4th Of July: Circumnavigating the Cabinet Mountains, Part 1

A day off in the middle of the week is sort of odd. It felt like it should be a weekend and yet we only had that one day! We decided to seize that day off and make an adventure out of it anyway. When I got off work on Tuesday, I came home, packed up our camping stuff and we all jumped into the jeep. The skies were looking a little stormy but I pretty much refused to believe it was going to rain on us.

As we set out towards Cooper Pass it seemed like we were leaving the weather mostly behind us. We cruised right to the top of the pass (Pass #1 for the trip at 5,791′) where there was still a decent foot or so of snow that we made it over fairly easily but we certainly hoped that there wouldn’t be any more on the other side! The drive down to Thompson Falls went quickly as we wound our way off the mountaintop.

We didn’t hesitate long in Thompson Falls, just stopping long enough to fill up the gas tank before heading up Graves Creek Road into the mountains. Hardly 3 miles into the woods, I saw a small bear run up into the woods. It was (we think!) a yearling grizzly! It’s big round light brown butt reminded me of Winnie-the-Pooh—less cuddly of course. After the bear headed off into the woods, it was back to the campsite finding mission. We were hoping to find a place to camp where we would be sort of sheltered from the wind and the high elevation chill that would be setting in soon. There was a severe lack of spur roads where we could camp so we just kept driving higher and higher. Next thing we knew we were at Vermillion Pass (6,026′, pass #2 for the trip).

It was cold up there.

As pretty as it was there in the shadow of Vermillion Peak, we knew we had to lose elevation fast if we were to have a hope of spending a decently comfortable night. (I’m still functioning with a 45 degree sleeping bag I bought in high school!) As we headed down into the Vermillion River valley, we came around a corner saw a nice big black bear in the road. We decided to spend the night where Happy Creek emptied into the Vermillion River.

Forrest started up a fire while I took Sprocket for a short walk. We cooked hot dogs for dinner (and were only a wee bit nervous about having seen a couple of bears…) before piling into the tent. I wasn’t too thrilled with leaving Sprocket in the jeep alone and I was also more than a little afraid of being cold into the tent he came. That makes one 6′ man, a 5’10” woman, and an 85-pound labrador…in a two man tent. He was a great cuddler and kept me nice and warm!!

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