26-Jun-2001 -- There is no way to approach the N42 W123 confluence by car. A 4x4 or dirt bike is definitely required for the last 5 miles of Elliott Creek Rd. When I drove the road in late June it was deeply rutted from run-off, for long stretches extremely muddy and slippery. Three short stretches were especially nerve wracking. The road became barely wide enough to pass in my rather small Nissan 4x4 since the shoulder of the road had been washed into Elliott Creek a couple of hundred feet below. At exactly W123 the road comes to a definite end by way of a huge rockslide blocking it.
I parked, geared up lightly with GPS, snacks and water. The eTrex Venture told me I was 0.8 miles from the confluence. According to USGS maps I was approximately 2000 feet below my goal's elevation. At my present position there appeared to be no way to approach the confluence by going straight up W123. All I could see was large rock formations, dense tree cover and even denser underbrush. Walking east past the rockslide for a quarter mile on Elliott Creek Rd I started my ascent through relatively open stands of fir and cedars on a ridge going NNE. I followed the ridge for a good three hours through relatively unobstructed forest, zigzagging my way up towards the crest of Lilly Mountain. The path I took did alternate occasionally with beautiful open glades, thick, and hard to pass, underbrush and safely passable rock outcrops. The latter two slowed progress considerably, often necessitating some back- or sidetracking for an alternate, safer climb. Getting closer to the 42 Parallel I tried to hike west towards the confluence but was not able to pass the creek in the ravine below the ridge I had used to that point due to very steep banks, huge impassable rock formations and forbiddingly dense vegetation. I had to crawl back up to the ridge and continue past N42 until it looked like I was close to the top of the Lilly Mountain Crest. At that elevation the tree cover became sparser and I was able to cross west towards the confluence. I passed the ravine and creek on a fallen log, which conveniently formed a natural bridge. I arrived at W123 in a beautiful, open stand of firs. At that point I had to descend 0.2 miles according to GPS. Up to here the GPS had only worked sporadically due to heavy tree cover. Now it worked fine and quite accurately.
I was exhausted but excitement set in as I hiked toward my goal. As I neared the confluence the forest opened up even more, no underbrush and a mass of huge downed firs lying everywhere. Throughout my ascent the sun was hidden behind cloud cover. As I neared the confluence the sun came out and left a gorgeous mottled pattern on the soft pine needle floor. Within 300 feet of the confluence I looked around and saw two huge upturned trees lying parallel to each other 20 feet apart, crowns pointing down slope, massive root structures facing me. Midway between the decomposing giants a 10-foot tall sapling was growing and as I approached the spot my GPS told me this was the confluence. Reception degraded a bit and was "spotty". I turned the unit off then on again to get a new reading. Reception was better and confirmed that I was at the confluence with a 19 ft or 6m accuracy. I marked the spot with a pink sash and started to take photographs. I drank some water, ate a snack of dried fruit and changed into a fresh set of light athletic wear since I was drenched in sweat and stank like a wild boar. Then I took a quick nap at the confluence, knowing the descent would be just as strenuous as the ascent.
I decided not to backtrack my exact ascent route, instead I went straight down W123 with a slight east deviation, remembering the impassable looking point on W123 down on Elliott Creek Rd. It only took me 90 minutes to arrive at the parked 4x4, but at a much greater risk to my safety. The descent was at times so steep that I slid down slopes. For a few hundred feet I followed in or near a creek bed which left me stung multiply by 2 bees and countless mosquitoes. I slipped once on a mossy boulder crisscrossing the creek. As an ascent route the W123 would not have been doable. As a descent route it was fast but patently unsafe.
I arrived at the truck at 1330 having set out at 0700. This confluence is a major calorie burn, my fellow confluence hunters.