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 brushy blow-down.  
   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

Jack doing the cooking


Photos courtesy of Ed Bentley, Mel Courtney, Rich Poelker, Dean Wilson