Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rock Mountain Trail, Lake Wenatchee

Rock Mountain trail to snowline (June 20, 2011)

While Rock Lake and Rock Mountain are still snowbound the lower half of the trail makes a dandy wildflower hike. Unlike previous years the trailhead is now signed – it’s just past US 2 (heading east) MP 173, a bit past the DOT buildings. According to the kiosk at the trailhead a Northwest Forest Pass is no longer required (perhaps because there’s no facilities?).

After parking we started up a gravel road, following signs (though I did not need the signs as I have hiked there many times before). Flowers start right from the trailhead – we saw Indian paintbrush, arnica, lupine, stonecrop, serviceberry, mountain ash, shooting stars, lomatiums, yarrow, penstemon and several we could not identify without further research (mostly tiny white flowers and yellow composites).

The views are immediate – Arrowhead Mountain, the Chiwaukum Mountains and at times, US 2 and the railroad tracks. Skies were blue, temperatures were warm – conditions couldn’t have been nicer. The trail is in good condition other than a little brushy in spots, at least until we hit snow at about 4,800 feet. Once the trail enters the forest there are significant snow patches – what we call nasty as it is icy in spots, too soft in others and covered with pine needles. Once you are in the trees (in the snow) it all looks alike. We were prepared with ice axes and could have carried on but frankly, we’re tired of snow and we knew we didn’t have time in those conditions to reach the lake or the peak.

I’m not complaining – if you need a wildflower fix other than the Teanaway/Easton area this is the place to go.

We hiked about 4.8 miles round trip with 2,300 feet of gain. Map: Green Trails No. 145, Wenatchee Lake.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Domerie Divide Trail (Easton)

June 16, 2011


After parking at the trailhead (Kachess Ridge/Easton Ridge) we turned right onto a short path that leads to an old camping area along Silver Creek then walked upstream a bit to cross the creek on a bridge. The hike to Domerie Divide begins on the Easton Ridge trail.

In mid-June the wildflowers start at the trailhead with Calypso orchids still in bloom, flowering currant and chocolate lilies. Trilliums are winding down, Solomon’s seal and Oregon grape flowers replacing them. Vanilla leaf is coming out, adding a sweet scent to the heady blend of Ponderosa pines. We also saw arnica, luina and Solomon’s seal and penstemon.

After climbing a few switchbacks the trail meets a gravel road (about 2,700 feet). We turned left onto the road (no trail signs). After the road makes a switchback look for an obvious (unsigned) trail uphill (left) – that’s the Easton Ridge trail. The next stretch is mostly in forest but there are a few views of Kachess Lake as the trail begins to climb more steeply. Here we encountered more vanilla leaf, Solomon’s seal, Calypso orchids and arnica.

We reached the trail junction (signed) at 3,400 feet (per the Green Trails map). Easton Ridge Trail No. 1212 (right) Domerie Divide Trail No. 1308-2 is to the left. We turned left onto the Domerie Divide trail and almost immediately hiked into what could only be described as a natural wind tunnel. It felt more like November than mid-June. We bypassed viewpoints where we usually stop in our attempt to escape the wind.

Shortly after passing overlooks the trail rockets straight up (no switchbacks). This is one of the steepest trails in the region but flower-dotted outcroppings provide views and an opportunity to catch your breath.

As you climb look for glacier lilies, lupine, phlox, spring beauties, Douglas lewisia, bitterroot (not yet in bloom) and balsamroot. As the trail climbs tread grows thin and it becomes more difficult for boots to get good purchase -- trekking poles may come in handy. Mount Baldy (5,107 feet) comes into view (right) and there are also views down to Easton Ridge.

We’d hoped to get to Mount Baldy once we reached Domerie Divide but snow patches gave hints of what lie ahead, not a good sign. We got to the crest of the ridge (4,800 feet) between Mount Baldy and Thomas Mountain. At that point there’s still a lot of snow, the kind of snow that makes route finding tricky (the snow is hard and covered with pine-needles).

On a clear day there are partial views of Cle Elum Lake - look behind you for the trailhead sign nailed to a tree. Trail No. 1308 (Domerie Peak Trail) continues along the ridge (left) and after losing elevation climbs to Thomas Mountain. We turned right for Mount Baldy but soon turned around due to the snow.

