For her birthday, Danielle asked me to take her camping the following weekend. Pretty much at random I picked a campground from ReserveUSA.com: Chilkoot (also spelled Chilcoot and Chilikoot) near Bass Lake.
MapQuest told us it was a little over 300 miles, and we'd get to the 5 by way of the 126. That takes us fairly close to the closest REI so, on Saturday May 22 '03, we drove south. We bought the Intex Supreme Fast Fill Double inflatable mattress, hats, and some other miscellaneous. That done we drove to the camp site. Due to some poor directions we ended up on the south side of the lake and had to drive back around to get to the north side and our campsite.
Setting up camp was pretty painless. There was a nice fire pit so we made a fire. We cooked miscellaneous canned foods on my stove for dinner. When I had called earlier in the week I was informed that, because of bears, we should either hang our food or bring a bear cannister. The sign at the campground said it was also safe just to leave the food in your car, but that's not very exciting so we attempted to hang our food etc. After much struggling (mostly because the rope is uncomfortable to hold with your hands) we got a bag and counterweight up to where I could touch both with my wrists, making it pretty much useless if a semi-determined bear were to come along. But we were tired so we called it good enough and went to bed.
Evidently no bears came to our camp at night because our food was still hanging in the tree when we woke up. The new inflatable mattress was a great success. I've never been so comfortable in a tent. After a breakfast of oatmeal we drove to town to get some information on the local hiking trails. About half way there, we were surprised to find a small bear on the road, which quickly hurried off. We waited a little bit longer thinking maybe there would be more bears crossing the road, but that didn't happen. In the town we learned there were no real hiking trails nearby. Looking at the forest services' map (which comes folded in such a way that you have to unfold the entire map even if you only want to look at a small section) we located a trailhead twenty-some miles north of where we were.
On our way north we were surprised to see small patches of snow on the side of the road. Several bends later there was even some snow on the road. Up ahead was bigger patch of snow with some cars parked beyond it, which looked like a good place to stop, but we never made it that far. About half way through the patch of snow the car stopped and wouldn't go anymore forwards or backwards. We tried pushing and spinning wheels, which obviously did no good. Shortly afterwards a guy in a Jeep came up behind us and attempted to pass us. They got stuck a few feet further down that we were. While they were getting themselves out, I tried jamming pine cones under the tires, which had exactly no effect at all. The jeep got free and the driver offered to pull us out, but it turned out my hook and his tow rope weren't compatible. He suggested we jack up the car and put some rocks under one of the tires. This worked like a charm, and we backed out of the problem spot.
Given that we couldn't drive to the trailhead, we just parked the car there and started walking along the road. We had a nice walk, seeing very few other people and even fewer cars. After half a mile or so the road become solid snow. A couple miles later, after resting at a noisy creek, we decided to head back for a relaxing afternoon at the campground. We both did some reading, and explored the small river that we could hear from our campsite.
That night we built our camp fire much earlier, and looked to be finishing all our wood. A short distance from our camp I found a small tree that had fallen over and seemed pretty dry. With a little effort I managed to jump on it and break it in half, dragging the thicker half back to our camp fire. There I used our hatchet for something else than making kindling, and it worked out pretty well. Of course it helped that the wood was pretty soft. After that we had a big fire going and more wood than we really needed. While we were eating dinner some deer wandered by, about 100 feet away. We got a good look at one of them before they all ran off. After the previous night's debacle we just put all our food in the car instead of trying to hang it.
Monday morning we packed up all our gear and hiked down to the river once again. We wanted to explore the area some more and started following it south. There was no trail to speak of except for the occasional animal trail. It looked like it must have been a stormy winter because there were many branches on the ground, and at times it was a challenge to stay with the river. Walking through the forest was a wonderful change from the dry areas I usually hike in. The fallen trees provided a great habitat for moss, toad stools, and other fungi. Where we hit the river, and the source of the noise we could hear from our campsite, was a very nice waterfall.
We followed the river south for a while, sometimes right along it, sometimes so far away that we couldn't see it anymore. Where another river joined the one we were following there was another wonderful waterfall, and we took a break there. Further down it became harder to stay close to the river, and after another hour we decided to head back. On the way back we took the 41 all the way to the 101 because it seemed a lot more direct. At home I checked and it's really only 10 miles shorter than taking the 5 to the 126.