Friday, October 2, 2020

Day 53: Ross Dam

August 1: It was a quiet, uneventful night. Amanda and I didn't linger in camp too late, though, since I had miles to hike and Amanda needed to get back to Seattle.

We packed up and returned to the car, then drove a half hour back to the Ross Dam trailhead where I would resume my hike, this time, carrying a full pack.

I had a quarter-mile or so hike down 300 feet to get back to the PNT which went quickly, then followed gravel roads along the shore to Ross Dam.

Ross Dam is one of several dams in the area built by Seattle City Light to provide hydroelectric power. About 92% of the electricity used in Seattle comes from hydro-electric power, and I couldn't help but think we have some of the most beautiful power in the world. In fact, I'm typing this blog entry from my computer in Seattle right now which, for all I know, is powered by electricity coming from Ross Dam this very second. A little connection to the PNT, even now when I'm off the trail.

Ross Dam is an impressive-looking dam, and has an admittedly odd checkerboard appearance which I've never seen on any other dam. Anyone care to guess the reason for that? I'll tell you the answer below, but go ahead and give it some thought.

Any guesses to why Ross Dam has this checkerboard pattern on its facade?

Construction began in 1937 and the dam was meant to be built in four phases. The first two phases were completed in 1940 and the dam rose to 305 feet (93 m) above the Skagit River.

The third phase was completed in 1949 and raised the height of the dam to 540 feet (160 m) above the river.

And the fourth phase was never completed. If it had been completed, the dam would have been raised another 125 feet (38 m). If the dam was raised further, the existing dam would have been thickened to support the taller structure and hold back more water, and the checkerboard pattern had been left in the face of the dam to help 'lock' the added section to the existing wall. Kind of like Lego blocks. But since the fourth phase was never completed, the checkerboard pattern remains.... never serving the purpose it was designed for.

And the PNT crosses directly over the top of the dam, which is where I found myself looking down over the side wishing we were allowed to throw bowling balls off from the top. =)

If only it were legal to throw stuff off from the top of
Ross Dam! How much fun that would be! =)

A short while later, I reached the trail junction that led down to the Ross Lake Resort. The resort is located a quarter-mile off trail, but I wanted to check out the location anyhow. It's kind of legendary among thru-hikers and I've heard so much about the place. A lot of hikers send resupply packages to the resort, but since I just got back on the trail barely an hour earlier, I was already well-supplied. I didn't really need anything, and with barely 10 miles to hike for the day, I had time for the short detour.

The resort is pretty interesting with all of the buildings floating on the shore of Ross Lake. It was a floating resort! A freshly-cut sign asked people to wear masks and social distance and hand-sanitizer bottles were tied to each table. I was a little amused to the see the bottles actually tied to each table. Apparently theft was an issue?

I put on my mask and dropped my pack at a table outside, then went into the office to look around and see what was available. There were some snacks and such available for sale, but PNT hikers would have been hard-pressed to resupply from what was available.

Ross Lake Resort floats on the lake shore.

I asked about a hiker box which they pulled out from a back room and took outside for me to browse. I grabbed a few beef sticks out of it before I returned it.

I also took a half hour to use their Internet connection to check email and messages one last time. I was sure once I left here, I'd have no Internet for at least the next several days, and maybe none until I reached the town of Concrete in eight days.

Then it was time to resume my hike, and that's what I did.

The trail was generally in good condition and didn't pose much trouble. My feet were in good shape and also didn't cause me any trouble. Life was good!

The only hiccup in my hike was that past Pumpkin Mountain Camp, I didn't carry enough water. My map showed about 10 small creeks I'd pass along the route and while some of the water sources I figured would be seasonal and probably dry, I had assumed I could fill up again in at least a couple of them--but I was wrong. Not a single one was running, so I didn't have enough water. It wasn't a huge problem. I cut back on my drinking and was a bit thirsty along that stretch, but it never reached a critical state before I was able to fill up with water again.

My campsite for the evening--as dictated by my permit--was 39-Mile Camp. I found a side-trail that was pointing toward 39-Mile Camp, but I wasn't entirely sure if that was the right camp despite the sign. It was a horse camp, as evidenced by the horseshoe on the post. Were there two 39-Mile camps? One being a horse camp and the other being a non-horse camp? I wasn't familiar enough with the area to really know how campsites were laid out and my map wasn't detailed enough to show exactly how the campsites connected to the PNT.

I didn't want to keep hiking up the PNT if this was the camp I was supposed to be at, but I didn't really want to walk off-trail into the horse camp if the hiker camp was still further up the trail. I wasn't sure where to go.

Finally, I decided to explore the horse camp. If there was a great campsite, I could just stop there anyhow even if it was the wrong location. I looked around a bit, but the campsite smelled like, well, horses. Nobody was there at the moment, but I decided to go back to the PNT and hike a bit further for a hiker camp which I quickly found.

I set up camp. The flies were terrible, but they were more of an annoyance than a real problem. I wound up killing dozens of them and thought about collecting their corpses in a pile like Blueberry did on the Superior Hiking Trail, but that seemed like more trouble than it was worth and I would just flick them off my groundsheet instead.

The campsite was empty when I arrived--both the horse camp and hiker camp--and I wondered how I was the only person here. I was the only person at Ruby Pasture Camp as well when I got off the trail. Campsites in the North Cascades could often be difficult to reserve because they're so popular, but they all seemed empty! Later in the afternoon, though, a few other people arrived. I had nabbed the best campsite for myself already--they had to find other sites at the campground.

And that was that. My feet survived the trek well enough. They were a little sore just from walking over 12 miles with a heavy pack, but no more than normal. The earlier injuries to my feet caused no problems. Life was good!

The PNT crosses directly over Ross Dam

Less than five months into the pandemic,
I could sense that some things had changed....

The North Cascades are beautiful! Gotta give it that! =)
This is the view from Ross Lake Resort looking back toward the dam.

I had a hunch these bottles of hand-sanitizer at each table were new this year, but I was amused to find them physically tied to the tables. Was theft an issue?

Little fish in the water.

The PNT first reached Ross Lake on the other side of the lake from this location. It's only two or three miles away, but it took about 25 miles of hiking because I had to walk around the perimeter of the lake.

This little glimpse of Ross Lake through the trees from the suspension bridge would be my last view of Ross Lake before the trail left the lake and headed into the mountains again.

Hello, Mr. Toad!

As the crow flies, the PNT hadn't really covered much distance. It was only a couple of miles from one side of the lake to the other. But as the duck walks, it required about 25 miles of hiking! (I grabbed this image from stage 35 of the PNT hike on Walking 4 Fun.)


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the reason for tying the hand sanitizer to the pole had less to do with stealing and more to do with wind? Living on the water here we often have to tie everything down to keep it from blowing away!

GG said...

Ross Dam guesses:
I expect it's not for decorative purposes
My first guess: structural in that the open block pattern adds more strength vs weight than a flat faced surface could sustain
Second: for some reason the maintenance requires periodic exterior examination and it's for anchoring.
Third: Bat houses, but they don't look like they would have enough depth for shelter.

Ryan said...

GG: Interesting guesses! But they were all wrong, as you probably figured out of you read the rest of the text. As for "bat houses" not having enough depth for shelter, I should point out that each "square" is about 6x6x6 feet if I remember correct. There would be enough room to put an outhouse in every one of the holes! So I think bats would have no trouble fitting inside of them for shelter if that's what they wanted to do. In the photos, they only look so small because they're part of such a GIANT dam!

Karolina said...

Must be cool to spend a few days in a floatin house!