Thursday, June 6, 2013

Easton Ridge Trail No. 1212, May 31, 2013

EASTON RIDGE TRAIL No. 1212 The trails along Easton Ridge live up to their reputation as being the “go to” place when it’s cool and rainy on the west side of Snoqualmie Pass. At the worst you might experience drizzle or a rain shower as opposed to the deluges on the west side. The Easton Ridge trail is poignantly beautiful in June with sprinkles of dainty Calypso orchids in shady areas and in sunnier spots you’d almost expect the upside-down bell-shaped chocolate lilies to tinkle in the breeze. On our early June hike vanilla leaf was off to a good start and at higher elevations Indian Paintbrush and Bracted Lousewort were also getting started. Golden glacier lilies danced in the breeze and chunks of colorful stone-crop adorned the bony ridge-crest. You’ll also see penstemon, serviceberry, lomatiums; dainty spring-beauties carpet the path as it weaves between shady forest and sunny openings with views of the Stuart Range, Lake Easton and Lake Kachess. You might even get buzzed by a hummingbird if you’re wearing red. On a clear day before haze develops you can also see Mount Rainier. In the forest you’ll find Calypso orchids, low enough to the ground that you have to look for them; getting them to hold still for a photograph is challenging. The Easton Ridge Trail No. 1212 shares the trailhead with the Kachess Ridge Trail and Domerie Divide trails. From the trailhead bear right a short distance and cross bustling Silver Creek on a footbridge. After crossing Silver Creek the trail switchbacks steeply uphill through the forest to a gravel road. Turn left, continue to the next switchback on the road and spot the trail heading uphill. At about 3,500 feet you’ll come to a three-way signed trail junction, the first sign you will encounter after leaving the trailhead. The middle trail (soft right) is the Easton Ridge Trail (the faint path to the right dead-ends) and the trail (left) climbs to Domerie Divide and other enticing destinations such as Thomas Mountain and Mount Baldy. From the junction the Easton Ridge trail makes short work of climbing to the ridge-crest with increasingly spectacular views of Lake Easton, Kachess Lake, the outskirts of Easton, a quarry and across the ribbon of I-90 the foothills and peaks of the Taneum area some refer to as the land between the lakes. The path grows airy and narrow in places along the ridge with serviceberry and other shrubs hugging the trail, sharing the territory with phlox (spreading and cushion), bracted-lousewort, glacier lilies, yellow bells and tufts of penstemon like Tibetan prayer flags fluttering from rock outcrops. The Ponderosa pines are tall and handsome, some bedecked with the glow of moss that can only be described as psychedelic. A few silver snags claw at the sky. As you continue you’ll pass a “No Trespassing” sign which we interpret as being off the trail where a private land-owner has purchased a sizable chunk of real estate. To the best of our knowledge and also according to the Cle Elum Ranger District it is OK to continue but play it safe and stay on the trail (the private property appears to be on the north side of the ridge). We continued along the path to the high point, a rocky-outcrop only a rock climber would venture to the top like one of our companions. The rest of us were content to stop at the base. The high point is the site of a fire tower that was destroyed in 1948 – a sheet of crumpled metal near the base of the high point may be an indication that there was also a beacon at this location in the past. From the base of the high point (4,500 feet) the views of Thomas Mountain, Mount Stuart and the Stuart Range are compelling. There are also views to the north - look down on Cle Elum Lake and Mount Baldy, another high-country hard-earned treasure. The only fly in the ointment so to speak is that these trails are in tick country, especially spring to mid-summer. Despite the threat of picking up a tick after a long winter followed by a chilly spring we could not get enough of the sun and were in no hurry to leave. We also took our time hiking back, stopping several times for yet another attempt to photograph the wily Calypso orchid. Between us we picked up two ticks but found them before they settled down to feast on us. While we loathe ticks we don’t let them keep us away – take precautions and be on the alert. To get there: From Seattle head east on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, get off at Easton (Exit No. 70), go over the freeway, turn left on the frontage road and then right on Kachess Dam Road No. 4818. In about 1.5 miles you’ll come to an unsigned road junction and a tree with an orange diamond reflector; turn right. Continue about a mile to the trailhead/parking area, no facility. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Stats: The hike is about 7.15 miles round-trip with 2,485 feet of elevation gain. Additional Information: Call the Cle Elum Ranger District for current road and trail conditions at 509-852-1100. The maps are Green Trails No. 240 Easton and Green Trails No. 208 Kachess Lake. For photos of this hike visit my Flickr site at Addendum: About Ticks: Starting in late-April hiking related websites generate chat about ticks: where they have been encountered, how to get one out should it get embedded, how to avoid them in the first place. There are horror stories and remedies, not all the remedies are cheap or always effective. Ticks can carry diseases and they are hard to detect. Nature has designed them very well – you won’t feel them crawling on your body once they find you. They inject a type of painkiller into your skin so they can explore the trails of your body unimpeded as they search for a site to begin feeding. They prefer wet, moist places like scalp or bodily parts you can’t see in a mirror. We know people who have been – or still are – ill from the effects of a tick-bite (a friend of ours got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick in Montana; “our” ticks can carry Lyme Disease. You can also get an infection from the tick if they regurgitate while feasting or you don’t remove the entire body once it embeds. Be on the lookout for a circular rash around the site of the bite after removing the tick. The good news (if any) is that ticks are finicky and will crawl around on your skin, clothing or pack for about 8-12 hours before they pick an all-you-can restaurant (you!). Apparently ticks go through three life cycles – initially they are about the size of a period and when they are mature they are about 1/8 inch in size and bigger after a blood meal. Twice I’ve had to take antibiotics because I didn’t detect the tick in time. People have tried many ways to remove a tick – the best method is pulling them out with tweezers. Not much else works very well. We know. We’ve tried Vaseline, flames from a match, nail-polish and nail-polish remover. It’s best to find them before they set up shop and before you get into your car. Once I tried to kill a tick with a rock (the tick was on another rock heading toward me) and couldn’t kill it. We tried to burn it; that didn’t work either, it kept coming at me; we moved to another site. I am not an expert on the effects of global warming though it appears ticks are creeping ever closer westward. It used to be you’d find them most often on the east side of the mountain passes but now they can be found in the Olympics, Deception Pass (since the early 1980s), Snoquera Palisades and other rocky areas off State Route 410. Ticks may drop off once they feed; that’s why it’s important to find them before they dig in. Twice – I’ve had to go on antibiotics as a result of tick-bites. Once was a preventative measure; the second time a bulls-eye rash had developed around the site of the bite, indicating possible infection. What’s the solution? Your dog has a better chance of evading a tick than you as Advantage works on pets to keep ticks away. Hikers are advised to wear light colors to spot them. We also recommend wearing long pants, gaiters and long-sleeved light-weight shirts. Evolutionarily speaking ticks are practically bomb-proof. Some hikers believe Vitamin B1 helps keep them away or DEET (a pesticide); others swear by bug-repellent clothing. For additional information about hiking in tick country Washington Trails Association has recently published an excellent article on that subject. Visit their website at . Karen Sykes

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