Tronsen Ridge

After a day of listening to thunder and seeing heavy rain near Blewett Pass I returned to the same area. This time farther east - near Blewett Pass. I hoped that lightning would not strike twice - literally. Kim and I had planned a wildflower hike to Tronsen ridge and Janet joined us. I first visited Tronsen in 2007 and came back in 2008. This made for a third visit in as many years. The first visit was fantastic. I saw more Tweedy's lewisia than I had seen in my whole life. Bitterroot and scarlet gilia all over. Last year Janet and I visited and the Tweedy's were a little past their prime. Good flowers but not as good as the year before.

We met in Bellevue at 6:30 am. I was tired but ready to head east once again. One stop in Cle Elum and we headed up Highway 97 to Blewett Pass. Five miles north of the pass is Five Mile Road. The road is only 3 1/2 miles to the trailhead but it does not get much maintenance. There are lots of big drain bumps to crawl over down low then the road steepens and narrows. Not much room to pass here. Most of the turnouts have brush and trees growing in them too. We made the usual stop at the Tweedy lewisia patch part way up the road. They were right at their peak. There are a number of washouts in the road. A little worse than last year but no problem with my Subaru Outback. Much more brush though. I lost a little paint.

We were the first car to arrive. It was 9:00 am when we started out. Blue sky all around. Just as before a non stop chorus of bird calls too. There is not much elevation change on this trail but a fair bit of elevation gain. Lots of ups and downs along the ridge. The flower show began at the trailhead and never let up. Even better than in 2007. Lupine, paintbrush, mariposa lily, lousewort, balsamroot, and more right from the start. We made slow progress amidst all the flowers. Forest alternates with grassy meadows. A peek a boo view of the Stuart Range and the Teanaway peaks followed by more forest.

There were a number of places I recalled seeing Tweedy's on previous trips. Multiply that by ten on this trip. They started at the trailhead and never stopped. It was crazy seeing patches of 20 or 30. Most all of them seemed to be right near their peak. We saw Columbia clematis at one spot then another. It showed up in numerous places. We came to an open rocky section with some new flowers. Among them was scarlet gilia, one of my favorites. Lots of it two years ago then none last year. There were a few bitterroot here too.

I went out ahead and crossed the open rocky slope. Our blue sky was rapidly becoming cloudy. It was looking a lot like the day before. I just hoped the lightning would go elsewhere. There were more bitterroot at the other end of the slope. We all noticed that these were the smallest bitterroot we had ever seen. About half the size of the previous two years. There were lots of them but they were tiny. Also most of them were white instead of pink. Something is different this year.

We hiked through forest again with many more stops. Kim remembered a patch of old man's whiskers and she found it again. The whole slope was covered in them. We came to a flat spot before an uphill section and stopped for lunch. It was already 11:30. As we sat there a loud bang rang out. Really loud thunder! Hmm... now what do we do? From here on there are a number of long open traverses across the rocky slope. Not somewhere I would want to be in a lightning storm. We went a little farther and came to the junction with the Red Hill Trail. This is right before the start of an open section. More loud thunder rang out.

We decided to stay put as the thunder seemed to be just south of us and heading our way. There were about 500 Tweedy's lewisia there so we didn't mind a little unexpected break. It rained for a short time then stopped. A group of four mountain bikers came by. They were the only people we saw all day. After a long break with no more thunder we chose to head across. Black clouds now obscured our view of the Teanaway peaks. It seemed a little lighter over us. We continued the flower show all the way to our turn around point. We had left our poles back at the lunch spot since we didn't want handfuls of metal with lightning around. The bad knee brigade could have used them. By the time we reached the painted rocks we called it a day. The vertical outcropping is covered with red and greenish yellow lichen. Very unique. There was a bunch of Tweedy's and clematis there too.

What thunder we heard was now well north of us. We had a some clouds and some sun on the way back. It seems like there was about as much uphill coming out as going in. Lots more photos but a little better pace as we wanted to get across the open sections before any more thunder and lightning. We did make a short detour where we found more scarlet gilia and Columbia lewisia. We finally made it back to the start at exactly 5:00 pm. It was a long day with some hiking and a lot of photos. About 800 photos between the three of us. There was one car in the lot with a bike rack on top. The four we saw were going down to the Sand Creek Trailhead near Cashmere. I hoped we would get down the road before they came up to retrieve their car. We did.

It was a very nice day. I ventured into thunder and lightning territory two days in a row and had two great trips. I've had a number of great wildflower hikes this spring and this one was among the very best. A huge variety of flowers, most at their peak, and near total solitude. This trail is open to motorcycles starting June 15th  so expect to see them the rest of the summer. I have found them to be very courteous on this trail and they would not stop me from visiting. I think I can safely say a great day was had by all.

Kim's trip report is here: Nwhikers Report & Photos

First Tweedy's Lewisia
Lewisia & Fir Needles
Covered With Tweedy's
Mariposa Lily
Grass & Flowers
Lupine Clump
Stump & Flowers
White Lupine
Wild Rose
Tiny Mystery Flower
Mt. Stuart
More Lupine
Sun On Balsamroot
Penstemn On Old Log
Kim & Flowers
Old Man's Whiskers
Tiny Flower
Another Macro Shot
Twin Tweedy's
Janet & Balsamroot
First Scarlet Gilia
More Scarlet Gilia
White Bitterroot
Bitterroot Bunch
Lupine Field
Spring Beauty
Tweedy's Patch
Darkening Sky
Lavender Colored Flower
Triple Tweedy's
Tweedy's Close Up
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2009