Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Snoquera Palisades

SNOQUERA PALISADES (Trail No. 1198) When it’s still winter at higher elevations in the mountains the Palisades Trail (No. 1198) makes a great spring hike. The hike begins on the White River Trail (No. 1199) off State Route 410 east of Greenwater. In 0.1 mile turn left at the junction with the Palisades Trail. Plenty of wildflowers grace the trail including bleeding hearts, yellow violets, trilliums, red flowering currant, even Calypso orchids. Calypso orchids (also known as fairy slippers) are tiny, intricate flowers often springing from duff near evergreens. A little later in spring the air will be sweet with the scent of vanilla leaf as the ground-cover in the forest grows into a plush carpet of wood sorrel, twin-flower, salal, Oregon grape, ferns, moss and lichen. Hear that roar? That’s Lower Dalles Falls and you’ll hear it before you see it. In spring the 280-foot waterfall puts on a spectacular display from melting snow. A short spur leads to the base for a closer look. Note the majestic Western red cedars near the waterfall. As the trail climbs away from the waterfall toward the Palisades it follows a delicately engineered route between Dalles Creek and tall, dark cliffs – watch for loose rocks. You’ll soon come to a sturdy staircase that makes quick work of climbing a particularly steep pitch – the bridge was built by the Boy Scouts of America. . Above the stairs you’ll cross Dalles Creek - look below and to the right for a partial view of another waterfall (some refer to this waterfall as Upper Dalles Creek Falls). After crossing Dalles Creek the trail re-enters the forest and is level for an easy half-mile or so as it continues to the first of several promontories (3,320 feet elevation) that overlook the White River valley, Sun Top Mountain and forested foothills. Notice how gnarled snags lean out over the cliffs as if they too are taking in the views. Here stonecrop and delicate saxifrages cling to the rocky outcroppings. Be on the lookout for ticks – like us, they like warm rocks in the sun. How far do you want to hike? Any of the overlooks along the Palisades make dandy lunch spots or turnaround. You can continue to a robust shelter at Ranger Creek where the Ranger Creek Trail (Trail No. 1197) comes in from State Route 410 (see the map for details). To get to the Palisades trailhead: From Enumclaw drive east about 28 miles on State Route 410, park on the left side of the highway (parking is limited), elevation (2,352 feet). The trailhead is just past the overlook of Skookum Falls and is designated with a small sign. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. It is about five miles round-trip to the first viewpoint with 1,100 feet of elevation gain. For additional information, rules and regulations and/or current trail conditions, call the Snoqualmie Ranger District (Enumclaw) at 360-825-6585. The map is Green Trails No. 238 (Greenwater). Karen Sykes

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