egg Lake last year and hiked out to Copper Mountain Lookout, but since we couldn't get another night on the loop, we opted to hike out and back (you can read about last summer's trek here). But this spring, I submitted for the North Cascades Lottery System again and secured us a 2 night permit for the whole loop. Best part about the permits I scored were that it was over Labor Day weekend and we didn't have to use any vacation days, whoop whoop!

Trail Stats:

Dates hiked: September 1-3, 2018
Miles hiked: 35 miles (give or take)
Elevation Gain: 9560 ft (give or take)
Campsites we stayed at: US Cabin Camp & Copper Lake
Trailhead: Hannegan Pass
Who went: Cody, Kaelee, Brooke, and me
Permits Needed: Yes, you can submit for them early or try for a walk-up permit
Ranger Station we stopped at: Glacier Public Service Center

Saturday September 1, 2018

Hannegan Pass to US Cabin Camp 

10.1 Miles, 1900 ft gain, and 2400 ft loss

We got to trailhead around 9 am and hit the trail around 9:30 AM and made it to US Cabin Camp by 4:00 PM that day. This was our easiest day and lowest miles. Besides our uphill climb from trailhead to the pass, everything was pretty much downhill to our campsite that first day. We ate lunch at the pass and actually ran into a ranger who was just out hiking for the day, checking permits, and chatting with hikers. We chatted with him for a lil bit, but he was a little discouraging when he saw our itinerary. Thanks for giving us ease of mind of what we were in for buddy! At the end, we came, we saw, we conquered! (Throw in a little misery too lol) We knew we had a tough itinerary, but we didn't need a stranger to reconfirm what we were in for.

Once we got to US Cabin Camp, we chose a camp that was next to the river and secluded. This campground is pretty deep in the forest with minimal views, still gorgeous though. We kicked back, watched a slug, ate dinner, tried to catch sunset, and then struggled to hang our bear bags. Our feet were tired, but they didn't know what was to come the following days...

Fresh feet just starting the trail!
 So apparently we are a bit messy
We made a slug friend our first night!
Chilliwack River
 US Cabin Camp
Copper Mountain 

Sunday September 2, 2018

US Cabin Camp to Copper Lake

12.75 miles, 4350 ft gain, and 1825 ft loss

This was our longest day on trail and all of us felt it. We left US Cabin Camp around 8:00 AM and got to Copper Lake around 7:30 PM that night (Kaelee got there 1.5 hrs faster than us...). The first part of the trail was easy peasy. 20 minutes after leaving camp, you hit the cable car crossing. Which is this pulley cable car that helps you cross the river. This was one of the highlights of the day and something I had been looking forward to! Pulling the cable car was harder than we expected. After some photos and laughs we were on our way. Next highlight on trail was the suspension bridge. It was short but also slightly terrifying to cross.

After the bridge we had a river to ford, in which we ran into some friends here coming the opposite way of the loop, and decided to stop for lunch and catch up with them. We spent over an hour eating lunch and chatting with buff Catherine and her friend Holden. Pretty cool to be able to grab lunch with friends and also get trail info from them since we were headed where they came from! They played down how hard it was going to get though.... cuz after lunch it was a straight uphill march for hours...

Over the course of the trip, there were 2 stretches where I was beyond miserable. This was one of them. First came the switchbacks, and once you notice the switchbacks stop, it just kept going uphill! Hiking for 6+ hrs uphill is not the most enjoyable haha. Kaelee made it to camp way earlier than us, and she started radioing us, checking where we were. She was getting bored, while we were trudging miserably on.

Once we got to Copper Lake, it was cold and started getting dark pretty fast. We didn't have time to do much besides set up camp, make dinner, and go to bed. We were all so exhausted. None of us were looking forward to the next day.
Thank you Kaelee for the photo!
Preparing to ride in the cable car
Brooke and Kaelee in the cable car
Weight capacity 
Cody and my turn!
How close are we?
Pretty rivers on trail 
Suspension bridge crossing 
and then we ran into friends!
Cody and Brooke making their way up to the ridge 
The bushes were full of blueberries and huckleberries!
North Cascades National Park 
Me thinking, are we there yet?

Monday September 3, 2018

Copper Lake to Hannegan Pass Trailhead

11.4 miles 2440 ft gain, and 4590 ft loss

On our last morning, we decided to pack up camp, hike 1+ miles to the fire lookout, then eat breakfast. We probably should have just eaten breakfast right when we woke up because we were all miserable once we got to the lookout. We left Copper Lake around 7:00 AM and got back to trailhead around 4:00 PM. The elevation gain up to the lookout was pretty hard, then it was a lot of up and down, and then just down.

You know how I said there were 2 stretches on this trip I was beyond miserable? Well misery set in on our hike out, when we thought we were closer to trailhead than we were. We pretty much just wanted to be off trail and back to the car at this point. As we were hiking downhill, I made the mistake of asking this couple, who were coming the opposite way, how much further the trailhead was. The lady happily looked at us and said, "Oh I think about 20 min!" Well her 20 minutes took us over an hour to get too. All of our feet felt like they were going to fall off. My toes hurt the most from jamming forward in my boot going downhill. But we all finally made it to trailhead in one piece! Hooray!

The views were slightly socked in on our last day, which was supposed to be the best views. But the entire hike was beautiful nonetheless. Overall, we all conquered Copper Ridge Loop, had sore feet, and made it home in one piece. Another great backpacking trip with great company.

Until next time North Cascades!

Campsite #2: Copper Lake 
The glorious scenic compost toilet at Copper Lake 
Brooke looking back at Copper Lake 
Copper Lake 
No views at Copper Mountain Fire Lookout
Shuksan was playing peekaboo
Cody stoked on getting off trail!
Almost to Egg Lake 
Brooke and Cody making their way up trail 


Tip 1: If I were to do this hike again, I think it would be more enjoyable done in a 3 night/4 day trek rather than a 2 night thing.

Tip 2: no bear canister needed. They have bear lockers at the campsite or you hang your food.

Tip 3: The campsites are pretty small, so if you submit for permits ahead of time, it is easier to secure permits if you have a group of 4 or smaller.

Here is Kaelee's write-up on the trip!

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