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February 20, 2005

Frosty Tiger Mountain

We have been having remarkable weather. The jet-stream seems to have split and we are getting sun while Southern California and the Southwest is getting rain. That means even more flowers for us. It was time to hit the trail.

G wanted to so Mount Si but I wasn't really interesting in that long of a hike. So we decided on doing Section Line trail on Tiger Mountain. It was sunny but cold. Little did we know there were also icy roads. The first indicator was the DOT sand time coming on I90. Then there were the flares. The right lane was frosty white. Sure enough there was a spin out and Jeep Cheroke in the ditch. Too bad they took out the back of a State Patrol car first.

We parked, put on the boots and gingerly walked up the road to the trailhead. The frost was beautiful. We headed off to Nook trail and away from the crowds. The cold was nipping at my cheeks but I was warm. Soon we made the junction from Nook to Section line. It is such a killer. Straight up. It was a little bit icy in spots but not bad. The really steep part is under thick evergreen forest so it was not slippery. But that last part after Railroad. You think you are almost there and there is still a kill 1/2 mile. But finally we broke out into the sun. Such a gorgeous day. Views to the east of Cascade foothills. To the West, the Olympics and the Seattle skyline. You could even see the Space Needle.

After a Luna bar and a Clif shot, time to go down. It was so busy and icy. I almost slipped once or twice. But it went fast. It wasn't bad until we got almost to the car and it was slippery and frosty still.

Overall a great winter hike. 5 miles - 2:45 time.

August 3, 2005

Mt. Rainier




I just started trying out Flickr. I'm mainly using it to post pictures for the NW hikers board but it is fun.

April 21, 2006

Washington Desert in Bloom

We have our own desert here in the state of Washington. You may not think of Washington as a desert state but the Columbia Basin area of Eastern Washington is a high desert. It is a favorite place for us to roam in the Spring and enjoy the wildflowers.

The wildflowers this year are going to be great. It has been an above-normal year in rainfall. We have also had a colder year so Spring is coming slowly. We had hoped to get out last weekend but it was rainy and cold. It even snowed down to 2,000ft!

But we knew it was time to go so even the rain couldn't stop us. I knew from the reports on NW Hikers Forum that the bloom was running about two weeks behind. G won't be able to get out the next few weeks because of Smartyplants plant sales so it was now or wait.

We decided on Vantage area because it was lower in elevation and we wanted to try to find Salvia dorrii. A little googling for where it occured and I found it listed on Turner Photographics as being located in the area. The backcountry hike at Ginkgo Petrified Forest in Vantage would give us a chance to check it out along with views of the Columbia. I highly recommend Best Desert Hikes: Washington for planning.

After tangling with traffic, we made it to Ellensburg by 10:30am. We decided to drive out the backroad on Vantage Highway to see what might be happening at Whiskey Dick also. We had seen some great wildflowers there in April 1998. I don't know how much longer we will be able to find flowers in this region because PSE is building a wind farm.

We didn't see many flowers until we got to the interpretive trail in the park and boy what flowers! The arrow-leaf balsamroot was in full bloom waving in the wind. It was surrounded by large clumbs of showy phlox which perfumed the air. It was intoxicating. We went on to the trailhead for the backcountry. It was a little scary having to walk up the canyon through the black basalt rocks knowing it was a prime location for rattlesnakes. We keep our hiking sticks poised and made lots of noise. It is still too cold.

At the top of the bluff we were treated to a spectacular desert garden and gorgeous views of the river at our feet. We meandered shooting photos and investigating. It was hard to go back. We're going back in a couple of weeks to see the cactus.

Here are some pictures from flickr:
Arrowleaf Balsamroot overlooking the Columbia River Showy Phlox (Phlox speciosa)
Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

May 19, 2006

Beezley Canyon Preserve

We finally got a chance to get out and check out the in Eastern Washington flowers. The heat pushed the blooms and most of the flowers were past. 90 degrees in Quincy in May and the flowers are not going to last long.

