Saturday, July 25, 2009

Standup Creek Trail (Teanaway), July 22, 2009

Standup Creek (Teanaway) July 22, 2009

In early July Standup Creek makes a dandy wildflower hike. Since the trail is seldom described in guidebooks there’s a good chance you’ll have the trail to yourself. Its next-door neighbor, the Stafford Creek trail is much more popular. A couple years ago we lead a one-way hike with a car shuttle and car-key exchange. One group (my group) went up Standup Creek and down Stafford Creek and vice versa. We exchanged keys mid-way. You can walk between the trailheads if you’re alone but add another 3-1/2 miles or so to do the road walk.

In late July it was a different story. Given the heat most of the flowers were past prime; we even saw pearly everlasting and yarrow, both late summer flowers. Fireweed is blooming at lower elevations – we also saw a little bit of columbine, scarlet gilia and in rocky areas a couple varieties of stonecrop.

The road to the Standup Creek trailhead branches off from the Stafford Creek Road, about a mile from Forest Road 9737 (Teanaway Road). The first mile of the Stafford Creek road was rough but the Standup Creek road was worse. Our party made it in two passenger cars but just barely.

The first stretch of the trail was level – there are about seven crossings of Standup Creek (no bridge). It’s been so hot and dry that a couple of the streams had run dry. In May and June these crossings are more “interesting”.

After we finished with the stream crossings we were out in the open as the trail climbs a headwall in switchbacks. Some shrubs were in bloom beside the switchbacks but the tread was dry and pea-sized rocks made for an interesting descent on our way down. As we looked down into the Standup Creek drainage we looked with horror upon mostly brown pine trees, a result of pine bark beetle infestation. If – or when – a fire starts in this drainage it will flare up into a monster.

We’d hoped to reach the pass between the Stafford Creek drainage and Standup Creek but it was not to be. The heat was too much for my friends so they stopped to wait. We were still quite a ways from the pass so I only hiked a little further, wishing the pass were closer (I remember how beautiful the views are from the pass). I didn’t want to leave my companions for long so I turned around. They were not all that far behind me but heat exhaustion can be a factor when temperatures are in the mid-90s on an open slope in the sun. We all took an extended break on a shady outcropping before tackling the heat again.

You’d think hiking downhill would be a breeze after hiking uphill on a hot day. Not so – walking down the trail was even worse than climbing. It was literally like walking into an oven and it took us as long to go down as it did to climb to our end point.

The last stretch of the trail we shared with a herd of black cows – that is free-range country. They were the only “hikers” we met all day.

Getting to the trailhead: From Seattle drive I-90 and past Cle Elum get off at the exit for SR 970 north, continue to North Fork Teanaway Road to 29 Pines Campground. Turn onto Forest Road 9737 (gravel), and in about 2 miles turn right onto Stafford Creek Road. Drive about a mile and park near the junction with the Standup Creek road (left) or – at your own risk – carry on to the trailhead, a rough mile. The map is Green Trails No. 209 Mount Stuart. There is room for about 4-5 vehicles at the most. A NW Forest Pass is required.

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