solo gourmet outdoor chef trip - p2

Corso Solo II – Part 2

By Chef Corso

Here we go into the bushes for 5 nights / 6 days.  I am prepared as I’m ever going to be.  Time to get out there.

Check out Part 1 article here.

Video reports below.

Day 1

Cascade Pass Trailhead-Sahale – Cottonwood Campground – 8 Miles

I had a lot of anxiety for this trip.  Mainly, could I get it in with a busy end of summer, smoke in the NW for over a week and unpredictable fall weather.  I also have never been on a trip longer than 4 days, so 6 is definitely a new stretch. I put it on the calendar in a generally clear weather pocket and hoped for the best.  I wasn’t really nervous, I was just excited/unsure of the whole path ahead but remembering to be conservative with trails and water.  

Sahale and Sahale Arm are one of the best day hikes/ 1 day trips in the whole Northwest.  Easy up, gorgeous mini pass.  If you are continuing to the Arm, expect some swift elevation gain followed by some moderate chunky rock scrambles to your rock outcrop campsite, but well worth the effort for ridgeline views for days on a clear day.

My path went East after the mini pass  and dropped into a beautiful basin where you hug a few rivers and end at a very nice, solid campground in Cottonwood.

Food storage:  Bear Boxes

Water:  short walk to river

Campfires: yes, had a great one

Campsites:  Easy to find, flat, nestled in the trees, nice

What’s on the Menu

  • Breakfast on way to trailhead – Brekkie Burritos
  • Lunch- trail snacks, fruit
  • Dinner- Beef Veggie Ramen
  • Dessert- Peanut M&Ms
lovely fall colors

Day 2

Cottonwood Campground – North Fork Campground – 9 Miles

This was probably my favorite day on the trip.  First night under my belt, feeling good.  Trail is mostly flat with moderate roll.  But the colors of this day were absolutely fantastic fall.  Vine maples, blueberries, big leaf maples, other low shrubs…ALL just firing.  65-70 degrees, light breezes, absolutely amazing.  I also call this wildlife day as I saw a black bear on trail, (he left quickly) a cottontail rabbit, a weasel and a small brown trout in the river at lunch.  All just coming by to say hello, then onward they went.   Just a delightful day on the trail.

Food Storage: Bear Boxes

Water: Right by campsite

Campfires: yes, had a great one

Campsites: easy to find, flat, close to river, two tiers.  One upper, one lower

What’s on the Menu:

  • Breakfast-Apple Banana Granola
  • Lunch- Pizza Grain Bowl
  • Dinner- Meat Potatoes Gravy w/ Carrots
  • Dessert- Peanut M&Ms

Day 3

North Fork – Dagger Lake – 10 Miles

This was the first real elevation gain of the trip.  Trail consisted of mixed PNW forest of evergreen and deciduous trees and low shrubs. It eventually climbed up to 5500feetish.  All doable.  

Food Storage: Bear wire.  Need own rope

Water: Lake could be potable, but not the best option.  Stock up before you get here

Campfires: yes, had another great one

Campsites: open, flat, short walk to lake

What’s on the Menu:

  • Breakfast-Bacon Cheddar Grits.  Carnation Breakfast drink
  • Lunch- Meat Cheese Bread & Avocado
  • Dinner- Turkey Stuffing Bowl w/ Veggies
  • Dessert- Pudding Party!

Day 4

Dagger Lake – War Creek Trailhead – 12 Miles

This was the most and least interesting day of the trip.  My plan was to get over the pass, then drop down onto the Twisp river trail.  But the end of the day was a big question mark.  How far could I get, which campsite, how long would it take, was there water.  All big question marks.

The short walk up to the pass and over into Eastern Washington was quite pretty but once you get on the Twisp River Trail, it becomes light rollers through some burns and grasses.  Not that interesting.  

I jumped down to the forest service road that it hugs to make it a little easier, but eventually bummed a ride 3-5 miles down the road to War Creek Campground.  I am SO glad I did this as I would have been beating feet for many boring miles.  At this point at 4pm in the afternoon, I had a decision to make.  Stay or keep on going an extra 2 miles to the War Creek Trailhead and desperate camp. Big factor was water.  I wasn’t sure of the next 24 hours availability so I loaded up on 5-6 liters and pushed forward into the unknown.  Gladly, everything turned out fine, found a flat reasonable spot to camp and rested up for day 5.