Trail data: It is about 5.6 miles round trip to the junction with Mount Baldy/Thomas Mountain with about 2,830 feet of elevation gain. The maps are Green Trails No. 208 Kachess Lake and Green Trails No. 240 Easton.

To get there: From Seattle take I-90 east and turn off at Exit 70 (Easton). Drive over the freeway and turn left onto a frontage road signed Kachess Dam Road and proceed to Forest Service Road No. 4818, turn right. Stay on Road No. 4818 to an unsigned road junction and turn right – continue about ½ mile to the trailhead, elevation 2,400 feet, no facilities. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Additional information: Cle Elum Ranger District (509-852-1100).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Way Creek Trail No. 1235 (Teanaway, via Jungle Creek Road

Way Creek Trail (Trail No. 1235)

This hike in the Teanaway is longer than is used to be due to the washout on the Jungle Creek Road (Forest Road No. 9701). The road branches off (left) just past 29 Pines Campground at the junction with Forest Road No. 3797 (N. Fork Teanaway Road).

There is room for road-side parking on the “good” side of the washout where the road is closed. I’d guess it’s about 2+ miles from the washout to the Way Creek trailhead (you’ll pass the Jungle Creek trail on the way). The Jungle Creek trail is a good wildflower hike but there are several stream crossings – with melting snow we didn’t want to fuss with stream crossings today. There are no significant stream crossings on the Way Creek trail to the ridge that was our destination today.

The hike begins at the end of the road (3,600 feet approximately) and starts off steeply uphill (another branch of the trail descends to Way Creek and a connection with Trail No. 1393 (Middle Fork Teanaway trail). Trail No. 1393 is a hike we’d also like to try when stream crossings are less of a hassle (there are several stream crossings on that trail as well).

The multiple-use trail is quiet this time of year. It starts climbing immediately from the signed trailhead and doesn’t relent much until it attains the ridge-crest. You can see where motorized vehicles have left their mark on this climb but don’t let that keep you away from this Teanaway treat. If you are uncomfortable hiking multiple-use trails, you might consider another hike. We don’t mind multiple-use trails when we know ahead of time they are multiple-use.

The trail is rutted, wide and easy to follow. The trail is steep enough that users (of all persuasions) have created a side-trail. Use either one – when conditions are muddy or snowy, take the trail that suits you. On this warm day the mud had hardened and other than the steepness of the grade, there were no difficulties.

The climb is made more enjoyable by the burgeoning wildflowers – Arnica, balsamroot, trilliums, violets, Indian paintbrush, spring beauties, lupine and Mertensia (mountain bluebells). There’s also lots of serviceberry, a sweetly scented shrub that seems to prefer the east side of the crest.

About half-way up to the ridge the trail relents a bit and climbs through a ponderosa pine forest. Here you will climb over a few downed trees and one nasty blowdown (messy, not difficult). If it’s a warm day you’ll enjoy this forested stretch as the forest provides shade before it continues climbing through a rocky area (with expanding views). Mount Rainier comes into view but as is too often the case, the skies were slightly overcast and hazy. Not a good day to photograph The Mountain.

This is a pretty nice stretch of trail and the elevation gain is made easier with switchbacks as opposed to the straight-up road that precedes it. A few mossy Ponderosa pines stand beside the trail interspersed with rocky outcrops above the trail.
We crossed a couple of streams (dry) and hit a small patch of snow where the trail connects to the ridge. Here, you can go either direction (see map for possibilities). As for us, the ridge itself provided an ideal lunch spot with in-your-face views of Mount Stuart and the still mostly snowy Teanaway peaks.

I picked up a tick while taking pictures of flowers – no one else did. Speaking of flowers – Douglasia is blooming, lomatiums and lots of glacier lilies where the snow has just melted. Bitterroot will be in bloom probably within 10-14 days. After a bite to eat we continued along the ridge but began to get into snow. We turned around at the junction with the Koppen Mountain trail and retraced our route.

We’ll likely return soon to hike Jungle Creek, maybe continue over to Koppen if conditions are good.

Stats: From Jungle Creek washout to Koppen Mountain junction: About 10 miles round trip, 2,500 feet gain (including the road walk). Map: Green Trails No. 209 Mount Stuart.

