Davis Peak is a great early season
trip. It has a mostly southern exposure which melts out earlier than most
trails which have significant elevation gain. It also provides great views
of the whole area from the Cascade crest to Mt. Daniel and also the Teanaway
area. Often the last part to the summit will still be snow covered when the
trail to the ridge is bare. In that case some scrambling or mountaineering
experience is needed to drop down into the basin, contour around it, and
then climb on up to the old lookout sight. The ridge is a good hike itself
but I was hoping we could get all the way to the top. This trip was with
a group of 8 Mountaineers. The trail starts about 1.7 miles up the Cle Elum
River road from Salmon La Sac. After my 17 miles bike/hike trip up Miller
Peak the day before, I was a little leery about another 4000'+ of gain. We
reached the trailhead by 9:45 and were on the trail soon after. That's a
late start for Eastern Washington in the summer but this day was anything
but warm and sunny. Still it was only gray and not raining. Much of the drive
across the mountains was in the rain. The trail quickly crossed the Cle Elum
river on a big bridge and began to climb. It had been several years since
I last hiked up Davis and I had forgotten just what a nicely graded trail
this is. I'm sure there are over 100 swichbacks. The trail begins in thick
forest and it becomes more open as it climbs. As usual a full complement
of 12 people signed up for this trip. One third of them were scared off by
the lousy weather. It was nice to have a smaller group of only 8. As gray
as it stayed all day we did not have any rain at all. The trail continuously
grinds out the elevation though it is a very comfortable grade.
At higher elevations views begin to appear. Red Mountain
is just to the south. It's north side still has lots of snow. Jolly Mountain
and Sasse Ridge are just to the southeast. Cle Elum Lake is also to the south.
The lake is as full as I've seen it in many years. We continued on to the
ridge then waited for the rest of the party to arrive. There is still considerable
snow on the ridge top and the north side. From here the lookout site was
visible across from us around a big rising horseshoe shaped ridge. The lookout
sat at the north and east end of the horseshoe. The night had been cold and
the snow was quite hard. Without ice axes it did not look like a good idea
to try going down the low spot on the ridge where the summer trail goes through.
We scouted around and found a spot farther up the ridge where it was possible
to cut steps down to a dirt section. I went down here and traversed back
to where I picked up footprints in the snow coming down from the ridge. By
the time I climbed back up to the ridge all of our group had arrived.
The leader gave us the OK to try for the summit. Six
out of eight decided to go. I had done this once before on snow so I led
the group down from the ridge. Once down to the footprints it was not too
bad. We dropped down into the snow filled basin well below the summer trail.
There was enough snow left to keep us from post holing. I spied the real
trail above us just before it enters the trees and we climbed up to it. From
there it was about half snow and half bare to the top. The first part was
sketchy but soon clear footprints were visible. We had no trouble getting
up to the lookout sight. Finally it was time for some lunch. The clouds made
this the poorest view I've ever had from Davis. I could see the bottom of
Mt. Stuart, the bottom of Mt. Daniel... well you get the picture. Still,
it didn't rain so that was good compensation. I didn't want to leave the
others back on the ridge for too long waiting for us. For that reason we
headed straight back and did not go to the real summit. It was just too cold
to leave the others sitting for so long. In the time it took to go to the
lookout sight and back the snow had noticeably softened. The last climb back
up to the ridge top was much easier. The trip down was no problem at all.
I was pleasantly surprised that I still felt good after this trip and the
Miller trip the day before. The totals were 11 miles and about 4200' gained.