Food Storage:  On your own.  Find a good branch to hang

Water: None.  Load up at the state parks of Mystery/War Creek as Trailhead has none

Campfires: no

Campsites: I desperate camped by the parking lot.  No designated sites. If you chose to stay below the trailhead at one of the state parks, options are available and fee is required.

What’s on the Menu:

  • Breakfast- Apple Granola
  • Lunch- Pizza Grain Bowl
  • Dinner- Summer Sausage/Veggie Chili Cornbread Bowl
  • Dessert-Nada

Day 5

War Creek Trailhead – Juanita Lakes – 10 miles

I miss-judged the mileage at the beginning of the day, thinking it was only about 6.5.  But in reality, it’s around 9-10 of consistent moderate elevation gain through multiple different burns.  Around mile 7, MANY fallen burned trees.  Be mindful of the trail.  It’s still visible but keep your bearings. You can hear the War Creek most of the way, but it never crosses.  

Mostly it’s around 30-40 yards away.  You can get to it relatively easy in most spots, but not super convenient.  Be mindful of your water.  First real source is 6-7 miles in.  Juanita Lake is not a reliable option.

This was a very pretty trail (great for a trail run) and tops out at 6600 feet with larch and spruce forests.  Really pretty.  If you are coming from the Chelan side and Purple Pass, whoosh, get ready for consistent up up UP alllll the way through your 8 miles.  No joke.

I made it, the final hard part of the trip.  Delightful sunset over changing larches.

Food Storage: Hang your own at your own risk

Water: War Creek does have water, it’s just never really that close, usually multiple yards away.  First real water was 6-7 miles in Juanita Lake was murky and dry.  Creek runoff was dry this late in the season, probably fine in spring.

Campfires: none

Campsites: flat, amazing options with some tree cover and great Western views of changing larch forest

What’s on the Menu:

  • Breakfast- Bar, Carnation drink, roasted edamame
  • Lunch- Meat Cheese Bread
  • Dinner- Bacon Beef Ramen
  • Dessert-Nada

Day 6

Juanita Lake – Stehekin Lodge/Lake Chelan DONE! – 8 Miles

The final day!  Yes!  Just 8 miles down.  Just 8 miles.

The purple pass trail drops, and drops quick.  You continually get views of Lake Chelan as you get closer.  

Nothing too eventful here and finished off at the Lodge in time for lunch!

57 total miles.  6 days/5 nights.  I didn’t hurt myself.  I didn’t lose the trail.  I made it.  And what a treat to end at Stehekin.  So glad a planned for this.

Stayed in a cabin for the night.  Shower, beer, solid meal, bed, amazing.

What’s on the Menu:

  • Breakfast- Bar, Landjaeger, Carnation drink
  • Lunch/Dinner – At lodge

Day 7

Stehekin Lodge – Chelan – Home to Seattle

Ferry ride – 3.5 hours

What’s on the Menu:

  • Breakfast-  Pastries at the famous Stehekin Bakery.   AMAZING!
  • Dinner-  Big ass burrito 

Final campy deep thoughts

After a few days off the trail, I’ve had some time to reflect on this trip.  

First, I really lucked out.  No rain, great sunshine, Fall color and breezes, interesting and diverse trail and I didn’t hurt myself.  In planning, I couldn’t have asked for much more.

Second, my body isn’t broken.  My feet still hurt a little after 57 miles, but I really think the moderate 8-10 miles per day is a great zone to target.  I got to cover some good ground, but got to enjoy each spot and campsite along the way.  

Third, food/meal plan.  Part of this trip was testing a new meal plan.  One where I provisioned at a small town grocery store with some fresh, real ingredients.  Then packed it up in the parking lot with no special ingredients or equipment.  I also cooked on a 300 ml very small camp pot.  Overall, I ate really well.  I was satisfied at every meal time.  The flavors changed.  The textures changed and I was fueled with good ingredients rather than mashed up salty preservative filled packaged meals.  And most meals cooked up in about 5-10 min.  I have some tweaking to do on a few of the recipes but this was a huge success and I’m excited to share them soon. Stay tuned. 

Lastly, this was the longest trip I’ve ever been on.  Days and miles.  I had some great time to myself and saw a great part of a beautiful National Park. I feel accomplished.  I feel content and I can’t wait for the next adventure.

Get out there.  



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