On a quest to regain some of my long distance abilities, I did a search on WTA’s fantastic hike finder (which is more useful than the hike finder map as it includes more hikes that are less popular). My specific search consisted of Mileage Range: Over 12 miles, less than 500ft gain. My hope was to find a 20+ mile hike with less than 500ft of climbing as I have been at a computer job for a month now and feel weaker already.
The Odessa – Lake Creek Trail popped up: 26mi with 300ft of gain. Fantastic! (or so I thought…) only gaining 300ft in 13 miles was rather impressive and seemed too good to be true. Well… it turns out that it was indeed too good to be true- WTA took the information from a book called “BEST Desert Hikes Washington” which does the incredibly annoying thing of taking the highest elevation then subtracting the lowest to find elevation gain. This is useless for a hiker as there are very few hikes that have a consistent climb with no ups and downs along the way.
Here is the hacked up profile of this hike:
The long feature-less parts are due to me editing the file for use in a map pack. There were a bunch of ups and downs through them. It turns out that there is about 1.5kft of gain one-way, and about 2.5k-3kft total. It is nothing like the 300ft of gain round trip that was advertised. The Trail is about 13mi each way- more if you get lost like we did 🙂 I am happy that we hiked it, even with the added elevation gain!
After 4 hours of driving, lots of speed traps, and one of the oddest drives to a trailhead ever (you drive through what looks like a parking lot of a trucking company) we started the hike. It was raining for the first hour of hiking but that died off fairly quickly. The rest of the day was full of clouds- but no rain thankfully.
As we hiked, we learned how well this trail is signed and became accustomed to the easy navigation even with the less traveled trail. Our main map was picked up at the trailhead and proved to be incredibly valuable as there are pretty terrible maps online that are near-impossible to use for navigation.
Follow these and you will be (mostly) OK:
The keyword that you should have become concerned about was “mostly” as there is a critical turn that is unsigned and brought us to our first mileage-boosting alternate path. When the trail goes straight for the train tracks (downhill) there is a fence that you have to turn back up the hill at- if you miss this… you have a long walk ahead of you.
I can provide people with the route(gpx)- and will include a shot of it at the end for future travelers to make it easier to follow.
This trail reminded me of the PCT as it was fairly easy terrain and it was fairly open and desert-like. I enjoyed the feeling of having a full pack on my back while my feet pounded the earth. The Lakes that were once found here are no longer around- from what I understand, the farms in the area drained them as they needed more water. Seems like it was a temporary fix as there is nothing left to drain besides this one spring that had a slow but steady output of water.
One of the oddities of this trail is the large number of dead things. Skeletons are everywhere here- some were deer, most were from cattle. It felt like an elephant graveyard at times- minus the elephants of course!
There were also numerous farming artifacts that died a long time ago:
Hopes and dreams seem to have gone the way of the dodo:
Judging by the massive number of beer cans found laying around one can only assume that brain cells died here too.
There is plenty of life here- we saw a herd of deer, a coyote, tons of beautiful songbirds, and a bunny. The geologic formations are impressive to walk through and I find myself always wondering what it was like when the massive flood from Lake Missoula came barreling down through this area.
Overall- this was a great hike for me as I wanted to get some miles under my feet and the clouds made for an easy day with perfect temperatures for a good workout.
As Promised- here is the trail map:
If you decide to go- be sure to bring all of the water you need as the lakes don’t exist anymore, and even if they did… I would be hugely concerned about the cow poo contamination levels. Be sure to look out for rattlesnakes on warmer days as there is a good chance you will come across one and as cuddly as they look- it is best to keep your distance. I hiked with a full pack on this as I wasn’t sure if we would end up camping along the way. Keep your eyes open and make sure that you follow the actual trail and don’t take one of our many detours!
Happy Weekend everyone!