Birdhouse at Hayward Road We headed off over Snoqualmie Pass. It was 50 degrees at the pass so we knew it was going to be hot. Our first stop was Hayward Road and we pulled off at Cle Elum and headed towards Hwy 10. Along the way the lupine and balsamroot was in full bloom. We turned off on Hayward Road and found lots of Douglas's Triteleia, Penstemon in addition to balsamroot.

Salvia dorrii - near Vantage Then it was off to Quincy. We joined I90 at Ellensburg and headed toward Vantage. Just before we got to Vantage, we notice that there was a different blue/purple flower on the hillsides. The purple sage - Salvia dorrii was in bloom. We pulled off at Vantage and headed towards Wanapum dam. We found it right off in full bloom. Stunning!

Back on the road, next stop was Beezley Canyon Preserve. We had hoped that there might be a few hedgehog cactus still in bloom but no luck. We found a lot of the cactus plants but the blooms were past. The bitterroot almost made up for it.

We decide to make a loop out of it and headed towards Wenatchee and Stevens Pass. The lupine and balsamroot were in full bloom from Peshastin up the pass. The river as reported was running high and wild through Tumwater Canyon. Along the wall we saw a few plants of Lewisia Tweedii.

Here are some additional photos from my flickr collection:
Beezley Hills Horny Toad at Beezley Hills
bitterroot Indian Paintbrush

July 7, 2006

Esmeralda Basin

We finally got a chance to make it back up Esmeralda Basin. It has been several years and our last trip was in the fall. It has a great spring bloom.

It was the usual 2.5 hour drive from Seattle to the trailhead. The road up the Teanaway is very good but we got stuck behind a horse trailer and it was slow and dusty. Cough... Cough...

The parking lot was pretty full but it is shared with the Ingalls Lake and Long Pass trails. We saw few people on the trail.

The trail starts in the woods and after 1/4 mile it passes the trail to Ingalls Lake. Shortly after the junction, we crossed some of the many side streams and started seeing wildflowers. At first, it was mainly penstemon, lewisia and delphenium. Gorgeous blue delpheniums.

A bit further, we came across one of the great meadows along the trail. It was filled with just past shooting stars and just starting to bloom Elephant Heads. We had some nice views of the surrounding peaks. Farther along, the steam followed the trail and looking closely along the mossy edges we found a native sundew. It is always great to find native insectivorous plants.

We continued on and emerged out of the tree into the rocky serpentine area. The scarlet gila was just starting to bloom. We stopped for lunch under the shade of a low pine.

The trail continued up and re-entered the trees. Here we came across amazing slopes of shooting stars among the streams. We could see the saddle of Fortune Pass above but first the trail would make a couple of wide switch back up the slope gaining us more views down the basin.

After about 2 hours we made the pass. Here among the silvered snags we looked out over the Alpine Lakes wilderness and Mt. Daniel in the distance.

A quick trip down and it was out for burgers in Cle Elum before heading home.

Some shots from Flickr
Meadow on Esmeralda Basin trailsundewView down Esmeralda BasinSnag at Fortune Pass - Esmeralda Basin

March 23, 2007

Spring on Cougar Mountain

A sure sign of spring is the sight of trilliums along the trail. We saw our first trillium last weekend on the Red Hill trail in Cougar Mountain. Along with trillium, we also saw red currant and indian plums.

The days are still very gray and we had a light frost recently so I haven't caught "Spring Fever" yet. Come on sun. Shine.

April 6, 2007

Ancient Lakes

There is something mysterious and inspiring visiting the majestic coulees of Central Washington. One moment you are driving through the fields of the potato heartland of the Northwest. Green stretching to the horizon with pipes shaped as spiral dragons delivering the lifeblood water to the barren desert. The next moment columns of basalt rise high above your head and dust gathers at your feet where an ancient lake once existed.

