We spent 5 days hiking the eastern 25 miles (out and back) of the Boundary Trail, from Irongate Trailhead through Horseshoe Basin to Upper Cathedral Lake. This place is truly backpacking at its best! The wildflowers are in full bloom, the temperature was in the 70's at most (despite 90+ in Loomis), there are few people, no permits required, plentiful and beautiful open camping, lots of water, continuous and varied scenery, tons of tempting side explorations, and all for minimal and gentle elevation changes. It's one of those places where an extended trip can (and did) take on the feel of a religious experience, and you are planning a return trip before the trip is even over. A few details:
- It took us a total 7 hours to get to the trailhead from Bellingham on Hwy 20, going through Pateros since the Loup Loup cutoff was closed. If you are wondering if the hike is worth the long drive - it is.
- The road is rough. A truck was nice, Subaru would be fine, and low clearance would be challenging but could make it (but worse for wear).
- Most of the first 4 miles are through a burn, but the flowers and birds are a good tradeoff.
- Every seasonal stream and pond shown on the map, and then some, have water. There were mosquitos in the boggy flats/saddles of course, but there was usually a breeze that kept them down most of the time. Bugs were negligible otherwise.
- There are nice established camps about everywhere you would expect to find them, and lots of opportunities to seek your own (which we did at Apex Pass).
- Keep an eye out for "hockey bags" - you might get lucky and score a free lifetime supply of dope. According to the mounted border patrol we met, this is what low-flying small planes from BC drop just over the border for runners. We didn't find any, so bring your own just in case (if that's your thing).
- Smoke from the fires in BC got thick when the wind shifted to north but wasn't a problem when wind shifted to south.
- Good eating and drinking along the way at the Breadline Cafe in Omak and Shannon's Cafe in Tonasket.