Trip report: Trans-Kalmiopsis Route 2015

Trip report: Trans-Kalmiopsis Route 2015

Babyfoot to Vulcan Lake:

You can’t just walk away

trip report by Gabe Howe

10 September 2015 | Brookings, OR — Party of five reached Babyfoot Lake by 9am on Monday, September 7th. From there we descended just over one mile to Babyfoot Lake and continued onto the Kalmiopsis Rim Trail 1124, where we headed south.

Rim trail was logged and brushed recently, in good shape to just south of junction with Babyfoot Lake Rim Trail 1126. Kalmiopsis Rim Trail was brushy from there to junction with Emily Cabin Trail 1129. Headed west on 1129 to 1131 junction and rested at Bailey Cabin and drank cold, sweet water from the spring there.

Want to backpack through the Kalmiopsis? Join us there this September 24 – 29

From there we managed the steep descent to Carter Creek along Bailey Mountain Trail 1109, took another water break, and forged on to Blake’s Bar where we forded the Chetco River, and hiked all the way to a small beach just off 1109 and upstream of Slide Creek:

My wife, Jill, was there, as well as a few friends: Ethan, Kate and Tom. As the sun descended, I got a much needed swim in the Chetco and was reminded that September is the perfect month to be in the Kalmiopsis.

That evening we heard the loud, eerie crack of a falling snag not far from our campsite.

The next morning we left the beach by 8am, hopped onto Upper Chetco Trail 1102, and reached Taggart’s Bar by afternoon. We lounged there for a long time, soaking in the shade of broad leaf trees that loom over small beaches against a sweet little swimming hole. The water was sublime:

Late in the afternoon we headed west on 1102 to Box Canyon. Only a handful of people will ever know how much work this section of the route took to restore. Sure, you can see the thousands of logs bucked by old fashioned crosscuts, and left to rest in pieces on the side of the trail. But only a few of us ever saw the jackstrawed ceanothus and tanoak jungle that had completely consumed these sections.

That evening Kate had a lot of questions about the Kalmiopsis. She expects me to have good answers, given how much time I’ve spent in, around, and thinking about this forsaken corner of Oregon. But I don’t really have much.

On the ascent out of Box Canyon, we took a break at Upper Mosquito Bog, and another at the junction with Johnson Butte Trail 1110, where we started heading north. Kate had more questions.

“Did you ever consider walking away?” she asked, referring to the annual cycles of brush and windthrow SMC crews faced to restore the route, and continue to face to keep it open.

“No,” I told her, “It never crossed my mind.” I explained that at first, I didn’t know how much work it would take. “I thought we’d come through it once and be done.”

“Gabe!” she gasped, laughing at my ignorance.

“You can’t just say you’re going to do something and not do it,” I told her.

“People do all the time,” she said.

I pointed to a stack of tanoak logs resting alongside the trail, logs that have been cut by me and my crews. “And just do all this work in vain?” I asked. “No way.”

We reached Vulcan Lake Trailhead by about 2pm, where our shuttle driver was waiting with cold beverages on ice.

That elevation profile on those rugged, rocky trails was a challenge for me in that amount of time, and it would have been really nice to just lounge at Taggart’s Bar, take an extra day, or two. And I could have done that. I could have just walked away.

But I didn’t walk away from the hike for the same reason I never walked away from the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route. You can’t just say you’re going to do something and not do it.

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