Mt. Lillian Loop

Kim and I hiked this loop trip twice before. The first time was in late June and there were many wildflowers. Not many other people. A year later we returned at the start of November. Lots of past peak larch trees on the drive up from Blewett Pass. It was foggy on the trail and we did notice a few larch trees on the Old Ellensburg trail, the last leg of the loop. After two great larch hikes this year I wanted to go the the place where larch seemed to still be near their peak. We headed east at 7:00 am. Up highway 97 to Blewett Pass, a right turn then 3.7 miles to the signed junction. A left turn took us along the steep bare slope with the huge drop and terrific views. many larch all along the road. At the next junction we went straight to the parking lot at Haney Meadow, elevation 5500'.

The road is rough with some big puddles. most cars can make it if you go slow. Outback or higher clearance is even better. We expected to find hunters and were surprised to only find one vehicle at the start. The road continues on though it gets worse. We chose to walk it. Nice views of Haney Meadow at the start. Acres of brown grass with a hillside of gold and some green larch behind. A short few minutes walk down the road we met the Old Ellensburg Trail, where we would complete the loop. We chose to do the loop clockwise and continued down the road. Finally a trip with almost no wildflowers. After a late start they have been holding on in many places. The usual pearly everlasting is still going. It was not much above freezing when we started. The extra orange vest for hunting visibility did not lead to overheating.

We left the road on the Lillian Loop Trail which ran parallel to the road. The road makes a big switchback and the trail leaves it. A junction is met with left going to Tronsen Ridge and right heading south to the ridge and Mt. Lillian. As we began an easy climb up the ridge in forest we began to see golden larch trees. Some of these are big trees. These western larch are bigger than the Lyall's larch I saw the past few weeks at Ingalls Pass and Carne Basin.

An very short obvious way trail brought us to the bared edge of the ridge. The drop is long and steep. Below is Devil's Gulch and across the way is Mission Ridge. Somehow we sat at this spot in the early summer and near the end of larch season on the earlier visits and did not see any signs of larch trees. How could that be? Most of the trees to the southeast are larch. thousands of them. We were dumbfounded. The wind was now strong and the temperature after wind was well sub freezing but we bundled up and admired one heck of a view. It is only about 1.8 miles Haney Meadow to this point. An easy and spectacular viewpoint at larch time.

We did not go to the summit of Mt. Lillian. We did come within about 5 vertical feet. The top is just a flat forest. How this was named a mountain I have no idea. We had lunch just below the ridge where the trail starts heading down. There are amazing rocks here. Full of rounded "holes". it looks like it should be an underwater reef. Great views of the larch below and out to near Mission Ridge. After lunch we headed down. The trail is in forest and comes near some more larch trees. It pops out on the road we walked back at the start. A left turn leads to the Howard Creek Trail in just a few tenths of a mile.

At the Howard Creek trailhead we found a big encampment. Several big tents complete with chimneys. One truck was leaving but we did not see any people. The trail now weaves through forest and meadows with the creek suddenly popping up. All the trails on the loop are open to motorcycles though several had winter bans on motors that began a week earlier. We saw no motorcycles all day. Mushrooms are now sprouting across the forest floor. Some were quite big. Howard Creek is unique. One of the only small creeks I have seen that has long meanders. Hardly any water yet this thing weaves back and forth across the valley bottom.

At the Old Ellensburg Trail we continued on to the next junction adding a total of 3/4ths of a mile to the trek. We then backtracked to the Old Ellensburg Trail and headed uphill. Half the day's total elevation gain came here. There are some very big evergreen trees along here and some very big larch. They looked like old growth larch, some more than three feet in diameter. As we ascended views opened up across the valley to a hillside dominated by golden larch. How did we miss all this on the last trip?

The grade finally eases and begins the descent back to Haney Meadow. More old and tall larch trees mixed into the evergreen forest along here. With just a half mile to go a family passed on by. The only people we saw all day. No rain, golden larch, no hunters, no motorcycles, and almost no hikers. Quite a combination. It was keep your gloves on all day cold but otherwise a near perfect late fall day for a hike. On the drive back to the highway we stopped several times to enjoy much different lighting on the larch trees than we had in the morning. Very nice.

We stopped for dinner at Mineral Springs and headed back to Cle Elum in the dark. It was near Cle Elum that we had the misfortune to have a deer dart out in from on us. Not what we ever wanted to have happen. We stopped to check for damage. The truck seemed to have survived with just some minor damage. Then I heard the running water. The radiator was punctured. We ended up waiting in town for 3 hours for an emergency pick up and did not get home until about midnight. An unfortunate ending to an otherwise stellar day in the mountains.

Kim On The Road
Reaching For The Sky
Larch Along The Road
Green & Gold
Haney Meadow
Framed Larch
View Northeast
Open Slope
Gold & Gray
Close Up View
Larch Through The Gap
Mission Peak
Strange Rock
Rock Again
Larch Far & Near
Nearby Larch
Larch & Gray Sky
Grassy Meadow
Meandering Howard Creek
Larch On Hillside
Big Mushroom
Lush Meadow
Most Every Color
Lone Larch
More Larch
Framed Larch
And Even More Larch
Lighter Sky
Big Larch
Back At Haney Meadow
Back Along The Road
Narrow Roadway
Larch Below Slope
Larch Twins
Last Road Shot
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2011