Mule Trip 2007 July 13 – 15
Yes, it is true: Skihawks do it all. Sometimes,
though, it is nice to get a little help.
This where Jack Gillette and Lori Huston come in. With their
connections to mule outfitters and skills with coordinating opulent
backcountry catering, the Skihawks enjoyed another memorable Mule
Trip. Huge quantity of food, beverage, equipment and camping gear
of Skihawks was distributed into cargo boxes and "H" shaped top packs,
and then carefully mounted on the backs of numerous strong mules.
Two strings of these magnificent critters tied head to tail transported
their burdens over Conrad Meadows to a familiar campsite on the South
Fork of the Tieton River, just east of White Pass. This meadow
shares a stair stepped border with the Goat Rocks Wilderness to the
West. The Skihawk campers walked the same trail, fording two
streams before emerging into the open space of the prime grassland
supporting free ranging cattle. Conrad Meadows continues to be
managed under private ownership while providing an excellent equine
trailhead and access to the trail and wilderness beyond.
After walking about four miles on a level, dusty trail,
all contributed to the mule unloading and camp setup. As darkness
fell on Friday, the mid July air was warm, the food delicious and
the camp file stories amusing.
On Saturday, most folks journeyed two miles up switchbacks
into the Goat Rocks Wilderness to find Surprise Lake. Immediately,
swimmers slipped in, remarking of the surprising warm lake
water. While some stayed to enjoy the tranquil setting and a
little fishing, others continued on the loop trail which traversed the
sub-alpine slopes of the upper Tieton Drainage in search of another,
smaller lake in the higher elevations.
The exploration party found a concealed side trail, which
climbed steely above tree line and into the hidden moraines and flower
fields near the base of the summit blocks of Mt Curtis Gilbert and the
pocket glaciers of the surrounding massif. Although the location
of the lake was not discovered, the stunning scenery there was a worthy
destination in itself.
Continuing on, the group returned to the loop trail and
completed the circuit climbing through numerous patches of windfall and
For Sunday breakfast Skihawks cooked briskets on sticks
and enjoyed the folk singing and guitar playing of Denny, mule
outfitter with a pure folk style and a moustache to die for.
The mule trip is a difficult and taxing event to
produce. We thank Jack and Lori for the heart and soul they put
into this amazing experience. We don’t know if this can be
continued, so we savor the memory and remember forever the Skihawks
2007 Mule Trip. Ed Bentley
Photos courtesy of Ed Bentley, Mel
Courtney, Rich Poelker, Dean Wilson