Fieldwork #2: The Assault on Martin Ridge
There are no roads to get to this wilderness, but there is a coffee cart thats open from 6:30 -10:30am, and ice cream after 6pm. Allow me to explain.
After a 2.5 hour ferry ride up glacially carved Lake Chelan we landed in a small hamlet called Lucerne, Washington, where a dusty old yellow school bus named Linnae shuttled us 11 miles up a winding road to a small lutheran retreat called Holden Village.
We were applauded by a small cluster of smiling faces as we stepped off the bus. Lunch was prepared for the guests, which, of course, was not us. We grabbed our backpacks and trudged one mile out of town to the nearest National Forest Campground.
We made camp and went for a swim while a black bear delicately licked our butter, gobbled some almonds, and pierced its tooth through a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. The bear got sick and died from our hydrogen peroxide. We found the bear lying dead on our camp table the next morning.
Not really, but it definitely ate some almonds and butter, which it never paid us back for and it probably regurgitated the hydrogen peroxide.
The backpacking stove didn’t work. My bad. I didn’t meticulously check all the gear before we boarded the ferry. The 8 nights of food that we had lugged up to the campground were going to be cold meals. Mmmm. Cold Oatmeal.
Our goal was to map the geology of Martin Ridge, which rises 4,000 ft behind the white-washed shacks of Holden Village and consists of a layer cake of highly-deformed metamorphic rocks that have had a traumatic history, of being deposited as sediments on a volcanic island chain like modern Japan, before being squished to the western side of North America and thrust to depths of at least 25 miles where they were partially melted, squished even more, injected with really hot fluids, and then sheared by faulting and squished some more, before being thrust up to the surface.
This proved challenging. The thick Cascades vegetation meant a dirth of outcrops below 5,000 ft, and there were only two trails which skirted the side of the mountain around 4,500 ft. We spent 3 days attacking the southwestern slopes, often ascending 3,000 feet in about a mile, and having lunch before actually seeing any rocks.
It’s become apparent that doing Geology in the Cascades means getting bruised, bloodied and mighty dirty; rising upward through ecological niches, where you bushwhack through walls of Alder shrubs, until at least 5,000 feet, above which you ascend steep slopes through scorched pine forests where pine needles cake the dirt in a slick bed that treats your boots like ice. Above the burned pines you’ll probably arrive at the base of a 30-50 foot cliff with narrow chutes choked with downed logs and trees. Climbing, or descending, the chutes is analgous to playing on the jungle gym in middleschool.
Effort is rewarded as you climb upward. Outcrops of pancaked metamorphic rock jut out of the mountain like fences; slatey walls of stone heeling over to the north like a great wave on the ridge of the mountain. The final 2,000 feet on the mountain are exposed; treeless. Barren cirques of rusty slate, and steep fields of loose rock called talus.
After assaulting the mountains lower ridges to our exhaustion, we committed to an overnight trek along the highest ridge which was strenuous but probably the coolest thing I’ve done all year. Unfortunately, our phones, and thus cameras had been dead for 3 days. On our 6th day we stumbled through the last of the brush and onto the trail.
Day 7: We took the ferry home.
OOLIN @ Heidi’s Kaufee Haus, Leavenworth, WA