Devils Dome Loop Trip Report - 7/22/18
On Monday, my friend and long run partner, Sophie, and I headed out to attempt the Devils Dome loop in a day. According to WTA, the stats of this “hike” show that it’s 43 miles long and about 10,000 feet of elevation gain- a tough loop that most people backpack in 4-6 days. I backpacked this loop with my mom last summer, strangely enough on the same exact weekend, so I knew it would be a doozy.
Sophie swung by Rainy Lake trailhead where I was camping with the family at 4:15am. The first hints of light were starting to show, and nerves were building. We got to the trailhead just when it was light enough to be able to see things well, and got started on all the last minute preparations- finish packing the backpack, shoes on, apply chafe cream, take some bites of food (although I can’t usually stomach much that early in the AM), double check that we each have the essentials, bathroom break, layers stripped. I clicked start on my watch at 5:22am.
We chose to do a counterclockwise loop starting from the East Bank trail, so the first 3 miles were flat. If it were a race or if we were more motivated it would have been a very runnable section, but given that Sophie got 3 hours of sleep and I 4 ½ and we were still waking up, we chose to do a nice walking warm up. That being said, we’re both PCT thru hikers, so our walking pace was an enjoyable 4 mph. The warm up ended soon enough, and up through the forest we went.
We kept a steady almost-3 mph pace up several thousand feet into McMillan Park and then eventually Devils Park, passing through fields of green grass, shrubs, flowers, and furs with mountains looming in the background. A stream meandered its way through the meadows and small ponds collected here and there. It’s impossible not to smile in a place and on a day like this. We let the beauty give us energy to walk and jog a little faster, and before we knew it we were looking down on the meadows below from the first no name “pass”. (Side note- the first 2 miles of climbing through the forest had periodic blow down, but we did not find it to slow us down much at all. I had read about the blow down being pretty bad, but in my opinion it was hardly an obstacle.)
Several near-thousand foot ascents and descents passed quickly. We stopped to fill water from the refreshing mountain creeks in the drainages between our climbs, not bothering to filter, and continuing on. I paid close attention to my watch and did well at eating hourly, along with taking electrolytes every 2 hours. One of my main goals for this run was to treat it exactly how I will for my 100k in three weeks- same clothes, gear, food, and nutrition/hydration strategy. It must have worked, because I felt good.
For the next 10 miles, we skirted around and up and down hillsides and ridgelines, arriving at Devil’s Pass eventually, and then continuing on towards Devils Dome. From a few miles beyond Devil’s Pass, we looked across the vast valley and could see exactly where we were 10 miles before, and exactly where we had traveled by foot since then. We could vaguely make out the zigzaged lines of the trail going down a steep scree slope that we descended not long ago. Time-wise, it felt like we had just been there, but distance-wise, it looked SO far away. It’s amazing how fast and far your own two feet can take you!
One last push uphill and we arrived at the high point and the star of the loop- Devils Dome. 360-degree views of rugged mountainous terrain is seen from the top of this beauty. Into the Pasayten to the north and east, North Cascades National Park to the south and west, Mt. Baker in the distance, the Pickett Range looking pretty great, and everything else your heart desires. Between our skin started to feel burned in the sun or biting flies in the shade, we opted for the sun, and laid back for a quick lunch break. This is the type of thing I would not choose to do in a race (unless I needed to), but allow myself to do on self-supported challenges- another reason why I love them. I can’t think of much better than laying on your back in the grass/dirt, eating some snacks, sun shining in your face, simply able to let your body sink into the earth and take in the beauty and effort you just worked hard to get through for the previous X amount of hours. Ahhhh.
After a 25 minute break we were up and going again, ready for a long, runnable descent. It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to run down 7 miles and 5,000 feet of descent, helping us to make up a lot that we had lost from our “goal” time on the way up and with our lunch break. Both Sophie and I absolutely love letting loose on the downhill, so we let ourselves go for the first half or so, then reeled things in a bit. This section of trail had just been worked on in the week+ previous, so it was a nice, wide, brushed out trail. The only downsides to that was that it was quite dusty, and the dirt was very loose so it was easier to twist an ankle, which we both did (not badly). That being said, we were extremely grateful for the beautiful new trail, and said our thanks as we passed some workers towards the bottom.
Not long after hitting Ross Lake, we found a perfect little rock to jump off of into the water- hiker trash style, as we called it- with shoes and socks still on. Who has time to take off and put on shoes and socks when you’ve got places to be and 13 miles still left of your run? At that point, my body was starting to let me know it had ran a long ways and was ready to be done.
The lakeside trail is a nice, cruiser trail, but damn it was HOT! High 80’s, I believe. Sophie and I took turns running in front of and behind each other, setting a good pace and pushing ourselves and each other just enough. Eventually we hit some sort of a wall, and we both plopped down at a water source, unable to move for the time being. Another 5 minute break of eating nuts, Spring energy gels and jelly beans, then it was time to finish. With 5 miles left and a pair of extremely achy, throbbing bodies, we turned the muslc on, turned the mind to focus mode, and powered it out. Apparently Sophie was pretending that I was a wild animal chasing her, so the faster I ran to catch up, the faster she ran. I could hardly keep up but also wouldn’t let myself fall behind, and before I knew it we were back at the bridge crossing that leads back up to the East Bank trailhead. Watch stopped.
Our stats for this run-
Goal time: Loosely decided on 12-13 hours, although wasn’t terribly concerned about it.
Overall time: 12:34:14
Moving time: 10:05:48
Elevation gain: 11,527ft.
I’m not totally sure why the distance was a little under and the elevation gain a little over what was expected- could be my watch. Regardless, it was an exceptionally beautiful, fun, hard, rewarding day. Recommend to a friend- 10/10.