ITA recon: North Fork Lick Creek

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For a wonderful wilderness walk, try the trail down the North Fork.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Prelude

I've been on portions of this trail many times but today's focus was specifically on the part that goes down the North Fork. I have been on that section several times; once when suffering and trying desperately to find the tread, twice on ITA projects. But I had never done the whole enchilada, despite it being on The List for a long, long time. Art is leading an ITA project in two weeks to again clear it (It's not too late to join him: CLICK HERE!), so this seemed the perfect time to reconnoiter.

So to give you the lay of the land, let's start with the map, below.

Trailhead
Our day started with two rigs. Dave had departed earlier, drove down to the Split Creek trailhead, parked his truck, and then rode his mountain bike back up to the Duck Lake trailhead. Meanwhile, Art, Tom and I simply drove to the Duck Lake trailhead. And lo and behold, there was Dave, ready to rock. We were on our feet at about 8:15. Cool and smoky.

We set off at a brisk pace and were soon getting smoky, filtered views of this incredible area. And dealing with downfall.

Trailhead

There's Duck Lake down there with Burnside Peak above. In the background on the right, Rain Peak.

Note: Due to the smoky day, you might not appreciate some of the things shown in these pictures (or indeed, even be able to see them). Check out the links for better views.

Trailhead

Looking south at Sawtooth Peak.

Trailhead

The second week of July seems to be a great time to see loads of wildflowers. I didn't take many pictures of the flowers, but this smear of color should give you a glimpse.

Trailhead

We were soon at Hum Saddle. The high peak in the background is South Loon.

From here, we dropped down to the lake, then climbed to the saddle above and left of the lake.

Note: instead of dropping to the lake we did a traverse of this hillside once, but don't recommend it.

Trailhead

Working our way up to the other saddle, looking back now with Hum Saddle on the far right. The peak in the background is Foolhen.

Trailhead

Almost there.

Trailhead

And this is the view from the other saddle, looking north. The peak here is Lost Art. If you know where to look, both Hee and Haw Lakes are visible.

Trailhead
Haw Lake below, with South Loon on the right. On the left are several peaks, with Victor the rightmost of those. Trailhead
We followed the trail across the basin, watered up in the meadow, then proceeded over our third pass of the day to get to the top of the North Fork. Sorry, no photos. But we visited this area last year in clearer weather.
As you drop down from the top of the pass, the trail gets hard to follow. The red track is us, the dotted line is what the map supposes is the trail. Initially, our track was following recently cut logs, and we found a few blazes. Then it pretty much fully disappeared for a bit. Trailhead
Not that there wasn't anything to distract us. This mildly spectacular peak is Hum 4. Trailhead

Apparently, it's 6 more miles to the trailhead?

Dave Beck photo

Trailhead
As we progressed down the hillside we again found good tread that was fairly easy to follow. But at the bottom, the hillside is quite grassy, causing us to lose it again. Note the wandering around; Art did even more wandering while I rested at what I knew to be good trail about where our red line crosses the map line just right of center. Trailhead

From then on, the trail was in surprisingly good shape, despite my fears to the contrary. Yes, there's some brush, and yes, there's some downfall, but it was all quite negotiable.

Not a lot of photos, but it IS spectacular, just filtered between the trees. The other point of interest of which I did not take pictures was all the piles of bear shit. Either there are a lot of them in here, or that one bear has an impressive digestive system (and no respect for our trail)!

Trailhead
And then the trail, still easy to follow, leaves the valley and exits to this view down the Secesh. Almost there, except for the knee-crushing 1800' descent to Split Creek. And note the lack of shade. Trailhead
We regrouped on the Split Creek trail, where Dave tried to drop the group. He needn't have bothered; he got bragging rights for doing the entire loop. Trailhead

Dave's blog

Trailhead

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