I have hiked up the Easton Ridge and Domerie Divide
trails several times in the Summer. I had not been up them in the middle
of Winter. This is a nice snowshoe trip to an infrequently visited summit
with nice views all around. Lynn and Richard invited me, along with two other
friends, on the trip. We hunted around for awhile looking for a way to start
across Silver Creek rather than crossing it. I had heard there was a new
trailhead and a new bridge but had not substantiated the rumor. We tried
about every road off of exit 70 to I-90 with no success. Our last resort
was to head to the summer trailhead via the Kachess Dam Road and the powerline
dirt road. There was snow on the road beyond the powerline but we decided
to explore the supposed new trailhead. We bottomed out a few times but managed
to not get high centered on the snow as we drove further. Low and behold,
a right turn was marked with a sign pointing to a trailhead. We drove a little
further and parked. It was already near 10:30 when we started. It was mostly
sunny but a cold wind was a strong incentive to get moving. We walked the
road for about 1/4 mile and came to a tiny parking area and a trail sign.
A few hundred feet on the trail and we reached the old trailhead. We dropped
down to the creek and found it was a little too high for an easy crossing.
Some of the group scouted down stream and I headed up. I thought the rumor
was of a bridge a little up stream. Just when I was about to give up I came
upon a very nice bridge across the creek. In short order everyone was alerted
and we were safely across the creek. The trail began to switchback uphill
on dirt. Some snow patches were met but they were intermittent. We soon reached
the old logging road. You turn left on the road for a very short way to a
sharp right turn. The trail goes straight ahead in a clearcut. The route switches
back and forth with views out to Lake Kachess, Amabilis Mountain, and other
peaks along the Yakima River. Snow was now along most of the way but only
a few inches deep.
We next reached the ridge top and the trail divide where the Easton Ridge
trail goes right and the Domerie Divide trail goes left. We headed left
as the trail leveled off. On the right is the Cle Elum watershed and on
the left is an enormous cliff. The view here is very good. The snow quickly
deepened enough to require snowshoes. At this point the gentle terrain gave
way to a fairly steep climb up the ridge. Route finding is fairly easy if
you stay on the ridge. Richard, Lynn, and I moved ahead as the other two
party members had much less snowshoe experience and were a little slower.
None the less, they stayed fairly close. In some sections the snow had accumulated
in drifts much deeper than the snowfall would have warranted. It was slow
going as the leader sometimes sank up to their knees. Having more than three
people breaking trail would have made it much easier. The wind was picking
up and it was getting much colder. We stopped part way up the ridge and the
temperature was 24 degrees. With the cold, wind, and fresh snow, it finally
felt like Winter had arrived. We stopped one more time in sight of the top
of Kachess Ridge. Richard stayed behind to wait for the rest of the group
and Lynn and I continued up the ridge. We stopped on top of the ridge with
a nice view of Mt. Stuart. Richard and Lynn had radios so we were able to
keep in contact. By now it was about 1:30 and we were still more than a
mile from Thomas Mountain. When the gang reached Richard he took off to
catch up with us. The others decided that 2700' of gain would be enough
for them. They were going to turn around at the ridge top. Richard arrived
and we decided to press on to Thomas. Food and water recharged my batteries
and I was ready to get going. It was also too cold to sit still any longer.
My water bottle inside my pack was partly frozen. It was now 20 degrees.
So much for afternoon warming. Lynn and I headed off while Richard ate and
changed into more clothes.
The route now required us to descend to a broad saddle and then begin a
long but fairly gentle climb to the summit. We dropped about 300' and slogged
along the broad saddle. All the way along the ridge was in forest. We had
to move around buried logs in a not entirely direct route. The going was
even slower as the two of us traded breaking trail. When Richard caught up
things began to speed up. By 2:45 I was thinking about suggesting we turn
around when the summit of Thomas came into view. It was close enough to spur
us on. The last 1/4 mile up the ridge was brutal. The snow was deep, the
wind was much stronger, and our pace was very slow. At 3:12 we reached the
summit. It is largely tree covered but a clear view is to the north and east.
Lake Cle Elum was below us, and Mt. Stuart and the peaks of the Teanaway
were to the east. We dove behind a tree to stop the sandblasting our skin
had been enduring. It was now 15 degrees. I have seldom had a colder day
near the Cascade crest. With the wind chill it seemed much colder. I finished
what little water I had left as the rest was solid ice.
With a rut cut in the snow the way back was much faster. We reached the
lunch spot on the ridge top in 25 minutes. It had taken us 1 1/2 hours on
the way up. Amazingly, we had been able to maintain radio contact with the
other two, even on the summit. They were safely down the steep section as
we headed down the ridge. It's a blast to speed down a steep ridge with clear
views laid out below you. We made good time coming down and reached the creek
at 6:00, just as darkness set in. This was one of the best snowshoe trips
I have done. Good terrain, good snow, good company, a fun summit, and just
a whole lot of fun. I estimate the trip was about 9 miles with 4000' of
elevation gained. It took us 4:45 up and 2:45 down. This was my first trip
with my new Canon s45 camera so I hope the photos are a bit better from now
Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.
Bridge over Silver Ck
Lynn On Road
French Cabin Mt.
Photo Page 2