It's that time of year again. Too little snow (or more accurately, too little interest in the snow that's there) for snow play and too much snow for high-elevation hikes with the kids. So instead when the need to get out strikes, as it so often does, we head for lowland objectives. Last week it was a brush bash to get to the top of Lake Joy Quad 1. Since that was such a success I figured we'd try for Lake Joy Quad 3. We might even find some snow on the top and no matter how you sliced it we'd get back home early for naps before the big Easter thing.
Well... unless the road I'd mapped out didn't actually go through. Darn Tokul Creek looks to have long ago severed the road (was there ever a bridge?) and now it just ends at a berm. Much discussion with the kids ("Yes!" "No!" "I'm hungry!" "Can you turn on a movie?") ditched the idea of backtracking and trying to drive around the obstacle. Instead we opted for Devils Slide Quad 7, which was at least close by. It promised to be about as much fun as the previous week, but steeper.
So we drove up a seldom used road until a mud hole looked a little dicey, backed up to the top of a hill, and parked. Kids geared up, we started walking. Good thing we didn't bother to try to get through the mud. Not that it would have swallowed the truck, but the road didn't go much further and we wound up in a good spot to turn around.
At the end of the road there was no sign of a trail, no clear indication of which way to go. We considered going down toward Mud Lake, but as enticing as that sounds opted to stay out of the salmon berries (ouch) and devil's club (even more ouch) and wander in the ferns and trees for a while. Clara took the lead and followed the path of least resistance generally south and up.
The girls were effectively on their own since I was helping Henry, but they did great ducking under branches, climbing over logs, and following Tokul when the way was confusing. (After all these years Tokul has a GREAT sense of direction and seems to know the best way to go.) Initially the ferns and logs were thick, but they thinned as we got into the more mature forest.
Wait... mature forest? In a tree farm? Yup. The area had clearly been logged, but LONG ago. Back when they still used springboards to get up high on the big trunks. However, ribbons marked with "timber harvest boundary" marked a clear limit to where the modern loggers could tread.
Lilly started heading higher with gusto so we followed. She was having a blast kicking steps in the duff and using her poles. She seemed to be doing a great job, too. Clara was right behind her and on occasion I had to suggest that she give her some more space since every so often a pole would break loose of its footing and swing dangerously high.
We found a long abandoned road that made walking a little easier for a short while, but although it climbed it also crossed the harvest boundary so we turned back up. Here it was steeper and we talked about bailing, especially when we got a taste of snow, but decided we were so close to the top (about 200 vertical feet) we would push on.
After a few more snacks I was helping Henry over a log while Clara and Lilly followed. Clara shouted, "Lilly!" and I turned to see Lilly completing her third backward somersault down the slope. She came to rest against a couple of big ferns and sat stunned for a moment. But before I could sit Henry with Clara (who grabbed him with a firm grip) Lilly let loose with a wail. She'd fallen about 10 feet (and wouldn't have gone much further even if the ferns hadn't been there), but hadn't let go of her poles or lost her hat, much to Amy's chagrin.
We got everyone seated together and I busted out the M&Ms and all was good. Henry and Lilly wanted to keep hiking. Clara wasn't sure. We were 100 vertical feet from the top. Just a few minutes if I were on my own, but for so meager a prize I decided it was time to head for home. Clara was worried Lilly would fall on the way down so I tied Tokul's leash to Lilly's pack for show and down we went.
While we were still in the woods it started to hail. Clara declared she had "a taste for hail" and stood with her mouth open looking up. Not to be left behind Lilly and Henry did the same and were disappointed they didn't catch much. I picked a few ice pellets off my coat and dropped them in their waiting mouths so they could be just like their big sister.
Back on the road the kids showed off their dirt-covered jeans and then the three of them took off at a quick trot toward the car, stopping only to marvel at each rock, stick, bug, and leaf they saw. It probably took us longer to get from the end of the road back to the car than all the time in the woods.
The ride home was not nearly as eventful and since we were a bit later than I'd hoped we skipped the carwash. After all, it's Spring Break for the kids next week and nobody should be climbing in and out of the trunk so perhaps a quarter inch of mud covering the car wasn't that big a deal. At least not if it rains. Hard.
Totals for our almost-conquering of Devils Slide Quad 7: About 0.68 miles and 250 feet of gain.