Thursday, April 16, 2009

Westberg Trail, April 15, 2009

Westberg Trail, April 15, 2009 (Manastash Ridge, Ellensburg)

Sick and tired of snow friends and I headed east for one of my favorite April wildflower hikes, the Westberg Trail named for Ray Westberg (a popular local wrestling coach who died too young). In other write-ups I’ve seen his name sometimes spelled “Westburg” but on the memorial to the coach at the ridge-crest, the name is spelled “Westberg” so I’m sticking with that.

The trail is short and steep. Hikers have created side-trails to ease the pain of elevation gain but the main trail is easy enough to follow in open terrain. About ¼ mile from the ridge-crest you’ll come to another well-defined trail heading right at a large ponderosa pine. For hikers wanting to make a loop remember this junction and on your way back turn left at this junction. That trail descends a grassy, ponderosa pine-filled valley to a road that parallels an irrigation channel (turn right to get back to the trailhead). However, the irrigation channel was running high and we don’t know whether or not it’s a problem to cross it there.

We continued straight toward the ridge-crest; the main trail bears right, following the line of the ridge toward a high point marked with a cairn, a post, a summit register and views of the Stuart range and the Kittitas valley. A little beyond you’ll find the Westberg memorials and other memorials.

For a longer hike continue past the summit and memorials a short distance to a gravel road and explore. When/if you encounter “No Trespassing” signs, heed them.

We recommend waiting a couple more weeks for the best wildflower displays. In mid-April flowers are just beginning to bloom; the drab winter-blasted hills are just barely greening up and flowers are getting a late start. Balsamroot hasn’t even started to bloom. We did see grass widows (Sisyrinchium), a member of the iris family at lower elevations but not at peak. We also saw yellow bells, spring beauties and a few sagebrush buttercups. At higher elevations the ground is carpeted with gold star (small yellow flowers). We also saw a few lomatiums and wild onion.

There’s lots of sagebrush along the trail and a few ponderosa pines. Bring a field guide – my favorite for this region is “Sagebrush Country, A Wildflower Sanctuary” by Ronald J. Taylor (Mountain Press Publishing Company). Also be on the alert for ticks - we didn’t see any today but I picked up one last year and needed to go on antibiotics.

Getting to the trailhead: From Seattle head east on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass and get off at Exit 101 (Thorp Highway) and turn right (south). In about two miles turn right again onto Cove Road, go straight at two stop signs. Just past the second stop find parking on the right, signed Ridge Trail Parking, no facilities, crowded on weekends.

Trail data: It’s about 4 miles round-trip from the trailhead to the memorials at the summit, elevation gain approximately 1,700 feet.

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