elysiumI actu­al­ly found the prim­i­tive camp­ground for the first time after get­ting some rough direc­tions from a local. The area was mos­qui­to infest­ed but gen­er­ous appli­ca­tions of Muskol did won­ders and any kind of breeze was most wel­come to keep the demons at bay. The trail up to Ely­si­um Pass ends there, but vast mead­ow­lands dot­ted with trees made for easy hik­ing towards the first objec­tive, Monarch Pass. It actu­al­ly has anoth­er semi-offi­cial name but it dosn’t come to mind at the moment.

Camp was made next to a clus­ter of dense­ly packed but stunt­ed conifers in high mead­ows with superb views down a trib­u­tary to the Snar­ing Riv­er Val­ley to the NE. Then, some­thing moved down in an adja­cent gul­ly, and it looked like a bear to the unaid­ed eye. My field glass­es said oth­er­wise, thank­ful­ly, it was a huge por­cu­pine, wad­dling around next to a creek. After down­ing my usu­al trav­el mug of strong cof­fee and gra­nola with pow­dered milk it was off to the next point of ref­er­ence, East Derr Pass, and this was much hard­er to access as it lay at the far end of a snow and boul­der filled basin, with sev­er­al most­ly snow cov­ered lakes thrown in.

Approaching Derr PassThis place faced the NE, so lit­tle won­der it had all this snow in sum­mer, snow which I sank into up to my hips when one foot plunged into some sort of hole. The way became more dan­ger­ous as rolling hills of boul­ders cov­ered in snow had to be crossed. There were unseen hol­low areas clos­est to the big rocks so I tried to avoid get­ting too near them, but even so it was very time con­sum­ing. East Derr Pass pre­sent­ed awe­some views in the head­wa­ters of Derr Creek, with spec­tac­u­lar peaks all around, and Derr Pass, at the head of that val­ley, was my next goal. It was a much low­er pass, but most­ly still beat­i­ful green mead­ows, and not a soul to be seen. It could have been the year 1700 for all I knew. Time­less­ness was at home here. I didn’t care what time it was and it didn’t mat­ter for there was no timetable or real plan to fol­low. It was just now. Colum­bia ground squir­rels alert­ed the whole val­ley of my pres­ence with their shrill whis­tle alarms and even though it was a solo trip, I was far from being alone out here.

Low East Derr PassTo the north of Derr Pass then began the despair­ing descent of a trib­u­tary to the Snar­ing Riv­er, far, far below. Dead­fall filled forests alter­nat­ed with chest high shrubfests in which my feet remained invis­i­ble to me for hours on end, prob­ing for a sup­posed ground being the gen­er­al rule. The slopes then began to steep­en, the shrub night­mare con­tin­u­ing along the edge of dead­fall choked woods. Sounds invit­ing doesn’t it? A real walk in the park huh? I’d lost the creek way back up and beyond, but found it again fur­ther down and guz­zled its refresh­ing con­tents. Some more skir­mish­es with plant mat­ter and the val­ley bot­tom was final­ly reached and it was.….a bog­gy mess.

Monarch PassThe ani­mals had also done a pret­ty lousy job of mak­ing game trails, but what had I expect­ed, hav­ing camped in over 200 dif­fer­ent places in these moun­tains. Should have known bet­ter real­ly. My ini­tial plan of attack was to make for the Snar­ing head­wa­ters to the west but an encounter with a huge frothy trib­u­tary com­ing in from the north set my mind oth­er­wise. So, well, it was the oth­er way then, to the east we go. The river’s edge hik­ing actu­al­ly improved as progress was made down­stream, the occa­sion­al bald eagle star­tled by my inva­sion and seek­ing to roost else­where.

Snaring RiverVery steep river­bank slopes some­times forced an inland detour, involv­ing dense con­cen­tra­tions of sapling trees, with bare­ly enough space between for me to pass. Nobody heard my curs­ing, of this I’m sure. At no time was I will­ing to bash all the way down to the Snar­ing Camp­ground, espe­cial­ly with my knowl­edge of the canyons and gorges fur­ther down. No, it would have to be anoth­er trib­u­tary back up to Monarch Pass. Gulp! What hid­den hor­rors lay and wait? After con­sult­ing the map, the best choice seemed to be a major creek to the east of Mt. Knight, deep in the Snar­ing hin­ter­land. I was con­stant­ly clap­ping to alert the wildlife, but they were prob­a­bly going yeah, yeah, we heard you com­ing from Derr Pass idiot! Idio­cy was a tru­ly appro­pri­ate term to describe the inane strug­gle of end­less bush­whack­ing up this for­sak­en val­ley.

Snaring camp0055All the usu­al cast of obsta­cles were there, with cameos by tus­socks & bogs, knee deep mossy cush­ions, and the final half walk-half crawl through tan­gle after tan­gle to uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly enter the mead­ows below Monarch Pass. I felt that at the very least, per­haps a brass band should have been there wait­ing. The griz­zly encounter atop Monarch Pass was the last thing expect­ed at this point. We just met at the sum­mit, it waived its nose in the air and stood on its hind quar­ters for a moment before charg­ing off down the mead­ows from where it had come. Thank good­ness. It van­ished into the dis­tance in no time till a lit­tle brown dot was all that remained. From then on I could see lots of lit­tle brown dots, none of which turned out to be a bear. One more relax­ing camp was made high in the mead­ows below Mt. Oliv­er, and the next day, in the pour­ing rain, the end­less mead­ows once again descend­ed to the Ely­si­um Pass camp­ground.


Sto­ry and Pho­tos sub­mit­ted by: John Boehm


Leave a Reply