This year’s visit to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness was out of Big Creek again, and started the same way as our Chamberlain Basin hike of the last two years. But there were some major differences this year. 
For one, we had company. Bill, who had come with us on the coast, was also coming with on this trip. And he was bringing a friend – his border collie, Mike. Now, I’m allergic to dogs, but I am not immune to their charms. I like them. I just can’t touch them without risking itchies and spending time in enclosed spaces with them can lead to asthma. But Ambrose and I both figured I could give it a try for one trip and see if I could handle being around a dog in wide open spaces. 
We all drove into Big Creek the day before we planned to hike out and spent the night at the campground near the airport. Bill would have beat us there, but when he came up behind us on the road, he waited and let us go first – I think because he was concerned our car might not make it. Some other backpackers arrived after we had set up camp. They were being flown out and then hiking out and fishing. 
On departure day, we had a leisurely time eating breakfast and waiting for the day to warm up a bit. I had a hard time sleeping, because at some point in the early morning I got this stitch thing in my ribs. I get it every now and then, where I get this stabbing pain when I breathe and it usually doesn’t last more than 5 minutes, 30 at the outside. This time it took more than 4 hours and only stopped when I had a cup of coffee – not sure if that was causation or correlation, but I know what I’m trying first next time. 
After eating lunch, each party drove their vehicle to the trailhead, and then we all got out and started hiking. We weren’t very far out when a dog comes around a bend in the trail and sniffs at me, as I’m in the lead at that point. Something about the dog looked a bit familiar, but I couldn’t place why. Then her owner walked up and he looked familiar too, but I didn’t know why until he asked if he had seen us at Queens River. This was the same guy we chatted with at the Queens River trailhead campsite back on Memorial Day – what are the odds? 
I noticed that the trail had gotten some work at the point where the old road went low and the trail went high. The direction was clearer and a bit less steep. Something I’ll want to update for my guidebook. 
Once we made it to camp, we picked our tent sites and got pitched, but not in any hurry. We had a good number of hours until sunset. Bill went for a long walk after dinner. While he was gone, I managed to catch a bug in my pants and get bitten. Then Ambrose and I, not knowing what to expect about Bill’s walk, got worried. So I stayed at camp while Ambrose went to look for him. When they came back, Bill explained that in his family, it’s typical to take a long after dinner walk. We thought he was just going to take a look at the other campsite and come back. It’s all about managing expectations.
Retreat to tent was pretty early for me since I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. And I was making us all get up early since I knew that the next day’s hike would be challenging for Ambrose to complete. 
Ambrose at the trailhead parking lot. 

The trailhead proper has no place to park nearby; you’ve got to walk down a hill and across a bridge before setting foot on trail. 

The weather was partly cloudy, but it didn’t feel like rain. 

It was pretty funny to see this little rodent perched above the trail while the border collie was utterly oblivious. 

The attendant at the ranger station said this trail was cleared recently, so this was probably new deadfall. 

Naturally, Mike went under this one. 

Bill taught me a new berry! These are service berries. The taste was a bit flat, quite sweet. I like them. 

Turns out taking cute pictures of dogs in the wilderness has a learning curve. 

Even though I was tired and my head hurt, I could appreciate the views. 

Sometimes a cloudy day gives the landscape an interesting lighting. 

Glad this one was trimmed up for us. 

A little bit of a landslide hit the trail at this point. I wondered if the trees had been placed to brace the trail or just fallen that way. 

Always nice when the rocks aren’t piled on the trail. 

More service berries. 

Bill didn’t know what these berries were, so I didn’t try them. 

There were actually a whole lot of ripe service berries along this trail. 

Not too long of a day’s hike before we reach the campsite at Beaver Creek. 

It was much like I remembered it. 

I pitched our tent on the verge of where the grass wore away to dirt. Bill’s tent is out of the frame to the right.

Ambrose surveys the campsite, studiously ignoring Bill’s empty camp chair while he sits on the ground. 

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