For some reason, I thought I had written this trip report up but it turned out to be my memory misfiring. I had written up a report for Copper Butte, the highpoint of neighboring Ferry county but not this one, which was interesting to me since I did both mountains on the same day.
I had left home early in the morning and had gone up to Ferry county to do Copper Butte. After finishing Copper Butte, I felt I still had time left to do Abercrombie mountain although I would be pushing the daylight a bit. The biggest problem was the heat, it had been over 100 degrees in the towns of Colville and Kettle Falls so I took plenty of extra water as I made the drive up from Colville to the TH. The last three miles of road were a real test for my Honda Accord as it was reallly a high clearance road and not a good choice for my low slung passenger car. By getting out and moving rocks many times, I finally managed to pull into a small parking area that served as the TH. It was three oclock in the afternoon and I knew I'd better get a move on.
The first mile or so went up through a very brushy area although the path was wide and there was no brush bashing to contend with. It was really dense on both sides of the trail however and later on in the day, I would remember this section on my return. When the trail hooked into FS trail #119 as it came up from a lower TH, I turned left onto this trail. The trail continued through forest but finally came into open country in about a half mile as it worked its way up the flank of Abercrombie mountain on very open country.
Views over to the Gypsy Peak area became available and I was already thinking of being over there the next day since it would be the final one of the weekend. As I trudged uphill, I noticed that there weren't any other footprints to be seen. The hoofprints of a horse was the only imprint I could see on the very dusty trail. Soon the trail, which had been bearing east began to swing around to the north and before long I could see the summit area of Abercrombie and I quickened my pace.
Flowers were still plentiful and very pretty as I closed in on the last quarter mile before the summit and I enjoyed the color display they provided.
Soon I was at the base of a talus slope that had a depression of a trail heading straight up to the summit and the horse that I had seen the hoofprints of had left numerous "calling cards" as its owner had taken the horse right on up to the summit.
Just short of the highest point, there was a stone shelter which could provide protection from the wind, not a problem on this day. Several cairns decorated the summit area and itthat a lookout had once been atop this peak.
As I wandered to the northernmost edge of the relatively broad summit, I had a nice view into Canada and an adjacent peak, Hooknose Mtn. There was a nice ridge connecting Abercrombie to Hooknose and I wished I had had the time to hike over to it. Gypsy Peak was easily seen to the east and Gypsy had the distinction of being the highest point in Northereastern washington by one foot.
I would be on its summit the next day with my good friend and fellow SP'er, Bob Bolton.
I had a snack, called my wife on the cell to let her know where I was and I headed down. About twenty minutes down the trail I had a very chilling discovery. The only prints on the trail (other than the horse) were my bootprints and right on top of one of them was the print of a bear, a very large bear. As I looked closely at it, I realized that this wasn't the print of a black bear, it was the print of a grizzly. I had seen tons of black bear prints on Copper Butte earlier the same day and this one dwarfed those and the toes were different. I could see that the bear had come up the hillside from the south and was heading up towards the summit area on a cross country vector.
The hair on the back of my neck was standing up and I realized that I wasn't alone up here, which turned out to be even truer just a few minutes later.
I really quickened my pace downhill (almost a jog) and then kicked myself for not taking a picture of the bear print superimposed on my own. Dang, why did I always think of picture opportunities after they had already happened. Less than ten minutes from where I had seen the grizzly track, I saw the first hiker of the whole day coming up the trail. He was carrying a ten pound tripod slung over his shoulder and a magnum pistol on his hip. He turned out to be Clinton Hunt, a photographer (click here) and he was heading for Abercrombies summit to capture sunset photos. I mentioned what I had seen up the trail and he nodded his head that he was aware that there were a few grizzleys in the area and that was why he was packing heat. Of course, against a grizzly, his handgun might not be enough. We chatted a bit and then he continued on upward. A later email from Clinton indicated that he never saw the bear but that his trip down the trail in the dark had him seeing bears in the shape of every bush and tree he passed and like me, that last section of trail to his truck was the worst of it. He sent me a few of his pics that he took and they were very nice, a couple I posted in the photo section of Abercrombie Mtn.
While seeing another human being was a big help to my feeling of vulnerbility, I literally flew down the trail to my awaiting vehicle. I would really hate to do the brushy zig zaggy area in the dark, even with a headlamp. I found Clinton's truck parked next to my Honda and I remember the look of disbelief he had when he asked me if I was the owner of the Honda parked down at the TH. (yes, it takes a real dedicated county highpointer to drive some of the backroads) He had brought loppers in with him and had cut back the encroaching bushes and tree limbs that could scratch a vehicles finish. The problem with him doing all the trimming, was that the road was now so littered that I couldn't see where the rocks were so I had to get out and move all of the trimmings off so I could see where the nasties were hiding (think oil pan protection). It took me close to an hour to drive the three miles of road #300 to where it improved enough that I could pick up the speed and not have to get out to move rocks or clippings. Clinton had done a great job but I had the scratches (from thet trip in) to prove it was a little late for my vehicle. I would end up putting a lot more scratches on the poor car on subsequent trips. Even a ding or two.
I took a room in Colville where a High School reunion was being held (making it tough to get a room) and turned on the air conditioner so I could get some respite from the 105 degree weather.
Miles 6 1/2 round trip
Elevation gain: 2500 feet
Time up: Two hours
Time down one hour (probably less)
Good time for the heat and for me.
Grizzly bears seen: zero
Grizzly bears nearby: hundreds (true paranoia)
Pics are present on the Abercrombie Mtn page.
Actually, I hated the scraping but since I had taken the Accord into similar situations, new scratches weren't really obvious. I've learned to carry lopping shears with me as I'm now putting scratches into the paint job of my 2005 Tacoma P.U.