Our destination; Ancient Lakes is a set of several small lakes ringing the base of a coulee rising up above the Columbia River near Babcock bench. They are one of many lakes in the Quincy NWR and just a few miles from the Cave B Inn where we stayed. The day was clear and bright with a slight chill in the air; perfect for a hike. It was probably possible to see the lake area from our room but to get there, we had to drive back out to the highway, skirt around Quincy NWR and approach the trailhead from the north.

The road headed west from Quincy through apple orchards. You could smell the sulfur from the dormant spray. None of the orchards were in bloom except a single apricot orchard. The white blossoms contrasting against the blue sky. A couple of apiaries boxes had been dropped off. The bees were busy at work pollinating the blossoms for future fruit.

The road turned south and paralleled the Columbia River. We were soon under a huge basalt cliff dotted with spots of yellow balsamroot and white phlox. We were shortly at the trail head. We stretched a bit and booted up. The sun felt warm and we left our vests in the car.

The trail was dusty. We walked among the sagebrush and headed away from the river. In the distance, we could see the lakes. Along the basalt cliffs, wispy ribbons of water fell from the fields above. In the distance, we could see a few parties of horse riders out for a morning ride.

The faint breeze whispered in our ears and the cries of the meadow lark broke the silence. We thought we heard cranes but never saw them. The lakes were dotted with a few ducks and other water fowl. But we saw no flowers. It didn't take long to reach the viewpoint between the lakes. We sat an a camp and rested while listening to the waterfall in the distance.

It was noon and time to return. By now the sun had moved and the river was a glimmer in the distance. The majestic vistas reminded us of the grandeur of the west as we made our way back to the car.

July 15, 2007

Bandera Mountain

Bandera

I haven't been motivated to get on the trail much this year. I need to get out more. G is making a point of getting me on the trail in preparation for France. Two weeks ago we went up Rattlesnake which was pretty nice but busy. Today we went up Bandera.

The original plan was to go to Mason Lake. The trail is in great shape all the way. We picked up our friend around 9am and headed to the trailhead. It is just off I-90 about 45 miles east of Seattle. Very easy and very popular.

The road to the trailhead had been washed out by the major storm we had in December. They fixed it in April but it is quite amazing to see the slope of destruction and realize the power of water. There are trees stacked upon trees and boulders up the slope.

Once at the trailhead, we tried to sign-in but they were out of permits. So much for keeping track of who is on the trail. The first mile is a nice shaded walk passing two streams. The incline is mild. The trail then branches off to the left and starts some serious climbing. This is the new Ira Spring Trail and it is in great shape. We did this trail in 2003 before they new trail opened and it was brutal climb.

The trail climbs steadily and crosses several openings where you can see I-90.Along the way, you can see penstemon, Indian paintbrush, ocean spray, lupine and charming dogwood. The clouds had burned off and it was getting warm. After a couple of large switchbacks, we got to the junction of the trail, if you can call it that, to the top of Bandera.

I wasn't that interested in going on the additional mile to the lake. It would just be swampy and full of bugs. So we decide to climb part of the way up to Bandera for the vistas. This final mile is a killer. The incline is about 45 degrees and it is a narrow little path of boulders. We were a week late for the wildflowers. Last week, the bear grass was stunning. But the over 90 degree days had taken a toll on the flowers and they were fried.

We went about 1/2 way up and pull off the trail onto some boulders. Here we sat among the heather, knickaknick, paintbrush and bear grass admiring the vistas while eating our lunch. Going down was actually worse than going up. It is a slippery ankle buster. We carefully went back down and joined the new trail.

The rest of the way back to the car was muggy and overcast. The patches of shade provided cool relief. Overall - 6 hours, 2000ft elevation gain, 4 miles RT.

Here are a few pictures:

Dogwood

On the Bandera Trail

I-90 from Bandera Mountain Trail

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