We parked on the eastern side of route 73, just past the bridge over the North Fork Boquet river. The morning was warm and very humid so we both switched to T-shirts and shorts. Trail-runners were the ideal footwear for the day. At 7:40 AM we began our hike along the southern bank of the river.
After passing two designated campsites, we continued along the smooth herd-path, until we reached a crossing. It looked like a viewing spot along the river bank and I had passed it and continued along the distinct herd-path. Neil called out to me and pointed to a cedar on the opposite bank marked with a faded red paint-blaze. The "viewing spot" was indeed a crossing and we rock-hopped across to pick up the herd-path on the northern bank. The path rose above and away from the river.
We crossed smaller brooks, headed left at a fork (right leads northwest), crossed the North Fork Boquet River, passed a side-trail to Lillypad Pond, veered away to pick up the South Fork Boquet River, and paused briefly at a campsite. The campsite (could not find a designated campsite marker) is located between two parallel brooks, one is the South Fork Boquet River and the other a major tributary that leads west to the Beckhorn Slide.
|Idyllic pool along the South Fork Boquet River.|
We reached an intersection of three brooks that Neil, based on a description offered by Glen (Mastergrasshopper), called "Four Corners". We passed one more tributary and, a few minutes later, the herd-path veered away from the brook and began ascending Grace. We stopped to sterilize some water since we didn't expect to find any until we finished our traverse of Grace, Spotted and Elizabethtown #4.
|Neil on herd-path to the Great Slide.|
Upon reaching the first exposed bit of rock, we left the herd-path and began ascending it. Whatever was wet was dangerously slippery and forced us to remain on the 'dry and narrow'. How wet was it? Wet enough for frogs!
|Emerging from the primordial ooze on the Great Slide.|
|Neil follows the 'dry and narrow'.|
|Neil, Hough, and Dix.|
About ten yards below the summit, we found a broad chute featuring a hand-crack along the left and a V-shaped trough along the right. Neil and I chose our preferred routes and topped out on the cliff's head. I thought it was the best bit of climbing of the entire route!
|Upper terminus of the Great Slide.|
Returning to the cliff, we took one last look down the Great Slide, and shouldered our packs. Accompanied by the persistent "light-saber" buzzing of deer flies, we began our descent east to double-humped Spotted Mountain. The herd-path frequently petered out and required some bushwhacking to thread a route from one stretch of open rock to another. Blueberry shrubs lined the periphery of the open stretches but their fruit wasn't ripe.
Spotted was a delight. Its two humps provided a good blend of interesting rock, woods, vegetation, and commanding views of the Dix Range. At one point we were mesmerized by nine turkey vultures soaring high above us. Their aerial gyrations were accompanied by the flute-like music of nearby thrushes and inquiring calls of white-throated sparrows. Like one radio station overpowering another, nature's symphony was soon overshadowed by the bag-pipes of deer flies. Our cap-curtains kept them at bay but did little to muffle the whine of their eager dentist-drills.
|Neil atop Spotted's southwestern summit.|
|Neil descending to Elizabethtown #4.|
|Still-life on E-town #4.|
|Easy bushwhack down to South Fork Boquet River.|
A few yards up and out of the river brought us to the main herd-path. The remaining miles, a playback of the morning's travels, slipped by with little effort. We knew we were close to the highway when we heard the sounds of people enjoying the flumes and pools of the North Fork Boquet. Their laughter signaled the end of my first trip along the length of this valley and to the Great Slide. I'm already eager to return and discover its many other treasures.
PhotosSee all photos.