Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meeks Table

Meeks Table, June 11, 2010


Meeks Table was hard to find in the early 1980s – it’s still hard to find. And more than worth it.

It’s a long drive to Meeks Table and a short hike. I’d hardly call it a hike. Perhaps “experience” is a better description.

Meeks Table is just inside the William O. Douglas Wilderness – be thankful for that because logging is breathing down Meeks neck. The trail was short to Meeks in the 1980s, now it’s shorter still as the once-forested path to the table has been logged to practically its edge. This is a sensitive environmental area; please keep your party-size small and tread carefully. Meeks table has never been commercially grazed by livestock and is an interesting area for ecologists and botanists to explore. The table is home to old stands of Ponderosa pine and wildflowers; some rare.

The most unusual flower is Giant Frasera or green gentian (century plant). It is one of the few places (perhaps the only place) it grows in Washington. Do bring a wildflower guide – there are too many flowers to list. In June we saw Giant Frasera (some of the frasera was getting ready to bloom), grass widows, death camas, stonecrop, bitterroot, spreading phlox, penstemon, lomatiums and more.

The mileage? Not much – about 3.82 miles (maximum) with 735 feet of elevation gain. Again - the challenge is finding the trailhead.

Getting there: From Seattle drive to Chinook Pass on Highway 410. Continue down from Chinook Pass on Highway 410 to a signed bypass around a landslide. The road is in good condition. Turn onto Bethel Ridge Road (Forest Service Road 1500) – the sign is partially blocked from view by vegetation until you are actually on the road. If you find yourself back on Highway 410 you’ve gone a little too far. The road is paved part of the way then becomes gravel; it is narrow and steep with turnouts (proceed with caution). When you get to a junction turn onto Road No. 1502 – you will pass McDaniel Lake, your clue that you are not too far from the next junction (Spur No. 1502-130). We missed it the first time and ended up at the Mount Aix trailhead (a hike we also want to do), turned around and looked again for the spur (look hard for it). The spur is short and rough, the parking spot obvious where the spur is blocked by large boulders (coming from McDaniel Lake the spur will be on the right-hand side of the road, marked by a metal post).

You can either walk up the blocked spur a way or follow a faint, flagged path to the talus field, the “start” of the hike. Either way, you’ll spot the “table”. We followed the flagged path to the edge of the talus slope – according to another source if you walk the road that leads to a path that avoids most of the talus. Once you are on the table you can hike around the rim in either direction – don’t miss the parklands or the quiet stands of Ponderosa pines or views of the South Cascades, including Mount Aix.

We suggest you dedicate at least a weekend to explore this region; it’s too long a drive for a day-hike and there are other nearby gems to explore.

We also recommend a stop at the Naches Ranger Station in Naches – not only do they offer a wealth of information to hikers and other recreational uses but this is also the site of the Three Mile Fire where several firefighters lost their lives only a few years ago.

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