Tronsen Ridge

Time for my sixth annual wildflower hike on Tronsen Ridge. Check the site for mid June to early July each year to see the other reports. Kim, Jonathan, and Gwen signed on for this trip. The Five Mile Road to the trailhead is narrow, brushy in spots with a few tough trenches and no turnaround spots the upper two miles. With my Subaru clutch misbehaving, Gwen's Subaru balking, and Kim's truck too small that left Jonathan's Subaru Outback as the vehicle of choice. The only report this year had the folks parking two miles from the top and walking. They reported a lot of paint scraping brush and nothing else about the bad spots. We chose to park and walk too. One SUV passed us as we were getting ready. Of course it began to rain. The day before there were torrential down pours all over. Another reason we were reluctant to drive to the top. With rain gear on and umbrella's deployed another big SUV came up. Hey, it was Joe! He and Barb graciously agreed to add all four of us and our gear. His vehicle had no problem with the road. The problem was the first guy to pass us who decided to head down. Joe had to back up quite a ways downhill on a very narrow road. I'm glad I was not driving.

The worst trenches and low spots were filled with water from the recent deluge. A Subaru would have made it though it was not at all clear since the depth of the "lakes" was not apparent. Thanks to our good luck we were at the trailhead and ready to go by 10:20 am. The rain was light as we headed up the trail. The flower show always starts right away and never really lets up. The key to this hike is variety. Wet west of the crest flowers and dry desert flowers all in one place. Usually something new around the next corner. This was the first visit for Gwen and Barb. After the heavy rain on Tiger Mountain the day before Kim and I figured it could only be better. Rain much of the drive over Snoqualmie and Blewett Passes but not heavy.

The flower show near the start was good though less Indian Paintbrush than usual was in bloom. Lots of lupine there and most everywhere all day. I missed the white lupine but did see several bunches of the pink variety farther along. As usual, there were many wildflowers I recognized but could not recall by name. Between all of us we did name most of them. The rain and clouds really made the colors deep. Especially all the long grasses. We ran into a group almost immediately. They had been drenched and were heading down. I Jonathan knew several of them and I recognized Ron Sheets. It had been about 15 years since I hiked with him on a Mountaineer scramble. Time flies. The grade is fairly gentle with a few short steep sections. It's a ridge so there are ups and downs meaning elevation gain on the way back.

The balsamroot was nearly finished. Only higher up near our turnaround spot did we see some nearly peaking balsamroot. Lots of bright yellow color just shriveling petals. What Indian paintbrush there were were really bright red. Great color. As usual our pace was glacial as photo stops were mandatory. The very hard rain the day before pounded some of the more delicate flowers. The Tweedy's lewisia being hit the hardest. Those big leaves really caught the falling rain. Most Tweedy's were blooming though at or just past their peak. Not as thick as some years but a good crop none the less.

The rain soon stopped and before long the rain jackets and pants began to be shed. We had some partial blue sky later but no more rain all day. We recalled the spots to find favorites like old man's whiskers and Columbia clematis. Lots  of those in bloom. We saw only two groups of recreational motorcyclists and two forest service motorcyclists. We did not see any other hikers all day. At about two miles we stopped for food and to enjoy a multitude of wildflowers. A spot just off the main trail had lots of scarlet gilia in bloom. One big patch of Columbia lewisia was also blooming. That is the only place on the whole route I've seen the Columbia lewisia.

The clouds were low and the sky gray but the dryness was appreciated. The peaks of the Teanaway area were visible here but the Stuart Range was mostly in the clouds. From here the trail traverses an open slope with a number of desert flowers. The locoweed pods were plentiful and colorful. There were many bitterroot flower buds but only a handful were open. That was a disappointment. Near the Red Hill trail junction were the usual plethora of Tweedy's. Plenty but not as many as last year in bloom. We took the short climb to the rocky point for the rest of our lunch. Some pink and pure white Tweedy's up there. Not much of a view though it was clearer to the east.

Joe and Barb bypassed the point and continued hiking ahead. Gwen and I chose to also hike farther down the trail. Kim and Jonathan chose a more leisurely return with more photo time. We soon passed Joe and Bark as they were heading back. We set a good pace and hoped to reach the lichen wall in the time we had. Lots more flowers on the open slopes. Some we had not seen so far. The trail reaches the ridge once again. and drops down into forest. More variety all along here. More paintbrush, lupine, clematis, gilia, Tweedy's, and balsamroot to name a few. We continued for 1 1/4 miles to the green and orange lichen wall and a little beyond. Gwen noticed two wire insulators along here. I don't know of any fire lookout on Tronsen Ridge so I have no idea why they were there. A few switchbacks took us to the top of the lichen wall. The trail switchbacks right but since this would be our turn around point we went left and explored. A boot path goes right along the top of the wall. The drop is vertical and even overhanging in one spot. Great views back to the trail we had hiked.

We sped back and met Kim and Jonathan at the bitterroot spot. A few more had opened up since we passed earlier. Joe and Barb texted that they were at the cars. Did we want a ride back down. We said we were an hour away and not to wait. There were far fewer photo stops on the return though the sky was most interesting. Some near black sky next to bright blue. Great contrast. We even had some puffy white clouds now. Good to our word we took 59 minutes to reach the trailhead Much to our surprise Joe and Barb where still there. Thank you very much for deciding to wait. One of the "lakes" on the road down had no place to get around on either side. It was much deeper than my boots are tall. I did not miss avoiding that.

We stopped at the Cottage Cafe in Cle Elum for dinner and I still made it home by 8:30 pm, well before dark. As usual this was the best wildflower hike of the season, at least so far. The company was first rate too. Just because the forecast was for showers and it rained most of the drive over that was no reason to give up on a great hike. I'll probably be back next year.

Mariposa Lily
Rain Gear At The Start
Grassy Meadow
Grass & Lupine
Colorful Lupine
Lupine & Lousewort
First Tweedy's Lewisia
Blooming Balsamroot
Indian Paintbrush
Long Stems
Split Lupine
Old Man's Whiskers
Pink Lupine
More Tweedy's
Tweedy's Close Up
Mega Scarlet Gilia
Close Up Gilia
Columbia Lewisia
Bright Red Gilia
Locoweed Pods
Interesting Plant
Giant Bunch Of Bitterroot
Bunch Of Tweedy's
Arnica & Tweedy's
White Tweedy's
Looking South
Stuart Range Clouds
Gwen & Lewisia
Clouds Blow By
Small Flower
Red Locoweed
Rock Garden
Lichen Wall
View North
Gwen On Top Of Wall
Bright Red
Yellow Flecked Gilia
Orange Lichen Wall
Sunshine On Lupine
Phlox & Lupine
More Bitterroot
Yellow Locoweed Pods
Last Bitterroot
Sunny Meadow
Sun & Black Cloud
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012