Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Tungsten Mine to Horseshoe Basin / 邊界步道

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness by the Canadian border is part of the vast Pacific Northwest Trail network. Notable among outdoor enthusiasts, Tungsten Mine through to Horseshoe Basin offers some of Washington State’s captivating landscape.

Bauerman Ridge by Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness
Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness: Bauerman Ridge

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten at a Glance

Boundary Slam = Wolframite Mountain + Bauerman Ridge + Arnold Peak + Horseshoe Mountain
Environs = Teapot Dome + Haig Mountain + Rock Mountain 7641 + Armstrong Mountain SE Peak + Pick Peak + Topaz Mountain

邊界滿貫=鎢錳鐵山+鮑爾曼脊+阿諾德峯+馬蹄山
周圍地區=茶壺巨蛋+海格山+石山+阿姆斯壯山東南峯+皮克峯+黃晶山

Access: Cathedral Driveway Trailhead 
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 4280′-8137′
Gear: none
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

September 1-4, 2017

OverviewDay 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Day 1 – Friday, September 1
Approach to Tungsten Mine
Night 1 – Trail #534 by Cinch Creek

Day 2 – Saturday, September 2
Wolframite Mountain + Bauerman Ridge + Teapot Dome
Night 2 – Teapot Lake

Day 3 – Sunday, September 3
Haig Mountain + Rock Mountain 7641 + Armstrong Mountain SE Peak + Arnold Peak
Night 3 – Sunny Pass

Day 4 – Monday, September 4
Horseshoe Mountain + Pick Peak + Topaz Mountain
Exit


Day 1

Approach to Tungsten Mine

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness: The Preface

The two things I did on the Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness had worked out well. First, I made my meals and only ate freeze-dry food for dinner. Since we’d spend most of the time on the beaten path, I wore hiking boots and had no foot issues.

The trail from Tungsten Mine to Horseshoe Basin ranged from 6800′ to 7200′. We were above 7000′ mostly, which meant that going up any high point was no more than 1000′. But in the end, we had inhaled more smoke than the past years combined.

An evening start
An evening start

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A Hazy Start

The pup and I started walking at 5:30 PM with over two hours to sunset from the empty lot at the Cathedral Driveway Trailhead. We used the same way when we went climbing Cathedral Peak in 2014.

The smoke permeating the western sky was captivating. Depending on the amount of light seeping through the thick smoke, the ghostly sun resembled a full moon at times. It was rather bizarre.

Unforeseeable future
Unforeseeable future

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En Route to Tungsten Mine

Because of the wildfires, a sign by the Fire Creek Trail junction denoted the closure west of Cathedral Pass. After a brief exchange with two hikers and their three dogs exiting Remmel Lake, we went onto Trail #534.

After sunset, we hiked for another hour and then camped next to the path by Cinch Creek. Our climbing goals were east of the pass on the Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness. So fires weren’t of any concern.

A clear night sky
A clear night sky

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Day 2

Wolframite Mountain + Bauerman Ridge + Teapot Dome

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Wolframite Mountain

The following day, we started hiking early to enjoy the bluebird weather. Before long, we had reached the old building at Tungsten Mine. It was just how I remembered it: deserted and eerily quiet.

I filled my day pack with necessities and hung the gear behind the main house. Then the pup and I hiked west on the Boundary Trail to Wolframite Mountain. It’s our first stop on the Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness.

Last decent view of Apex
Last decent view of Apex

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The Final Stretch on Wolframite Mountain

Later the trail took a sharp turn south at the top of Tungsten Creek at 7000′. Then we scrambled east toward Wolframite Mountain’s west ridge. It was only mid-morning, but smoke had moved in from the west.

The smoke had quickly engulfed Cathedral Pass. So soon, most peaks here were no longer visible. Before long, the fume had caught up to us at a few hundred feet below the top.

Amphitheater Mountain and Cathedral Peak by Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness
Amphitheater Mountain and Cathedral Peak by Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness

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Wolframite Mountain Summit with Smoky Views

Views on top consisted of the ghostly outlines of nearby mountains. At the same time, the sun was trying hard to let in more light. We traversed the ridgeline to cover high points that looked equal in height.

On the way down, we shortcutted southwest rather than retracing our steps. We later bypassed cliffs on the south and rejoined the path halfway between the mine and the trail bend.

Eastbound on Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness
Eastbound on Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Bauerman Ridge

We stopped back at the mine and then continued east toward Bauerman Ridge. Along the way, we saw dried-up streams and empty pools with cracked bottoms. Feeling dehydrated after scouring for water gully after gully, we left the trail and scrambled northeast.

