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).

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