Mount Harrington via Lewis Creek & Deer Cove

  • Updated: August 09, 2015
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

August 7th to 9th, 2014
Mount Harrington (11,009')
[Pics] [Map]

This was originally going to be Jen Blackie's Sierra Club M-Rock Provisional but a bureaucratic hiccup didn't get resolved in time and so we ended up just doing it privately at the last minute.

We planned for three days since there's a fair amount of gain and the area was reportedly very pretty.  Day 1 we'd hike in and camp at Frypan, day 2 do Harrington, and then day 3 do Kennedy and hike out.

Even with the smoke and other minor issues this was one of the most memorable trips of the summer due to a spectacular camp, distinctive peak, and a great post trip river bath.

We left Orange County closer to 8 pm and it was almost 3 am by the time we pulled into the bivy spot near Cherry Gap and passed out.

Lack of sleep is helped by french toast and coffee.  That's just science.
The next morning we drove the rest of the way up the 180 to Roads End.  This was the first time I'd ever been back to this set of trailheads though that wasn't due to a lack of trying.  It's a spectacular area even if you're just driving through

And it was a beautiful morning.  At least until we came around a curve and saw a fire burning up in the mountains towards where we were supposed to hike.

There are two trailheads that access Frypan Meadow called Lewis Creek and Deer Cove.  Lewis is just inside the are where you start needing permits while Deer Cove has a self registration register at the trailhead.  Technically you need a permit for camping in the back country but repeated calls to every number we could find didn't have any luck figuring out how to go about that.

We'd intended just to go in Deer Cove since we could start earlier.  The fire was significant enough I decided we should check in with the local ranger and get a permit just so they would know where we were.  That way we could also get an update on with the fire.

We reached the end of the road where we found a very busy ranger in the middle of explaining to a pair that trying to navigate through an overgrown section of trail using their cellphones wouldn't work because they wouldn't have cell service.

We ended up having to wait maybe 20 minutes including letting one rather insistent group jump in twice for renting bear cans.  Turns out the fire was far enough away it wasn't really a concern other than smoke in the air.  And we could actually have a campfire where we planned to camp at Frypan.  Sweet!

We decided we'd do a loop and dropped our gear at Lewis Creek before running the car 1.4 miles down the road to Deer Cove and hitchhiking back.  This wasn't too inconvenient until we realized we'd forgotten something and had to make another run down the road and back.  Doh.

Lewis Creek had a large lot, bathrooms, trash, and bear boxes.  Deer Cove was just a small dirt turnoff with a picnic bench so pick your amenities.

Eventually we got moving.  The wind was blowing the smoke away from us and it was an all around spectacular morning.

We weren't in too much of a hurry so we enjoyed a relaxing lunch at a stream crossing along the way.

There was also this moment of signage greatness.

The trail right before the meadow was slightly overgrown but it was always clear which way to go.

And the meadow was rather pretty especially right around sunset.

Sadly mosquitoes were out in force in the meadow itself though they hadn't been a problem anywhere else throughout the day.

Frypan has a nice single site camp complete with log furniture, a fire pit, and even a bear box.  And plenty of firewood.  There was even a water source right there though not enough flow this late in the season.  There's a much better source heading a short distance down the trail to the east that we ended up using.

It made for a really pleasant camp and we stayed up late enjoying ourselves.

We got moving the next morning and climbed steadily from the meadow up to Grizzly Lakes.  The trail drops out in places particularly as you get closer to Grizzly Lakes.

The trail eventually cut left and into Grizzly Lakes.  We planned to fill up our water bottles here which was a slight bit challenging.  We weren't filtering and the lakes are fairly shallow and surrounded by a bunch of marshy grass.  We found a spot at the south end that was usable and then started climbing again.

We had a good view of peak up above us.

The route was fairly straightforward just climb up the gully and gain the ridge.

In the background you can see a the choices to gain the ridge.  Going up we took the easy ramp to the right hidden behind the foreground ridge.  This made for quick hiking but added a fair amount of distance.  Coming down we did a 3rd class route on the left in the shadow and that was decent with only one spot we really had to pay attention.

The real fun part is when you going the northern ridge of Harrington.  It's one of those distinct looking fun peaks.

The route is generally fun with a few exposed slabs.  Supposedly you can keep it second class if you stay lower.

It did look cool.  You can see the smoke from the fire in the background.

The register up top had a scrap dating back to the 50s in addition to signatures from a number of friends.

The views were a big hampered by the smoke.  On a clear day they'd be even more amazing.

This is one of the exposed -ish bits coming down.

The smoke was getting worse as it got later.

We went down the more direct way to get back to Grizzly Lakes.

It was pretty easy except for this one spot near the bottom.

As we were descending back towards camp we had a suitably dramatic sunset due to all the smoke in the air.

We arrived back well after dark and enjoyed another fire while we cooked.

Unfortunately day 3 got off to a bad start when Kristen and I both awoke feeling sick.  Jen cooked breakfast and we lounged around camp hoping it would pass.  We eventually felt a little better and set off up the trail only to call it within the first mile.

Fortunately we felt better going down and perked up a bit.

The wilderness signs seem to have been attacked with a hatchet.  We did what we could to reassemble it.

The route down Deer Creek started out green and forested but soon descended into a burn area that was significantly drier.  That part did have better views to make up for the uglier trail.

We could see the fire in the distance and watched as white clouds shot up dramatically several times like a developing thunderhead only to die back.  I later did some google research and found it's a common phenomena is called a pyrocumulus cloud.

We also had a view of Harrington above us.  The summit really stands out from a distance.

The trail was hot and increasingly buggy towards the bottom so we gave up stopping and made a beeline for the car where we had a cooler of cold beer waiting for us.

Deer Cove trailhead
We had the trailhead to ourselves to get sorted.  Before we got on the road we decided to head over to the river and clean off a little of the dust.  This turned out to be an excellent idea.

We eventually pulled ourselves away with great reluctance and started the long drive home.

The Rough fire could be seen on the way out and there were fire crews all over.

We followed the progress of the fire over the next few weeks as it grew to cover a huge area including where we camped and the river we'd cleaned off in.  Sadly that means we won't be able to go back for Kennedy for a while.

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