Soon, we were on the smoke-free Bauerman Ridge right before the haze caught up to us again. We saw Scheelite Lake in the north basin. It was tempting to see it from the northwest high point, but we were short of daylight.

The breakthrough
The breakthrough

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En route to Teapot Dome

Most high points were the eerie outlines of their usual glorious selves. Similarly, the blood-tinted sun behind the façade of low crawling smoke had conjured up a unique sense of aesthetics. Or perhaps it was my nausea from lacking fresh oxygen.

We moseyed along Bauerman Ridge toward Teapot Lake (unofficial) at two and a half hours until sunset. As luck would have it, we found a few snow chunks in a deep notch. Despite the layer of ash, we needed them to hold us over until the lake.

The deep notch on Bauerman Ridge
The deep notch on Bauerman Ridge

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Camping by Teapot Lake

Teapot Lake hasn’t collected any rain in recent months. So it has become stagnant with a thin, filmy coat of ash brought in by the smoke. But beggars couldn’t be choosers! After all, it’s our only water until the next one.

Yikes! Right away, I noticed some insect-like creatures swimming in the water. But they soon ran away just as I carefully scraped off the ash. After filling up my bottle, I didn’t drink any more of that water.

Teapot Lake by Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness
Teapot Lake by Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness

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Sunset Climb on Teapot Dome

Soon, we went up to Teapot Dome, our third stop, and caught the last light. Bauerman Ridge, where we came from, was still visible. Though, everything beyond it was a blob of smoke. The enormous silhouette southeast of here was none other than Windy Peak.

After three summits, the 12-hour day went by in the blink of an eye. We left the top at sunset and then went back to camp before dark and ate dinner. Deep into the night, the smoke cleared up as we lay underneath a starry sky.

No signs of the North Star
No signs of the North Star

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Day 3

Haig Mountain + Rock Mountain 7641 + Armstrong Mountain SE Peak + Arnold Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Back on Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness

The sun was shining after 7 AM as we welcomed another beautiful morning. But the nice weather would fade away in a matter of a few hours. Scrambling down the large buttress out of Teapot Dome soon took us back to Boundary Trail.

The decision not to pack more lake water turned out to be a mistake. We passed more dry stream beds and a decent campsite with dry pools en route. So perhaps drinking more water from Teapot Lake wasn’t a bad idea after all.

Another bluebird morning
Another bluebird morning

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness: Haig Mountain

In a short while, south of Haig Mountain, we suddenly came upon a trickling stream. So we packed enough water to get through to the next source. Later we left the trail southeast of the summit at 7200′ and hiked under a mile up to the top.

The bright morning skies soon turned hazy before 10. Then more smoke crept in from the west and surrounded us. There wasn’t much to see past Bauerman Ridge. Plus, high points east of here had become hard to discern as well.

Windy Peak from Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness
Windy Peak from Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness

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En Route to Horseshoe Basin

Back on the trail, we continued east toward our next goal: Rock Mountain. It’s another peak right off Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness. En route, we saw another big dried-up big pool by a group campsite. But of course! Though, soon, we were thirsty again.

We soon found more water south of Caprock Peak. Soon, from Rock Mountain’s north side, we went up 600′ to the top marked by a giant boulder. Then we had terrific views of today’s final two stops: Armstrong Mountain and Arnold Peak.

Bauerman Ridge
Bauerman Ridge

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First Sighting of Human, Dog, and Horses

We ran into a horseman going eastbound with his young pup and three horses back on the trail. They had made their way up from Iron Gate Trailhead earlier in the week. Then they went clear to the Remmel Lake area and back.

The man had been here every year since childhood. So he was very familiar with the area. Our pups played a while before he took off with the animals and soon faded into the haze.

Horseshoe Basin panoramic view from Rock Mountain
Horseshoe Basin panoramic view from Rock Mountain

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Armstrong Mountain SE Peak

I had looked forward to seeing Loudon Lak since the start. But to my dismay, the lake by Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness was also barren. Boohoo! It was indeed a dry season; better luck next time!

We left the path uphill past the dry lake into the vast lush meadow. Later I stashed my pack at 7200′, south of Snehumption Gap, for Armstrong Mountain. It’s our sixth peak by the Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness.

International crop line, US on right
International crop line, US on right

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Late Afternoon Show on Armstrong Mountain SE Peak

Being on the border was the highlight of the trip. The flat summit’s east end was the highest, mere 200 yards from the dropoff on the east. Later we walked just minutes to Monument 104 to check out the fascinating crop line.

