Kachess Ridge

Kim wanted to get out on Sunday. I suggested a short drive and hike to Annette Lake. We also considered The boot path to the beacon on Kachess Ridge. The problem was the very high winds forecast. The Kachess route is on a very steep south facing open slope. Wind blowing at 30 mph would be no fun. As we drove up I-90 drizzle turned to hard rain. Slogging through snow near Annette Lake in a driving rain did not sound like much fun either. We kept heading east. the wind was light at Snoqualmie Pass, contrary to the forecast, so we decided to give Kachess Ridge a go after all. We exited at Easton and pulled into the parking lot at 8:15 am. There were a few cars already there. I parked there just four weeks earlier on a trip to Mt. Baldy. This time we would be taking the Silver Creek trail not the Domerie Divide route.

The trail starts out steep. It is in fine shape with a smooth surface that makes the steepness less noticeable. The forest is thick at first. Along the way there are open sections with wildflower rock gardens. Many flowers are still in bloom. The larkspur was especially prolific. There were also trillium, Indian paintbrush, penstemon, arnica, and calypso orchids among others. On my first trip to the beacon with Joey in 2009 the turn off for the short cut was not too obvious. It is at a switchback where the real Sliver Creek/Kachess Ridge trail goes right. The short cut goes straight ahead. When the snow is gone from the real trail in a few weeks it is a longer but but easier route to the beacon. The short cut is very steep. Steep enough that many folks will not enjoy the way down. Think in terms of the trail to Mailbox Peak. Much steeper than Mt. Si.

What was a boot path is rapidly becoming a boot trail. There is no way to lose it now. After the junction the route moves out of forest and onto the open slope. This is where I feared high winds could make the trip not fun. There was some wind but not enough to cause problems. The flowers continue most of the way up. Kim noticed a single chocolate lily along here. We met Lindsay before the junction. She missed the unsigned route to Mt. Baldy at the start and I gave her directions. Just after the junction we met one guy going up the short cut. The route is now less side hilling on a goat path but still not a wide trail. Where we reached the first ridge top there is a short rock step to ascend.

There are a few switchbacks but for the most part the route goes right up the fall line. As always it is harder to come down than up. Especially when folks are already tired. Nearing the top the route traverses above a cliff. The dirt trail footing is good but a slip would be fatal. Steep grassy slope then 500' straight down. Not where I would take a non hiker or small children. Beyond that the grade lessens as the beacon is neared. There is a little snow below the ridge and glacier lilies in bloom. It will be gone in a week or so and could be avoided easily.

The lone guy passed us going down and we were the only people at the beacon. There was a steady cold wind and we pulled out jackets. They stayed on for the rest of day before we headed down. Although the Cascade crest was under clouds we could see down to Lakes Kachess and Easton as well as out to Mt. Rainier. There were even a few small patches of blue sky. Definitely better than steady rain all day at Annette Lake. We had a quick bite to eat and headed along the ridge. Green grass and yellow glacier lilies everywhere. There was also lots of yellow balsamroot still in bloom. It always seems strange to be near the crest of the mountains and see east side desert wildflowers.

There was snow below us in the forest on the east side of the ridge but not much on the crest. We meandered along the ridge enjoying the wildflowers. There is some forest and some bright green meadows. The views are constantly changing. Farther along the ridge we stopped for lunch at a place out of the wind. It was short sleeve warm coming up but winter cold on the ridge top. I needed my jacket hood to keep warm and to keep my hat from flying away in the wind. Gloves were helpful too. Summer in just a few day, huh?

We continued along to the first high point. That was about a mile beyond the beacon. From there the ridge narrows and one scrambles down the left side and drops to a saddle. A fairly steep but easy climb goes to the next high spot, Point 5160. I went there on my two previous visits but saw no reason to go there today. It was in and out of the clouds with few views and the strong wind on the open slope climb did not look very inviting. Nearby French Cabin Mountain had all its peaks in the clouds. This was far enough. We headed back along the ridge. Just before the beacon we met two hikers coming our way. At the beacon we met a number more. With this being the WTA "hike of the week" the week before this trail is getting more use.

We met a number more groups heading up as we descended. None had any idea that this route is as steep as it is. Most were having a good time. There were a few spits of rain but for the most part we avoided it all day long. At the bottom we took the very short detour over to the bridge crossing Silver Creek. The creek is still pretty high and the dam/waterfall is still flowing fast. Back at the parking lot there were not too many cars left as a number of folks passed us on our way down. A few cars were farther down the road.

This turned out to be a great trip. We avoided the heavy rain on the west side and did not have to drive all that far east. We saw few folks while coming up and almost none beyond the beacon. It was cold and windy but we were prepared for that. Great flower show most of the way up. Lots of bear scat along the ridge top but we never did see the bear. This is becoming a regular early season snow free hike for me. I'm sure I'll be back in a few years.

False Solomon's Seal
Vanilla Leaf
Narrow Trail
Off Official Trail
Kim On Ridge Top
Ridge Above
Rain In The Valley
Indian Paintbrush
Bright Green Brush
Steep Spot
Kachess Beacon
Balsamroot & Lilies
Lake Kachess
Glacier Lilies
Kim In Meadow
Big Lilies
Wet Glacier Lilies
Jim On The Ridge
Turn Around Spot
Kim At End Of Line
Lake From Ridge
Sunny Lilies
Ridge Meadow
Spring Beauty
Chocolate Lily
Larkspur Again
Bright Paintbrush
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012