Even though we were only 30 miles from Canada, we still had to make it through a bunch of significant washouts. I had heard stories ranging from sidewalk cracks to the Grand Canyon, so I had no idea what we were heading towards. I was going to take two days to get to the monument so I wasn’t hitting the washouts at dark. I talked to a hiker who was also an experienced horse person and she said we could make it through all but the last one. It was impassable to stock. She also said that a forest service crew was out camping in the area and planned to repair the washouts. We only went 15 miles the first day and camped at the same spot we had last year.
The next morning we headed out toward the washouts that were only two miles in front of us. I had yet to see any trail people. We turned the corner at the saddle by Rock Pass and headed down the north face. It felt great and strange to be walking down a section of trail that we had been trudging through 3-4 feet of snow on last year. Then we arrived at the infamous washouts. I had recently been told that a dog could not walk through them and that hikers were barely making it. I was thoroughly disappointed. The first washouts were mere dips in the trail. I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if it wasn’t for all the hype. The final three were the huge, bad ones but at no point did I wonder if we’d be able to do it or not. They were just big ditches. It was no big deal walking down one side and up the other. The first one was no problem at all. I ran ahead of my horse with my pack on. The second one was slightly more challenging only because I could not keep up with my horse in the loose scree so he passed me and followed the route up the hikers had taken. I expected the trail to be there but it wasn’t. Thankfully, my horse turned around and stopped so I had time to catch my breath and look for the trail. It was 10 feet below us. It was at that second the first trail crew guy showed up. He shouted over that we had no choice but to come back through the washout and do it again. I said no way! And, instead, led my horse 10 feet down the scree slope onto the trail. I told him someone should put a rock pile next to the trail because obviously all the hikers were going across and up and then cutting down after locating the trail. It was deceiving and unnecessary when they could cut straight across. He said they planned to build trails through all the washouts. Nice but too late for us! We continued on to the third and final washout. It didn’t seem like too much of a problem. I tied Valentino to a rock, hiked through and left my pack on the other side. It’s hard to run with a pack on. Since I had a shovel, I decided to dig out a little path to make it easier for me to run ahead of my horse. Then I went back for Valentino. He followed me down into the washout no problem. We stopped at the bottom so I could prepare myself for the run/scramble up the other side. I held him back and got as far ahead as I could. Then I ran for it and he hopped up onto the trail right behind me. They were no big deal. Nothing! They were actually awesome. I love trail challenges that are fun and not dangerous. I am very glad that we squeaked through before the trail crew could do any work. I would not want anyone to say that the only reason we made it through was because a trail crew fixed them.
Well, that put us on the other side of every obstacle between us and Canada and 12 miles from the monument! The next 12 miles were gorgeous! So amazing! After the washouts, we climbed up to Woody Pass. Then we traversed along a ridge for the next 4 miles. This stretch tied, if not beat, Goat Rocks. It was incredible. 7 miles before the monument we dropped down to Hopkins Lake. I tied up Valentino and ran over to get him a bucket of water. The biting flies were horrendous. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Then we just tra la la’ed along for 7 miles to the monument! About a mile and a half from the monument, a bear and cub plopped out onto the trail about 100 feet from us. It was so awesome. The mom stared at me for probably 10 seconds and then they jumped off the other side and were gone. When we arrived, it was about 1pm and the weather was beautiful. What a drastically different ending than last year!
I signed the trail register and we took lots of pictures. Then we hiked 8 miles out to the truck. Whew! What an amazing feeling! I still had 240 of Oregon to complete but getting to the monument was a great accomplishment.
My horse got a few scrapes going over hundreds of trees but has not bled or had one injury on the trail. He held his weight even better this year and looks awesome. I am incredibly proud of him.