Trip Report    

Basic Backpacking Backup Field Trip - Baker River to Noisy Creek Camp

Great group and good weather, but a very very crowded weekend at Baker Lake prevented a true wilderness experience.

  • Road rough but passable
  • The final unpaved section of the Baker River Road is passable but had many very large potholes, some spanning the entire width of the road that were challenging even for high clearance Subarus.  All of our party made it, even a few with normal sedans, but some sections were very slow going.

    Trail in great shape all the way from the Baker River trailhead to camp, including the spectacular bridges.  A huge thank you to the overnight WTA work crews and others for clearing the epic blowdowns that closed the trail earlier this year!

    The aggressive cougar that had caused the entire east side of Baker Lake to be closed is now old news.  The entire trail, including all camps and trailheads, is fully open.  The cougar was not even mentioned in any of the notices posted at the trailhead.

    The capacity of Noisy Creek Camp was impacted by a major storm in early 2021 that caused many large trees to fall into the camp area, obliterating some of the campsites and reducing the size of others.  Noisy Creek Camp now has four campsites, two of which are suitable for groups: one with a capacity of about 4 - 5 tents near the central bear box area, and one near the water with a picnic table and room for approximately 6 - 8 tents.  All sites have fire rings.  The privvy was in good condition.

We met at the Cascade Trail trailhead in Concrete so that our rendezvous point would be in an area with cell coverage.  This is across the street from the Concrete public bathrooms.  From there we caravanned about 1 hour to the trailhead.  We lost cell coverage almost immediately on leaving Concrete, which appeared to confirm that it was the furthest place along our driving route that still had coverage and therefore the best place to meet for trips without carpooling.

During the drive to the trailhead we encountered what appeared to be many overfull car camping sites along much of Baker Lake road, with several tents set up along the edge of the road itself in wide spots intended to be turnarounds.

Because the weather forecast was excellent and we would be camping in an area that does not have permits, we left fairly early in order to secure a campsite.  We arrived at the trailhead at 9am and parked in the last available parking spaces, and arrived in camp at 11:30am and secured the last available campsite.  Though our campsite was available it was still occupied by a party that wasn't leaving until 4:30pm, so unfortunately most of our afternoon was spent defending the site from other arriving groups.  We were successful  in eventually setting up our tents together in the smaller of the two group sites, but by the end of the day the overall Noisy Creek Camp was stuffed to overflowing, with tents set up next to various social trails, near the trail to the latrine, in a small row along the beach, and in spots that would not normally have been considered suitable for tent sites.   Parties continued to arrived in camp periodically as late as about 8pm and had no choice but to find somewhere, anywhere, to pitch their tents for the night.

One party we talked two had hiked the entire ten miles from the south trailhead.  They had originally planned to stay at the southern Maple Grove Camp but left after an enormous group of Boy Scouts arrived at the camp by boat.  Every subsequent campsite they visited was also full, so they kept hiking north until they reached Noisy Creek, which was also full but the end of the line, so they had to make do by pitching in a site that already had 3 - 4 other parties in it.

Though the camp was packed tight everyone was pretty considerate of those around them.  There was the buzz of lively conversation around camp, someone playing guitar and singing, and a pair of jet skis buzzing about the lake until after 8pm.  But by 9pm the whole camp quieted down to whisper quiet, and getting to sleep was no problem at all.   Given how densely the camp was packed including at least 4 dogs, the silence was surprising and impressive!

Our party of students for the Seattle Basic Backpacking Course were fantastic and stayed in high spirits throughout the weekend in spite of the crowded campsite.  Even though they did not get to enjoy a true backcountry experience, we still went through all of the campsite basics and everybody did great.

All photos thanks to Aaron Sumner.