A bit of history about Putrid Pete's Peak

Thanks to a note from a member of SummitPost (www.summitpost.org) I learned that P3 (Putrid Pete's Peak) is named to honor Pete Schoening - if the phrase "The Belay" means anything to you, that's Pete's. His legendary belay saved the lives of several climbers. Apparently the last few feet are a Class 3 scramble but from where we stopped, it looked easier than that. I could easily be wrong. Check out the link above for more information.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Putrid Pete. Who?

What’s In A Name? Who Was Putrid Pete? June 10, 2011

There is some understandable confusion regarding the name of this prominence. Some call it “Putrid Pete”, others call it “Webb Mountain” or the W. Peak of Defiance. There’s probably other names for it too since it’s a numbered high point on a ridge. Call it whatever you like, it’s a fun trail though considerably steep.

Dennis had been there before – it was Michael’s first time and also my first visit. Yes, I knew where the trail started. It’s pretty obvious where it leaves the Ira Spring trail near the trailhead.

Reports I’d read convinced me that I wanted to explore it some day, preferably with someone who’d been there. Dennis had been there so we were set.

Dennis is a GPS wizard so stop reading here if you are looking for GPS waypoints and such but if you’d like those I can probably get them from him and post them here. Admittedly, I’m not much into gadgets though I have a GPS. Like my “smart” phone, I don’t feel “smart” enough to understand these devices and use them only when necessary.

We didn’t quite make the “summit” – the combination of poor visibility (fog, clouds) combined with treacherous old age stopped us short of the summit. We could have made it – the desire to do so wasn’t just as strong as our desire to stop plodding uphill. Or should I say plodding uphill through wet snow (the wet vegetation and loose rocks were challenging enough).

We let Michael lead the way – his pace is easy to follow, moderate and deliberate. I’d have to say his pace qualifies as a good “forever” pace. Same thing can be said for Dennis.

Following the trail from where it leaves the Ira Spring trail is a cinch. Enough folks have used it now that route-finding isn’t much of an issue. When in doubt, go uphill. We crossed a stream (was it the same stream or two different streams?) – we didn’t pay much attention as the crossings were not a problem. Just a hop, skip and a jump, no raging torrents here.

The trail is steep and in good condition most of the way, especially through the forest. No worse than say, the trail to Mount Defiance or Mailbox Peak before that trail breaks out into the open.

We crossed a small talus field – there’s a cairn to mark where the trail re-enters the forest but if it wasn’t there, it’s still easy enough to spot. We left it. Some hikers knock them down – we don’t.

The forest gradually opens out into a steep slope of loose rock, wet vegetation (lots of emerging bear grass – that should be blooming within a couple weeks). As for the gradient of the trail, it never relents. There are no flat spots. No scary spots either. It’s just … well, steep.

Clouds obscured most of the views – at times we could see I-90 below and we’re pretty sure McClellan Butte made a partial appearance at one point. We could not see the ridgeline above us or the high points so we stopped for lunch, opting to play the rest of the day by ear.

It was a little too chilly to linger so we discussed the pros and cons of going higher. Michael was content to stop there and savor the rest of his lunch. Dennis and I still had a spark of summit fever so agreed to continue on a little further.

If anything the terrain even grew steeper, the rocks looser, the vegetation more slippery, yet we pushed onward. From time to time the clouds would part for views of the ridge above us; my gosh, this is a beautiful place. No wonder more hikers are finding there way to whatever-the-name of this place is.

We reached a point where we could see what we believe was the named prominence. A fat strip of snow would lead us to the top but there was still 400 feet or so to go. We were in all honesty – tuckered. Dennis and I opted to turn around since we knew that going down wasn’t going to be much easier than climbing.

We met Michael and we retraced our way down, grateful when we recognized landmarks though Dennis could have led the way with his expertise with the GPS. A couple of us fell – once – on the way down. I won’t tell you who. No injuries other than muddy pants and a sudden loss of self-esteem.

If you think this was misery – well, it wasn’t. Tiring yes - but also fun and exhilarating. I enjoyed it so much I’ll go back to tag the summit of whatever that chunk of rock is called but I’ll wait for dry vegetation and blue skies.

Stats: About 2,650 feet of elevation gain to our turnaround, 4.6 miles round trip. (What? Is that all?)