The Long Way to Koppen

I had so much fun the last time I did a bike shuttle that I decided to do it again over Memorial Day weekend. I knew the Teanaway was likely to be (very) busy on Memorial Day weekend, so my goal was to explore an area that would be less crowded yet still offer some good views. Koppen Mountain seemed like a good option, but I wanted a few more miles than the direct route from De Roux. And so I came up with a contrived route that I’ve dubbed The Long Way To Koppen:

2016-05-30
The long way to Koppen Mtn. Orange/yellow is riding southeast on FS 9737 and then northwest on Jungle Creek Rd. Green is on foot from Jungle Creek –> Johnson-Medra –> Koppen Mountain –> De Roux Spur –> Boulder De Roux

My original intention was to leave my truck at De Roux trailhead and then ride my bike down to the start of Jungle Creek trail (1383.1). It turned out there was a road block ~1.5 mile from the De Roux trailhead, so I left my car at the road block instead (this added 1.5 miles of road running from the De Roux TH back to my car at the end).

After leaving my car, I hopped on my road bike and cruised down the dirt/gravel road to the start of the Jungle Creek trail. It turned out the road to Jungle Creek was also washed out a bit, which added another ~1 mile on foot at that end of the route as well. I ended up with approx 8.5 miles and 1000 ft of descent on my bike, and 15.5 miles and 5000 ft of ascent on my feet.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well my road bike handled on the Forest Service roads. It was a little jarring over the washboard sections, but overall not too bad. I’d been contemplating buying a cyclocross bike but it looks like my trusty old road bike will do the trick. It’s nothing fancy, and that’s why it’s perfect: it’s a 2005 Ruby, aluminum frame, Gatorskins tires, low-end components. I can beat it up on gravel roads and then leave it in the bushes at trailheads and it’s unlikely to tempt anyone (I lock it just in case).

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Grinding gravel in the morning

Unlike when I did the Icicle Ridge traverse, this time I was smarter/lazier and made the bike segment primarily downhill. I also crammed my running shoes into my pack and used clipless pedals and bike cleats for the ride. When I stashed my bike at the trailhead, I left my helmet, shoes and flat kit behind. It all worked perfectly and I feel like I’m starting to get the system dialed.

As for trail conditions, the first mile or two of Jungle Creek lived up to its name. The start of the trail could be easy to miss, as it’s essentially just a path that takes off into the grass off the FS road (see pic below). The trail along Jungle Creek is rooty and brushy, with a fair number of blowdowns. It’s still completely passable – just a little rough around the edges. As Jungle Creek ascends above 4000 ft, conditions improve considerably, and I even noticed evidence of a recent logout. After the intersection with Way Creek trail, Jungle Creek is in good shape all the way down to Johnson-Medra. There was no snow on Jungle Creek.

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The start of Jungle Creek trail off Jungle Creek Rd
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Came across this structure (including the colorful hooks mounted to the tree on the right) near the intersection of Jungle Creek and Johnson-Medra. Anyone know what it’s about?

Johnson-Medra looked good too – a little brushy along the creek, but nothing crazy. Like Jungle Creek, it was snow-free. Johnson-Medra is also where I saw the most people: 3-4 parties for a total of 8 people. For a sunny holiday weekend in the Teanaway, it really wasn’t bad, and the views from the high point of the Johnson-Medra trail (5400 ft) are fantastic. If you’re looking for a scenic yet relatively uncrowded day hike in the Teanaway, the Johnson-Medra trail would be a great option. I believe it’s approx 8 miles and ~2500 ft roundtrip from the Johnson-Medra trailhead, which is just past the Beverly campground.

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The Koppen Mountain trail intersects Johnson-Medra at 5400 ft, and from there the Koppen Mtn trail closely follows the ridgeline all the way to Koppen Mountain. The trail disappears here and there (as indicated on Green Trails 208Sx) and required a bit of route-finding, but as long as you stick to the ridge you’ll be fine. Koppen Mountain trail from the intersection at Johnson-Medra to the summit of Koppen Mountain was essentially snow-free.

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South section of Koppen Mountain trail
Koppen in the middle, Hawkins in the background
Koppen as seen from the south, with snow-covered Hawkins in the back

While at the summit I lucked out and watched a rainbow form in the North Fork Teanaway Valley below. Even better, as I was taking a picture of the rainbow, a young couple appeared on the north ridge line. I don’t often have human subjects for my photos and it was great! They were friendly and talkative, and I should’ve paid more attention when they mentioned that it had been a long haul up the north side of Koppen. I also should’ve noted how relieved they looked when I reassured them that the south side was virtually snow-free.

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Cameron and Aisha on their way up to the summit, with a rainbow in the valley below them.

 

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Cool pic that Cameron took of me on the summit of Koppen, as they were ascending.
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Watching Cameron and Aisha descend down the south side of Koppen.

As I soon found out, the north side of Koppen Mountain (unsurprisingly) is holding a lot more snow than the south side. There is a steep hard snowpack in the trees along the north ridge that made route-finding difficult, and had me wishing for my microspikes. I only had trekking poles and there were a couple of traverses that made me pretty uncomfortable. The Koppen Mountain trail from the summit down to the intersection with the De Roux spur trail is mostly covered in snow, and the first few switchbacks of the De Roux spur trail also had patchy snow that obscured the trail. By 4800 ft, however, the trail was clear and it was smooth-sailing all the way back to the road.

 

All in all, a very fun day in the Teanaway!

Hawkins and Esmeralda
Hawkins Mountain and Gallaher Head (?)
Ingalls, Stuart,, Longs, Teanaway and Iron (unc)
OK, here’s my best guess: Ingalls, (what is the shorty between Ingalls and Stuart?) Stuart, and then Iron, Earl and Navaho in front of Stuart (??)
Stuart hidden in the clouds with Teanaway and Iron in the back (uncertain)
Balsamroot
Stuart with Teanaway in front (unc)
The tippy top of Stuart, finally making an appearance

 

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