Whiskey Dick Mountain

Janet wanted to get out for a desert flower hike. Kirsten signed on the night before the trip. Kirsten and I met Janet in Bellevue at 7:00 am and I did the driving from there. We made only one stop. That was at the Indian John rest area. The sky was clear over the Stuart Range and most everywhere east. We left I-90 at exit 115 and drove through Kittitas and on to the Vantage Highway. From there it was east to the entrance to the Wild Horse Wind Farm visitor center road. Since it was so clear early in the day we chose to visit before our hike to enjoy the views. It's thee miles up the paved road to the visitor center. Kim and I discovered it a month earlier when coming home from hiking White Bluffs and Ginko Petrified Forest. The mountain top visitor center is worth a visit.

We arrived at 9:20 and the center was open. Terrific views in all directions. Rainier and Adams were partly out and partly in the clouds. After a short stay wen headed back down. Due to construction work we were told not to hike around on the summit. We were told it would be okay to stop at the dirt lot mid way down but not to stray too far from the road. We had a cold wind on top but it was much less mid mountain. We ventured west of the road and found lots of balsamroot, lupine, phlox, and other flowers. Kirsten crossed the road and found hedgehog cactus. That was our number one target of this trip.

The ground was littered with cactus, many of them blooming. The nearly fluorescent color is unlike any other I've seen. The only trick was getting down to take a shot without touching the non blooming cacti. They are not that easy to see without the blooms. One painful lesson is all I needed. We did not venture far from the car and found plenty of flowers in bloom. We must have spent over an hour there.

Next we decided to head back to the highway and check out the Whiskey Dick area most folks hike. There are two road entrances and both can be driven after May 1st. We chose to check out the first road. There were a few cars in the lot. We headed up the road. It started good but got worse quickly. I went up one bad spot but did not like the next one. My Subaru may well have made it but the thought of having to back downhill with the deep ruts was not appealing. As it was I had to back down one steep rutted section.

We parked and headed cross country. Kirsten immediately spotted more blooming cacti and off we went. This area is mostly sagebrush and desert flowers. We did see some bitterroots but they were not yet blooming. Desert parsley and desert bluebells were blooming but not in profusion. One surprise was the size and number of large head clover. They were everywhere we went. Right and their peak and really large.

A gentle climb brought us to a ridge top. An old road followed the ridge. Across the ridge was a drop to Rocky Coulee then a climb up Whiskey Dick Mountain. Ahead of us along the road was yellow. Just yellow. As we neared we saw that balsamroot was everywhere. These were not the big leafed variety I usually see. The leaves are tiny. Mostly you just see the bright yellow flowers. We saw several lizards on the ridge top. Seems they were enjoying the afternoon sun. A little side trip took us to even more blooming cacti. Kirsten found a full skeleton. No, not human.

We wandered back to the road and followed it down to an intersection. Right headed down then up Whiskey Dick Mountain. Left took us back down to the car. There is a flat spot on the ridge where there is plenty of space to park a car. On the walk down the road we met a few hikers and a couple motorcycles. One SUV had negotiated the bad section of road and was coming up. Down in the now dry gully next to the road we found a bunch of ball head waterleaf. One more flower to add to the list for the day.

We managed to hike about two miles in over five hours. Not exactly blistering speed. On the other hand, the number of photos per hour was outstanding. Not much elevation gain though I must have kneeled or sat down then stood up a few hundred times. Enough to wear out my knees anyway. It was still fairly early when we returned to the car so I suggested a detour on the way home. I had only driven Highway 10 a few times since family trips as a kid. It goes from Cle Elum to Ellensburg and used to be the cross state highway before I-90. Rather than climbing over Indian John Hill the old route follows the Yakima River. It's a bit slower though much more scenic.

We drove through Ellensburg and found our way on Highway 10. I hiked the old railroad grade across from the highway the week before. I saw some bitterroot the week before but I was not prepared for the endless hillsides of yellow along the highway. Wow! As much balsamroot as I have ever seen at one time. This has been a spectacular year for balsamroot but this was amazing. In places it ranged above the highway to the ridge top and below down to the river. It's a fun drive but it was better than ever. A coffee stop in Cle Elum for Janet and Kirsten and we were back on I-90 heading for Bellevue. There were clouds over the crest but it was sunny back in the Puget Sound Basin.

This was one of those non hiking hikes were the photo opportunities overwhelmed the walking. It was a spring day in bright sunshine with good friends and great flowers. Well worth the 280 miles of driving.

Janet and Kirsten's report is here: Nwhikers Report & Photos

Close Up Lupine
Bunch Of Lupine
Balsamroot Flower
Carpet Of Balsamroot
Balsamroot Close Up
Death Camas
Lone Phlox
Another Balsamroot
Rolling Sage Hills
Amazing Colors
Buds & Flowers
Even Brighter
Bee Deep In Flower
Large Head Clover
Many Flowers
Light & Dark
Bitterroot Tentacles
A Yellow Flower
Hedgehog Clover?
Tiny Flower
Flowers & Needles
Tiny Stalk
Lighter & Brighter
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2009