We need to start getting some mileage per hike. Whitney is 22 miles and we need to make certain we can 'go the distance'. G said we need to look for a hike with more mileage. "Maybe we can find something in a loop".
That gave me an idea. I have a copy of "Best Loop Hikes in Washington". We love the Teanaway area on the eastern slopes of the Cascades so I found a great 12 mile loop; Iron Bear-Miller Peak Loop.
We've done different parts of the trail. We did Miller last year and it was great. We did part of Iron Bear just a couple of weeks ago when we did Teanaway Ridge. County Line Trail combines the two. Perfect.
What was even better was there was a great trip report last week on just this hike. So off we went.
The day was forecast to be warm so we got an early start. It takes about 2 hours or so to make it from Seattle to the trailhead. There was just one other car so it looked promising. The trail is popular with motorcyclists so we really didn't expect solitude but one can hope.
We followed the recommendation in the trail guide and went counter-clockwise so the sun could be at our back. The Iron Bear trail starts very level along the stream. It bubbled happily in the morning. The normal woodland flowers although we found some outstanding white shooting stars along the streambeds.
After about two miles, the trail turned north and started climbing to the ridge. The area became more open and rocky and the plants we found were the normal rocky favorites in the Teanaway; Indian Paintbrush, Scarlet Gila, phlox and at the ridge, bitterroot.
We came to the junction of the trail from Blewett Pass that we had done a couple of weeks early. We didn't recognize it in the sun and continued up switchbacking up the slopes of Iron Bear until we reached the summit and view off over the area. What a view! Along the way we passed our first hiker, a solo backpacker. Little did we know that this would be the only person we saw the whole day.
After a quick Lunabar, we were off. Down we went to the junction to County Line and then down a steep slope. Boy we were glad we weren't coming up. We came across a couple of really different columbines.
After the pass, we started up towards Miller passing through an interesting rock formation and then on up to a stunning view of the Ingalls Ridge and the Enchantments.
Waves and waves of yellow balsamroot daisies waved in the cooling breeze. I love the openness and feeling of air you get from trail. It isn't steep but the vistas and ridges go on for a distance. We stopped for lunch while we savored the view. We continued up to the junction with the Miller trail and a couple more switchback to the saddle below Miller.
I was getting tired by now. We had covered 8 miles and probably close to 3000ft. G went on ahead but I surprised him by following him on up. It was a test. If I can't do this... how in the hell am I going to make Whitney?
The distant peaks were clouded but you could still see a few of the peaks like Ingalls. By now, it was almost two and we needed to head out. We headed down and made a quick pace to the car. Of course, we stopped along the way to pay our respects to the little brownie orchid we found previously. It was still there but the patch seemed much smaller. Had it been disturbed? Did it have difficulties over the winter? Let's hope it makes it another year.
Onward and after a bit, we were at the car. A wonderful glorous day. The solitude and vistas left us with a peace that stayed for days. Plus it was a great workout; 12 miles, 3900ft elev 8 hours.