Cabinet Mountain Backpacking, Part 1

Cabinet mountains in the backgroun

I’ve been to the Cabinets a few times now and I really love them. They’re probably the closest range to us that features the beautiful rocky peaks above tree-line. In the past, I’ve used the Rock Creek road to access Cliff Lake and it’s surrounding area. That’s an awesome area since the road takes you wayyyy up and it’s an easy hike to the alpine meadows area.

Instead of going that route this time, I decided to head into Snowshoe Lake. It’s been ages since I’ve been backpacking and I was really excited to get out even if it wasn’t anything crazy intense. The trip report I read on getting to Snowshoe Lake was a little vague about where the trailhead was since the road (FS #2722) washed out a few years ago.

Lemme tell you. It’s not vague and you really shouldn’t think about it too hard. There’s a bridge where the Bull River Road used to be with clear parking spots just for you. Instead, I followed the directions I found online and went 3+ miles from the junction with Highway 56 and took a nice little 2 mile (each way) jaunt down a closed road that went…nowhere.

We hopped back in the jeep and went back down the road. When I looked at the sign at the trailhead (that clearly indicated this trail was the replacement for road 2722) I was a bit exasperated with myself that I hadn’t slowed down to look here before continuing up FS Rd #410 (aka South Fork Bull River Rd). There was nothing to be done though, so Sprocket and I shouldered our packs again and headed out.

It’s too bad that the road is washed out since it’s not particularly scenic on the way to the old trailhead. Sprocket and I made pretty decent time, said hello to some horse packers staying at the trailhead and continued on. The trail was narrow and didn’t seem to have many places to camp off of it so I started to get a little nervous. About 3/4 of a mile up the trail, I spotted a little spot on the river with some pretty small gravel so we scrambled down. It actually wound up being a perfect little spot. I was worried Sprocket would want to swim but he seemed pretty tired (Sprocket, you only did about 6 miles!) and just laid down when I told him to.

Cuddling in the tent

We both scarfed down some dinner and retired to the tent. And crashed. Sprocket was super happy to be able to snuggle! (Doggies who are not allowed on the bed <3 sleeping in tents!) In the morning, he didn’t waste one second before wading in the river. I barely started eating my breakfast before he started whining…he was ready for more hiking!!

Happy hiking dog.

The trail climbed steadily but we made pretty great time on our way to Verdun Creek (~3 miles from the old trail head). After the creek crossing, the trail became more of a way trail and was occasionally a bit hard to pick out. I ended up putting Sprocket in front of me…he seemed to be able to sniff it out and see it under the brush more than me. About 2 miles past the creek, we reached the “headwall” of the N. Fork Bull River. Sprocket and I chose to go up an old stream bed rather than going right up the face. I had to help him up onto a couple of boulders but this was definitely the right choice.

(Word to the wise: Sprocket and I made it up and down just fine; there were a couple of places he didn’t like but he’s been on similar stuff before. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as a hike with dogs.)

Headwall, North Fork Bull River

From the top of the headwall it was a pretty short hike to the lake. We were there by about 1:30 and spent the afternoon relaxing. Sprocket did some swimming and I read. The sun was shining but it was a little chilly up there…there were several large patches of snow visible above the lake still! (BRRRR.) Sprocket was less than pleased when I cut off his swimming time at about 3pm so that he could dry before getting in the tent. He’d just sit, look at the lake and whimper. Pathetic dog. We headed to bed early so we could get up and explore above the lake some in the morning.

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