Smoke had stopped just short of Rock Mountain. So to the east, Canada’s Snowy Protected Area was still sunny. Later the fume rose high and formed a head-like feature. The Carpenters song Top of the World came into mind.

The clouds won't budge
The clouds won’t budge

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Arnold Peak

To the southeast, Arnold Peak looked massive. But to get there, we made our way down to Snehumption Gap at 7500′. Then we went up 500′ via the west hills, where a rock fort had marked the broad summit. By now, the wind was blowing in all directions.

We stuck around to photograph the beautiful evening colors before leaving our seventh summit. Right then, I just realized I had left one camera lens back on Armstrong Mountain. Oh well, finders keepers!

Evening colors in Horseshoe Basin
Evening colors in Horseshoe Basin

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En Route to Sunny Pass

From Arnold Peak, we moved southwest to the meadow. So much green! Then back on the trail, we walked to Horseshoe Pass at 7000′. At last, we were in an area backpackers have been raving about for years.

We still had another half-hour daylight, so I decided to continue. I also wanted to sleep near tomorrow’s goal: Horseshoe Mountain. Soon, we found a decent spot on Sunny Pass and settled in for the night.

Leaving Horseshoe Basin at day's end
Leaving Horseshoe Basin at day’s end

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Day 4

Horseshoe Mountain + Pick Peak + Topaz Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

The Final Morning

Yesterday evening, smoke hovering above had suddenly dropped and stretched across the area. Soon, the blanket of haze took away our sky view as darkness fell. It was a starry night no more.

We woke up to a hazy basin on our final day. The forecast called for sunny. But as the smoke continued to hover, we didn’t see much of the sun. The constant BBQ smell in the air had no longer fazed us.

Smoky morning sunshine
Smoky morning sunshine

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Horseshoe Mountain

Later we began walking toward Horseshoe Mountain just past 7 AM. Despite the closeness, the actual high point wasn’t visible from the lower down. Even with the haze, the area looked lovely nonetheless.

Onward to our eighth peak! A few deer spied on us from the ridge as we moved across the meadow. They were the only large wildlife we’ve seen so far, apart from the occasional sightings of chipmunks and grouses.

Summit register on Horseshoe Mountain
Summit register on Horseshoe Mountain

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Smoky Views on Horseshoe Mountain

Horseshoe Mountain sported a broad summit like the rest. So far, of all the places we’ve visited, it’s the only one with a register. Smoke had trapped itself inside Horseshoe Basin. So Armstrong Mountain and Arnold Peak were soon under a sheet of haze.

Neither the pip nor I felt like exploring the top after we arrived. So he took a beauty nap while I sat by the cairn and read through register entries from years past.

Final stop, Topaz Mountain
Final stop, Topaz Mountain

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Pick Peak

After an extended visit, we made our way down to Sunny Pass. We packed and hiked to Pick Peak’s north saddle at 7200′. Then we went up 400′ up to the top, where Windy Peak looked impressive despite the haze.

Back at the pass, we went west down to Windy Trail and walked south through the soggy Big Horn Creek. The stagnant stream we came across didn’t provide potable water. But we haven’t seen a single drop since Sunny Pass.

Southbound
Southbound

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Boundary Trail in Pasayten: Topaz Mountain

We found two small streams halfway up to the Windy Peak-Topaz Mountain saddle. They were also our last water until Windy Creek. Shortly, we turned right at the fork onto Basin Creek Trail and walked to Topaz Mountain, our final stop.

We hiked up to the northeast slopes from the saddle, which were primarily giant boulders and slabs. The terrain looked technical at first. But with a bit of route finding, a sandy path guided our way up to the top.

Ridge walk
Ridge walk

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Topaz Mountain Summit

Because the two high points looked similar in height, we traversed the ridgeline and back. Windy Peak across the basin was the only visible structure here. Then everything to the north was under a permanent haze.

I tried identifying peaks we had climbed in the past few days. But the heavy smoke was too distracting for me to play my name-that-peak game. So perhaps we’ll come back another time without the fume!

Haze over Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness
Haze over Boundary Trail in Pasayten Wilderness

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Exciting via Windy Creek Basin

We hiked down to Windy Trail after lunch and a photo session. Then the path took us around Windy Peak’s gentle west side. A right at the 7800′ fork, and we headed into Windy Creek Basin.

The trail intersected the creek a few times, but it mainly stayed east. Lots of down trees in the lower 400′ before we rejoined Trail #510. Then another half a mile uphill walk, and we were back at the car.

After entering the area, the Forest Service had placed a blockade at the trailhead. They had also put up a new sign with added trails on the closure list.

Finding our way home
Finding our way home

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

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