Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Easton Ridge, May 30, 2009

Easton Ridge - May 30, 2009

We’re glad the bridge that crosses Silver Creek is still there. Otherwise, we’d have hiked the Kachess Ridge trail instead (both hikes begin from the same “trailhead”). Easton Ridge is a good wildflower hike in late April through May if you don’t mind a few snow patches here and there at higher elevations. This late May was a little too late for wildflower displays we anticipated but it was still a good hike. We saw only two hikers, perhaps because it’s not all that easy to find the trail. It doesn’t appear in many guidebooks (if any) and a trailhead sign is missing at a road junction.

We saw Calypso orchids, glacier lilies, Solomon’s seal, Indian paintbrush, spring beauties, vanilla leaf and flowering current in bloom. After crossing Silver Creek on the thank-God bridge the trail began its pitiless climb. It was already hot so we were thankful for a brief stint through forest before intersecting the dirt road in blazing sun.

At the dirt road, turn left. At the next switchback in the road, find the trail heading uphill on an eroded, steep path – take in the view of Kachess Ridge before leaving the road.

Here, we spotted our first tick of the day. It wasn’t the last. This is the first year I’ve ever encountered ticks on this trail but apparently this is a bad year for ticks. A couple days after the hike, we were still finding an occasional tick (not embedded, though).

More unrelenting up through forest leads to a signed junction - the left fork is the Domerie Divide Trail. What we call the Easton Ridge trail is the middle (upper) of two right-forking trails. The lower right-hand trail leads to a dirt road. It’s easy to confuse them if you haven’t been here before. Guess how I found THAT out.

We took a break at the first rocky outcropping with views of Kachess Lake, a good turnaround if there’s still snow on the trail. There wasn’t, so we continued climbing. Views improved as we gained elevation; we found more flowers including phlox and stonecrop along the ridge-crest. A rough path follows the ridge-crest to the “end” of the trail, marked by a large rock outcropping (perhaps the site of an old beacon). You can also get to the outcropping by following a better trail a little below the ridge. At higher elevations there are also views of Lake Keechelus and Mount Rainier when not hidden by clouds or haze.

Carry extra water if you go. The snow is melting fast enough you can’t depend on snowmelt for water.

To get there: From Seattle drive I-90 east and get off at Exit 70. Proceed over the freeway and turn left onto frontage road (signed Kachess Dam Road), continue to Forest Service Road No. 4818 and turn right. Stay on Road No. 4818 to an unsigned road junction, turn right, continue to the trailhead, elevation 2,400 feet (it is also the trailhead for Kachess Ridge). For Easton Ridge turn right on a path to Silver Creek, a few paces upstream you’ll find the bridge. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Trail data: From the trailhead to the rocky outcroppings on the ridge crest it is approximately 7 miles round-trip with about 1,700-1,900 feet elevation gain.

Information: For additional information and conditions contact the Cle Elum Ranger District at 509-852-1100 or visit their website at www.fs.fed.us/r6/wenatchee. A good reference is the Cle Elum Ranger District Trail Guide - find it at REI, recreational equipment stores or ranger stations.

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