Devil's Gulch-Mission Ridge

Gary and John joined me for a very strenuous old favorite trip up Devil's Gulch and back via Mission Ridge. My first hike on the Mission Ridge Trail was in 1991. I went 15 miles round trip to the junction heading down to Devil's Gulch. Years later I hike up Devil's Gulch to the last creek crossing in an attempt to do the entire loop. High water turned me back. In 2005 I finally managed to complete the loop. Six years later (2011) I came back and did the loop in the opposite direction. Six years (2017) later I came back for one more loop trip. The flower show was the best ever. That led to this year's trip. It is a long drive from Seattle. I-5 through Seattle was being repaved and was closed all weekend. That left just Highway 2. We met in Bothell at 5:50 am and headed east. Into Cashmere then south on Mission Creek Road to the end of pavement. A left turn on a well graded gravel road brought us to the trailhead in 2.7 miles. I thought there might be a car or two there. I was wrong. There were only two spaces left. It seems that this was the day for the Red Devil Challenge races. 10k, 25k and 50k races. We had not planned for that. This was the first year for the 50k race that followed our route. Previous years we would have been on less than a mile of the course.

We arrived at 8:08 am and were ready to get started at 8:15 am. The race started at the Sand Hill trailhead. Devil's Gulch Trailhead was a food and water stop. We learned that there were about 80 runners in total. About 60 would be doing the 50k. Well, we would just have to live with 60 or so new friends on the trail. Conditions were excellent. Mostly clear skies with some overcast on and off and a cool morning getting up to the high 70s at the trailhead elevation. In a few weeks it could be in the 90s. We quickly reached the Mission Ridge Trail junction and headed right on the Devil's Gulch Trail. We immediately started seeing runners arriving. Some would be heading back to complete the 25k. Most would be heading up the Mission Ridge Trail. Much of the trail on our route is very narrow making for some creative methods to move off the tread for passing runners.

I found the wildflower status to be very similar to my 6-17-2017 trip. Two weeks earlier but at about the same stage. Early bloomers like Arrowleaf balsamroot were finishing up. Lupine was just getting started. Mariposa lilies were everywhere. More on one hike than I have ever seen. Wild roses were also seen on much of the lower elevations of the route. Although it is a long trip we planned to take as many photo stops as necessary. That turned out to be a lot. When we passed the Red Hill Spur Trail the runners disappeared for a while. The trail is seldom right along Mission Creek but it can often be heard and/or seen below. The sound of birds was nearly constant along the creek. We saw a few old and new saprophytes along the trail. I did not expect to find then in this area.

Just before the three mile mark we reached the first of three crossings of Mission Creek. This one is the farthest downstream and so has the most water. It is also pretty wide. In early season this can be a deal breaker. I found a streamflow site online and on May 7 the flow peaked at 83.0 cfs. Last year on my June 17 trip the flow was at 35.1 cfs. This day the flow peaked at about 24 cfs. Much lower than two weeks later last year. Knowing this, I was expecting pretty easy crossings. There were logs at the first two crossings and they were easy to cross with dry feet. After crossing we climbed above the creek and found a steady stream of wildflowers in bloom. We only found one scarlet gilia but it was right at peak. Some balsamroot were still blooming well along here. We also found some mountain lady's slippers. My first sighting ever was on this trail in 2017. Not far after our first creek crossing we met the lead runner coming down He was about 22 miles into a 31 mile day. The next runner was more than 11 minutes behind. We kept count of runners passing by us.

The second creek crossing was easy too. Another log. Last year I had to take off my boots and ford as the water was too high to rock hop. We were now about 4.4 miles into our hike. After a food and water break we continued on. We soon began to see some Tweedy Lewisia. Lower down the flowers had not yet opened. Now we began to see the flowers. Many more wildflowers, known names and unknown, kept showing up. We kept stopping for more photos. The two washed out sections I first encountered last year are still not in good shape. Okay to get around but not much tread in the bare slope. The side creeks were pretty low. A few had logs to help cross. As the number of runners passed moved into the 20s then 30s they were going slower and slower. They had already covered at least 20 miles.

We reached the last crossing of Mission Creek to find it a little too wide to hop across. I did rock hop but dunked one boot. Now we had our lunch. It was 12:17 pm. We had taken 4 hours to hike 7 miles. We encountered a lot of shutter delay. After lunch we planned to filter more water. There is none the last 10 miles. Gary's pump was mysteriously not working. He had cleaned and tested it at home. John's Steripen was a backup and it too was not working. We were all low on water. John changed batteries and we were back in business. We had enough water to avoid dehydration. Our lunch ended up taking 43 minutes. We were back on the trail at 1:00 pm. Our pace picked up considerably on the climb up to the Mission Ridge Trail. Easy low grade switchbacks brought us up the slope. We had met several mountain bikers at lunch and now we had a few motorcycles pass by. The runners had finished. We ended up having 47 of them pass us.

We began to see more lupine as we ascended. At the trail junction there was a race aid and food station. They packed in with lamas.  We did not see many people the last 8 miles. We were now more than half way and had gained the vast majority of the elevation. Just 8 more miles to grind out. The grinding was not so bad. In many places the trail remains right on the crest of the ridge. Some very fine ridge walking for some ridge hiking aficionados. Last year I found a big display of blooming bitterroot on a ridge top bald. This year they were right at peak two weeks earlier. We spent quite a bit of time taking more photos here. The clouds parted and it was pretty warm in the open. After that we kept seeing more Tweedy Lewisia but made few stops. Big sections of the ridge have burned since my first visit. This created lots of bright green grass with silvered and black snags. Add in some lupine and other wildflowers and it is very photogenic. We made some more stops.

The last four or so miles seemed to drag on. We saw a few motor and mountain bikes then nobody those last four or so miles. Pretty good solitude on Mission Ridge. We were all glad to see the first bridge over Mission Creek at the junction with the Devil's Gulch Trail. A few minutes later the next bridge brought back to the parking lot. The bugs were not bad on the trail but they were awful in the parking lot morning and evening. We came out at 5:46 pm. With all our stops it took us 9.5 hours to do the 17 miles. Well worth it for the views and the wildflowers. We stopped at the 59er Diner in Cashmere and had an easy drive home. I did not arrived home until 9:30 pm. That made for a 16 hour day. A lot of driving and a lot of hiking. It was well worth both.

Full Parking Lot
Mariposa Lilies
Runner On Trail
Mystery Plant
Vetch Or Peas?
Open And Green
First Creek Crossing
John On Trail
Mountain Lady's Slipper
Close Up Look
Lots Of Slippers
Scarlet Gilia
Indian Paintbrush
Second Creek Crossing
Wild Rose
Across To Mission Ridge
First Tweedy Lewisia
Creek Far Below
Narrow Log
Sunshine On Balsamroot
More Lady's Slippers
More Tweedyi
Purple Mystery Flower
Final Creek Crossing
There Is Tronsen Ridge
Bi-Color Lupine
Death Camas
Mt. Stuart
Blooming Balsamroot
Pale Bitterroot & Bee
Pink Bitterroot
Bunch Of Bitterroot
Showy Tweedy Lewisia
Ridge Top Trail
Mess Of Tweedyi
Colorful Burn
Lupine Lined Trail
Trail Ahead
Big Tree On Ridge Top
Old Man's Whiskers
Later Whiskers
Steep Slope
Unusual Woodpecker
Great Color
Almost Finished
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018