Back around 2004, G and I started making an annual pilgrimage to the Taneum area to view the camas and other wildflower fields. Usually we would go mid-May and if it weather wasn't too hot we would find some stunning fields of blue. We had a sekret way in. Two years ago, we found our sekret way blocked by moguls of dirt and downed trees. Our sekret way was a couple of old jeep roads that Fish and Game decided to totally block and keep the ATVs out. Good thing but it was a pain to get through. We gave up on the trail.
But we still wanted to find the fields again. On our sekrit way, we would pass a dirt road so we knew there was one way to get somewhat close. A friend got a Green Dot Map for the L.T. Murray Wildlife area which we borrowed. Looking at it and a topographical map of the area, we discovered that we could probably get in if we could get up to the Tamarack Spring campground which is in between Taneum and Manashtash.
We decided to go exploring with our friend on Monday (6/14). The weather was gorgeous but extremely windy. It has been cooler than normal and most of the flowers that we normally see in May were just starting to bloom.
We started by going up the Tamarack Ridge Road. If lucky, we might be able to make it across to Tamarack Springs. We entered through the gates off of Joe Watt Road and took the middle fork which is Tamarack Ridge Road. The road was rough but it did not have a lot of deep ruts so our friend's Subaru wagon was able to make it. G did get out in a couple of places and throw a few rocks off the road. This is the prime shrub steppe eco-system of the Eastern side of the Cascades that we love. The road climbed up through the Ponderosa pine forest to a ridge with a stunning vista across Thorp to the Stewart Range and to Ellensburg to the east. Here we found wonderful small rock gardens in the lithosol -- a thin, rocky soil - full of buckwheat, penstemon, balsamroot, bitteroot and desert parsley.
We came to a pretty big puddle in the road and we decided not to risk going further on the rocky road so we turned back. We retraced our route and then drove up Taneum Road 33 to just beyond Icewater Campgound where we turned south on 3330 toward Buck Meadows. The larch and aspen trees were leafing out. They were both a gorgeous shade of chartreuse. It will be beautiful in the fall although it will also be a prime hunting region. The road is in excellent condition and we met no one other than a road grader who was re-graveling and leveling out the road for the summer season.
We turned off at Road 3120 and headed to Tamarack Spring. The campground was closed. We were thinking about heading in on Hutchins Road but it looked a little rough so we parked. We discovered a really interesting grave just past Tamarack Spring. It is fenced in and maintained by a local snowmobile club. It is covered by stones with an old cross made by branches. A chiseled gravestone says "White Woman's Grave". I was able to find an article on it from the Ellensburg newspaper from 1973. A local pioneer woman and her husband was traveling through the area and became lost. They were directed to go through this area since it was closer to Kittitas than Yakima. They were hurrying and the woman's horse tumbled jumping over a log and she was hurt falling from the horse. She was pregnant at the time. She had a miscarriage and died. Her husband buried her at the site. He had wanted to return and bring her down to a graveyard, but was convinced that since she was a pioneer woman, she should remained buried in a pioneer grave. Another man returned later with the gravestone to mark that it was a white woman's grave so it would not be vandalized. Eventually a fence was built over it and rocks cairned over it to protect it from livestock. Such a sad but facilitating story.
We walked for about two miles and we started seeing the fields of camas. It was in prime bloom along with delphinium, big head clover. In a couple of weeks, the penstemon should be blooming.
It was getting late and we still had the drive back to Seattle so we decided to call it a day. We did not find the fields we used to visit but we were really close. We know we can find them again next year. Monday was a great day also to explore. The campgrounds and roads were empty. We had the wilderness and the peaceful fields to ourselves.
For more photos - check out the slide show on Flickr