Road to the Cascade Pass TH is in the best shape I have experienced on it. There are some bumpy spots near the recent washout but it is passable for all vehicles. Starting at 6:00 AM the trailhead was half empty. Restrooms are clean and were well stocked with TP.
Bugs. I found them to be almost non-existent on this trip with the exception of some annoying horseflies. But they were plump and slow and easily dispatched. However, when returning and descending Cascade Pass, nearly every group was complaining about bugs. So either my tolerance was upped after the relentless clouds of mosquitoes I encountered on the trail last week or they just don't like my BO. Either way, a win for me.
That out of the way. Trail up to Cascade Pass is in good shape. For those of you who haven't taken it, prepare for many switchbacks. But you get glimpses of mountain vistas along the way and the and the last switchback is a very long traverse over to the pass with excellent views. Many goats to be seen in the area. As for water, there are a few trickles near the pass but I believe they are seasonal and won't be around much longer. Plan your H2O accordingly.
My original intent of this trip was to go to Kool Aid lake along the Ptarmigan Traverse and perhaps attempt Magic and Hurry Up. So I began to follow the climbers trail towards Cache Col. However, I came upon a washout that presented me with a nearly vertical ten foot wall of loose dirt and rock to navigate if I wanted to get through it and to the other side. After about five minutes of floundering in said dirt and rock, I let out a curse and decided to bail on my original plans.
I had been up on the Sahale Arm the day previous so I decided to go check out Horseshoe Basin. I hadn't been there before and the photos I had seen were glorious. Pulling out my map, it looked to be about five miles from the pass. I knew I would get caught in the heat of the day but figured I would be fine. A little heat training.
I returned to the pass and dropped down into the valley. This stretch is absolutely beautiful, ringed with sheer mountain ridges and cascading waterfalls. Within a mile, you begin to switchback down as the valley abruptly ends in cliffs. It's such a cool feature of this area. The switchbacks were not as overgrown as I remember them being a couple years ago and near the bottom of them, you get to take a break at an amazing waterfall coming out of Doubtful Lake above. This is your first water source after just east of Cascade Pass.
After refilling water, I quickly descended to the junction with Horseshoe Basin and started up the trail. It is well marked with a wooden sign. You can quickly tell that the trail follows an old road bed from the mining days. It steadily gains altitude and it isn't long before you round a bend and start to get glimpses of the basin and the half dozen or so waterfalls pouring over the lip above.
As I made my way up, I found traces of the mining activity in old barrels, smashed and rusted out. The trail for me kind of petered out but you are in open country so I just took the easiest line up the basin. I could spy the tailings from the mine and headed towards it. There is still quite a bit of snow in the basin that is massively undercut. I will include a picture of it.
I made my way up to the Black Warrior Mine which is pretty impressive. This mine is on the National Historic Register and I can see why. A huge amount o effort went into this and it didn't really prove to be worthwhile given all the obstacles they faced having the mine in such a remote and rugged location. I enjoyed poking around for about half an hour before heading back.
Return trip was warm and unfortunately, the smoke and smell of the fires near Mazama and Winthrop reminded me of what was happening up there. I took my time on the return, stopping at each water source to refill my water and dunk my hat in the cold water. Not surprisingly, the trail to the pass was busy but everyone was courteous.
Amazing day checking out an area that I haven't been to before. I apologize in advance for not cleaning up my photos a bit. But they should give you a good idea of the basin.