Iron Bear Peak

The first day of a three day holiday weekend brought clouds and rain on the west side of the mountains. Janet and I decided to head east. We were both ready for a trip with minimal snow and some wildflowers. We still did not have a definite destination when we met in Bellevue at the early hour of 7:00 am. We cruised over Snoqualmie Pass and headed north on Highway 970 towards Teanaway country. Staying farther east would mean less snow and better weather. Iron Creek it was. Missed the turn just 2+ miles north of Mineral Springs and turned around. As expected, every possible camping site was taken. The creek crossing near the end of the road was not too bad. We chose to part just across the creek and walk the short distance to the small parking lot and trailhead. As we prepared to get started something was missing. Lets see... two sets of poles, two pair of boots, two cameras, one backpack... uh oh. In fairness to Janet, I did the same thing some years ago. I had two quarts of water and my lunch and we split it during the hike.

At 8:55 am we started up the road. In just a few minutes we reached the trailhead and found only one or two cars. The first creek crossing was easy as were all the rest. This dry hike had quite a bit of running water this early in the year. Trillium and yellow violets are all over the forest. Some trillium were old and purple and many more were bright white. It was chilly at first but warmed up quickly. As we began to gain elevation the flower show changed. Lots of balsamroot in bloom. In fact, all along the route they seemed to be right at their peak. Both orange and red Indian paintbrush were blooming too. We saw just a few lupine in bloom. They should be out in a week or two. Before long I zipped off my pants legs and rolled up my sleeves. It might be dark and gloomy in Seattle but it was a beautiful spring day east of the crest.

We were in no hurry. Lots of flowers to photograph and not a particularly long distance to hike this day. I kept looking for the desert flowers and saw no bitterroot or scarlet gilia. Another person who posted a trip report on the same day did find one of each. They will be blooming soon. Higher up the balsamroot display was even better. We saw a few larkspur and Hooker's onions too. In just over an hour we reached The four way junction atop Teanaway Ridge at Iron Bear Pass. There were two big trees down across the trail heading south along the ridge. Hopefully a crew can get them cut out soon. There were no motorcycle tracks around them yet. Soon there will be.

We took a short food and water break and started up the trail to Iron Bear Peak. It was built with motorcycles in mind and is very gentle. We did see bitterroot along the ridge. They are a week or two from blooming. The sky was mostly blue overhead but we could now see west to high white clouds. We were in exactly the right place. After a few switchbacks the route went back into mostly forest. Just before a switchback left a tree has fallen across the trail in two places. A boot path has been ground in to avoid it. I hope the tree is removed before motorcycles and more boots strip the hillside bare here. We encountered a few snow patches above 5000'. Nothing that caused any difficulty. One last short steep climb and we reached the 5489' summit of Iron Bear Peak.

There was one other group on top. It was cool enough to go back to long sleeves. With a light breeze and sunshine it was a very nice viewpoint. Mt. Rainier was mostly in the clear though there were clouds below the summit. I picked out Jolly Mountain, Earl Peak, Navaho, and Three Brothers. Behind was big Mt. Stuart. Across from us was Miller Peak. It is a good destination for a long day hike on from Iron Bear. We took a break to enjoy the views and refuel. I had one more summit in mind.

It is not far from Iron Bear to Jester Peak. As expected the trail down the north side was completely under snow. Instead, we headed over to the ridge and followed footprints down to the flatter ridge below. On bare spots we picked up the trail. The route contours around one rocky point on snow and reaches a saddle where the County Line Trail is met. Instead of bushwhacking up to Jester we followed the County Line Trail a short way until on opening appeared which allowed easy access up to the top. That short bit of the CLT is lined with larch trees that were full of new bright green needles. The grass was covered with tiny white spring beauty and some glacier lilies. The top was mostly snow free. We could look over at the people on top of Iron Bear but had total solitude on Jester.

We spent nearly an hour on top. A perfect place to lay back and take a nap under blue sky and sunshine. At about 12:45 pm we headed back. When we reached the County Line Trail I stopped to photograph a big larch tree. Wait a minute... I need a camera for that. Uh oh. Proving that Janet was not the only forgetful one this day I headed back up to the top of Jester to retrieve my camera. Only the second time in 33 years I have left my camera on the trail. Now we just had the short steep climb back up to the top of Iron Bear before the long downhill to the car. We took another break at the summit. More people here now but still not the crowds I often see by early afternoon. A party of likely Mennonites arrived on horses. The women had head coverings and long dresses. They seemed to be having a great time.

As we were getting ready to head down, a couple hiking friends, Barb and Elle, arrived along with Izzy the border collie. We extended our summit stay. Nice to run into friends in the mountains. The trip down was easy. Not too hot and not too steep. I could have used a bit more than half my food and water but we were both fine. There were a few groups coming up but not many. Lots of campers this weekend but not many hikers on this nearly snow free trail. We were back at the car well before 4:00 pm. As expected, day one of the holiday weekend provided light traffic on the drive home.

This was a great day of hiking. An early start and short distance allowed for a very unhurried day. Lots of photos and summit times. Thanks to my return to the top of Jester, this might have been the first time I have summited two peaks twice each in one day. They easy to reach summits but it was strange nonetheless. Add in the good wildflower display, chance meeting with friends, and good company and it was an excellent spring day on the trail.

No Pack Weight Today
Indian Paintbrush
Blooming Balsamroot
Balsamroot Close Up
Janet Is Out Ahead
Teanaway Ridge Ahead
Ballhead Waterleaf
Near Iron Bear Pass
Lot's Of Balsamroot
Glacier Lilies
Red Top Lookout
Mt. Stuart
Navaho Peak
Mega Krumholz Tree
Janet Atop Jester
Summit Plateau
Larch Trees
Glacier Lilies Close Up
Yellow Bells
Bare Ridge
Iron Creek Valley
Back On Snow
Jester Peak
Iron Bear View
Earl Peak
Bare, Elle, & Janet
Trail Blockage
Last Balsamroot
Tree Hugger
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2014