Hardscrabble Ridge/Fairview Creek Loop
April 19, 2003
“Peer into old mine-shafts! Examine artefacts at an abandoned mining camp! Wade across rushing streams! Beware—on more than half this trip the trail is either indistinct or non-existent.” That was the trip description on the sign up sheet. Perhaps the cautioning sentence was not strong enough—some found this “C” hike (8 mi., 2500') to be a bit tougher than they had bargained for.
We headed up the steep slope of Hardscrabble Ridge at about 9 a.m., quickly leaving behind the noise of the four-wheelers of the Bohemia Mining District Patrol. An exclamation of “Hey! What about this perfectly good-looking trail?” was ignored. That was in reference to the trail followed last year that fails to reach the ridgeline. We paused briefly at several abandoned mines, one marked with an old, rusty tin-can embedded in a madrone. We peered cautiously into the ones the entrances of which had not yet collapsed, but chose not to enter. There were numerous sightings of snow-queen and calypso orchid. A few patches of budding poison oak were (mostly) bypassed.
In a bit over an hour, we reached a steep, mossy meadow where we took an extended break. We had “hiked” less than a mile at that point, but had gained about 1400' of elevation. The upper regions of all the visible slopes were snow-covered—those to the south across Sharps Creek, to the east on Bohemia Mountain, and way off in distance to the south-west in the vicinity of Silica Mountain. We had to search hard to find the clouds of the “partly cloudy” weather prediction.
Soon after leaving the meadow we reached the less steep section of the ridge. Our progress was still slow as the easy, open stretches of the ridge were few and were separated by large patches where we had to wade through knee deep salal and chinquapin or push through rhododendron thickets. About 1½ miles of this got us to the the blue flag which marks the point where the “trail” departs the ridgeline. And, to everyone’s relief, it even looks a bit like a trail! The relief was short lived—we soon encountered numerous blow-downs which we had to crawl over or under. The side-slope is also very steep along this section, pretty much all the way to Fairview Creek. Several very small patches of snow were crossed. A couple had coyote tracks in them.
After crossing a small, un-named creek we arrived at an old mining campsite. There we examined a number of discarded relics—pieces of an old wood-stove, various pots and pans, a "misery whip" which was broken in two, and numerous chunks of steel which may have been part of an ore-crushing mill.
From the camp the going got tougher yet as we had to scramble over more blow-downs, through yew thickets and continue to deal with the steep side-slope, all without the aid of even a minimal trail. We dropped further than I had when I scouted this route last July, finally reaching Fairview Creek mid-way up the cascades. The rocks and logs along the creek were slick with moss, so it took a bit of time for us to travel a few hundred feet down stream to where we could climb up the bank to the trail. We stopped for a late lunch, sitting on rocks and logs by the creek, basking in the sun.
The three mile hike out was comparatively easy, our foot-steps cushioned by the thick, mossy duff which covers the little-used trail. The only problems encountered here were fawn lilies and trillium growing in the tread that needed to be stepped over, and three more creek crossings.
The survivors on this little “deetour”, Jane Bartell, Holly Hartmann, Bob Huntley, Chris Stockdale and Rod Wood, were led by bushwhacker Wayne Deeter. [The person who thought that “artefacts” was a spleding misteak needs a better dicshunary!]