This is one of Kelly’s favorites and today was the first (mostly) non-rainy day in over two weeks, so, why not!
Bunker Hill is a short, but steep hike with a nice flat start to warm you up for a relentless 1,250′ elevation gain in only 1.4 miles. Kel likes this also for its lack of rocks on the trail and a very smooth surface that’s really easy on her bad knee. Add to that a mature forest with dozens of huge old-growth firs and the chance to sight deer and even elk on occasion.
Normally, this is about 4 miles, out and back from the Whistle Punk TH but today we had to park well short due to deep snow and no possibility of parking, even if we could have gotten to the regular TH. As it turned out, we hiked 5.1 miles total.
We gave up on the access road, realizing that parking and even turning around might prove to be impossible. I backed up a quarter mile or so, found a wide spot, turned around and parked so we got an even better warm up than usual – and what a warm-up it was!
This area is notorious for its micro-climate, and it really showed off today with deep snow on the valley floor and hardly any once we climbed just a short distance up from the valley floor. Knowing this from a half century of experience in the area, we persisted through two feet of mostly untracked snow, post holing down 18″ and more. Even Kel, who usually can walk atop crusted snow, sank to her knees. For me, of course, I didn’t have a chance staying on top and resigned myself to getting a decent cardio workout hoping our previous experience would again prove correct.
Still on the valley floor, even under a complete forest canopy, the snow was still about two feet deep. The postholes shown in this photo are all from a heard of elk.
As usual for this time of year, there’s a long section of trail past the initial meadow that has a stream running across and even along it. Last March, I cut 36 rounds form nearby downed trees to make a series of stepping blocks to bridge water as much as 10 inches deep – and even more at times. Here’s Kel harvesting the benefits of that work.
I completely cleared the trail last year and only four or five small trees have fallen across it since, but all are small enough to take out with a hand saw. We removed dozens of branches today so it’s in better shape than we found it but still needs a bit of picking up. Nothing bigger than the easy step-over tree and debris shown in the next two photos.
We reached the PCT junction less than a 100′ elevation above the meadow and even there, the snow was significantly less deep. By the first switchback in another 50′ elevation, we could avoid the snow altogether and soon there was hardly any at all.
There are many truly ancient old growth trees here, also on the east side of the hill, should you choose to come in on the PCT from that side. I think the density of big trees is even more on that side, but the parking is minimal and today it would have been non-existent.
Once on top, no snow at all so we sat down and enjoyed a well-earned break and enjoyed the view.
5.1 miles, 1,358′ EG
Hike # 6 for 2023.