Hiking in the woods in the Icicle Creek drainage.
I really enjoy hiking — but with some limitations. I can hike all day on relatively flat terrain. If the hike has a climb, I prefer that the climb be at the beginning of the hike with the descent at the end. I’m easily winded on uphill climbs — and have been like that all my life, even when I was young and super slim — but have absolutely no trouble going downhill. On hot days, I prefer hiking in areas with at least partial shade. On cold days, put me out in the sun.
Icicle Gorge Trail
A few weeks ago, Kirk and I did the Icicle Gorge loop trail. That’s up Icicle Creek, not far from Leavenworth. The trail winds through forest and clearing, mostly following Icicle Creek. The water was still running pretty good, the creek fed by meltoff from snowpack and small glaciers up in the east side of the Cascade Mountains. It thunders through several narrow channels along the streambed — the gorge of the trail’s name.
This was my second time hiking the trail. It’s just the kind of trail I like for a summer hike, with gentle uphill and downhill climbs, mostly in the shade of tall pine and other trees with a handful of open grassy meadows along the way. I’d done it the year before with my friend Alyse.
We got on the loop heading downstream first, crossing a footbridge at a narrow part of the gorge. From there, we headed back upstream. At first, we were along Icicle Creek, but the trail moves away from the creek, into the forest. At one point, it winds up to the top of a small hill with a monument that overlooks a bend in the creek. Then it descends back down to the creek, crossing Trout Creek not far when it meets Icicle.
We stopped along the creek for a snack of nuts and fruit and energy bars. The rocks there were worn by centuries of water flow, with some carved pockets filled with stagnant water. The sound of the rushing creek was oddly calming.
The trail crossed Icicle Creek again at the Chatter Creek campground. There’s an auto bridge there and beneath it, a cascade feeding a deep swimming hole. We climbed down onto the rocks bordering the deepest part. A few people were farther downstream, at a sandbar that helped hold the water back.
I threw Penny in to cool her and pulled her out when she swam ashore; after that, she wouldn’t stay with us. (I had to put her on a leash a while later, just to keep her near.)
Kirk changed into his swimming trucks and wasted no time diving in. I was a little tougher to convince. I hadn’t brought a bathing suit. But after a while, I decided that the water looked too good to pass up. I stripped off my shorts and went in in my panties, tank top, and sport bra. The water was delightful — deep, clean, and refreshing. Probably the best swimming hole I’d ever been to.
After our swim, we got back on the trail and continued the loop. We were on the return trip now. The trail wound mostly through dense woods, coming very close a few times to the gravel road that led to the campground. I’d brought along my Nikon with its 10-24mm lens and took some photos of flowers and tiny waterfalls along the way.
We were back in the parking area about three hours after we’d started the hike. We’d walked a leisurely 4 miles or so. A great hike I’d definitely do again — especially on a hot summer day. Next time, I’ll wear a swimsuit under my shorts.
Icicle Creek Trail
On Friday, Kirk and I went out to Icicle Creek again. This time, we hiked a trail he’d done before, the Icicle Creek Trail. The trailhead can be found at the very end of the same road we’d taken to get to the Icicle Gorge loop trail.
This is an out-and-back trail that winds through dense forest, gently climbing and descending as it goes. Its name is misleading — it doesn’t actually follow the creek. Instead, it cuts through the woods, crossing a handful of tiny creeks, with the sound of Icicle Creek off in the distance. Eventually, it joins Icicle at its confluence with French Creek.
The walk was pleasant, although I regretted my choice of attire — shorts and tank top — because an overcast made it chilly down in the woods. Not exactly cold, but not warm, either. The kind of day when sunlight would have been welcome. I let the GPS in my phone keep track of our trail, but tucked away in the pocket of my cargo shorts as we hiked in a canyon, it had trouble keeping track of where we were. As a result, the track was jagged with its length likely overstated. At the end of the hike, it said we’d gone nearly five miles, but I don’t think we went much more than four.
We saw signs of horses — there’s a horse camp and a horse trailer parking area not far from the trailhead — but no horses. No wildlife either.
The sound of the creek got louder and louder until we reached it. There are two campsites there, one on either side of the creek, and a family had set up camp in one of them. A man and girl were fishing in the creek while a woman and another child were walking creekside not far away. French Creek met Icicle Creek right there, with water rushing together from both creeks in a jumble of rocks.
We hung out for a short while, then continued on the trail. A “Stock Crossing” sign marked where horseback riders could cross French Creek. There was a good, strong bridge a bit farther down the trail. I found myself telling Kirk about my horses and how Cherokee couldn’t be made to cross that bridge but Jake would have no trouble at all. (I miss my horses, but not enough to have horses again, despite the fact that I have plenty of room to keep them at my home.)
We didn’t walk much farther. Not only was I getting cold as the overcast continued to thicken, but I was concerned about the possibility of rainfall over orchard I’m under contract to protect. There was no cell phone service where I was and no clear look at the sky back toward Wenatchee. On top of all that, I had a meeting near home at 5 PM. So after only an hour on the trail, we turned around and headed back.
Kirk dutifully picked up a few pieces of trash — a beer can and a Starbucks cup (if you can believe that) — along the way. I think I’ll be bringing bags for this job on future hikes. I can’t believe how people can be such pigs.
Back at the trailhead, we loaded the Jeep back up and retraced our route back toward Leavenworth. We had just enough time for lunch at Sleeping Lady before I had to hurry home.
Would I do the hike again? Definitely. But next time, I’ll bring a change of clothes and a better lunch. I’d very much like to see what’s farther up that trail.