Kachess Ridge

High avalanche danger. Soft crappy snow. Gary and I couldn't decide where to go. After a long Friday night call we decided on a snow free trip with a chance of good wildflowers. Joey at nwhikers showed me this route last year. It melts out far earlier than the official trail to the old Beacon site. We met in Bellevue and drove to Easton. The sign at the junction leaving the Dam Road is gone. There was one car in the lot when we arrived at 8:40 am. It was already warm enough for shorts. We've had a cool and wet spring so a 70+ degree day has been a rarity.

We took a quick detour down to Silver Creek to the bridge so Gary could see where the unsigned trail starts. We then backtracked and started up the Silver Creek Trail. Low down we found false solomon seal, vanilla leaf, and a few trillium in bloom. The trail climbs at a steady grade and openings in the forest provide rock gardens. Red, orange, and yellow Indian paintbrush, penstemon, larkspur, and more flowers were in bloom. A real colorful start to the hike.

Last year we found many calypso orchids along the trail but this year I did not see a single one. There is no snow at all in the forest. In fact we saw no snow until past the beacon. The turn off is even easier to see this year. It's at a switchback and looks as big as the real trail. A few branches block the ridge route. The real trail switchbacks to the right and we headed straight. More flowers here as we were now out of the forest and into the sunshine. This route is steep and the trail is not wide. It is not for everyone. Coming down is even harder. Poles were very useful.

Since this is not a long trip we had plenty of time. Breaks for photos and just to enjoy the views were numerous. Mt. Rainier came into view. Thomas Mountain was just across the valley. When we reached the final ridge crest we could see down to most of Kachess Lake, Amabalis Mountain, and peaks around Snoqualmie Pass. A short climb brought us to the old beacon site. I climbed up to the top of the ladder but did not trust the old boards in the platform above. It was only 10:40 but we had a part of our lunches. When we finished a group of three reached the beacon. I was a little surprised to see another group so early.

We left soon after they arrived. The best part was still to come. The ridge walk is outstanding. Some forest, some meadows, a few ups and downs leading to the final high point. Much of the ridge top was covered by glacier lilies and spring beauty. Yellow and white carpeted the ground. It was as thick as any flower carpet I have seen. At the 4880' point we saw our final destination and met two more hikers. Jack's Mom at nwhikers was one of them. I briefly met her in passing on an earlier hike. One more member of their party was over on Point 5160, the highest point. We could now see Mt. Stuart, the French Cabin Peaks, and even Mt. Hinman thought a gap in the mountains.

After another conversation break we dropped down to the saddle and began the final climb. There is still some snow on the east side of the ridge though not much and it can be avoided. The flowers continued all the way up to the summit. Yellow bells appeared along with a few other flowers. Very nice views from the top. High clouds had been blowing in and one settled right over us.  Sun shone all around us but we were now in shade. The warm day became a bit cooler.

As we were finishing lunch another hiker came on up. He had forgotten his back pack but had persevered. He found what he could in his car, but it in a plastic bag, and went for a hike. I can't laugh about it as I did the same thing one time.Snow began on the north side of the point as the ridge began to drop. Gary and I decided to go on a little further. It was not hard to drop down on the snow. We made it far enough to verify that it would not be hard to go cross country back down to the Kachess Ridge trail below the West Peak of French Cabin Mountain.

We climbed back to the summit and started heading back. The ridge walk had a few more uphill sections but was mostly downhill. Dropping down from the beacon seemed a lot steeper than the ascent. The route disappears in a few spots but is easy enough to pick up again. In a few spots folks have just dropped down the fall line. A little work could block these cut switchbacks and keep them from becoming the trail. We saw exactly zero people on the whole hike out.

The official beacon trail is much less steep though longer. It also had some snow on it as it melts out much later. A nice hike in a few weeks would be to go up the steep ridge and down the real trail. Much easier on the knees. We were pleased to have a snow free hike with  a lot of wildflowers in bloom and not many other people. According to my GPS it was 7 1/2 miles round trip with about 3300' of gain. Half of the elevation was in one mile in the middle of the hike. All in all it was a great day to be in the mountains.

Red Indian Paintbrush
Yellow Paintbrush
Long Thin Ridge
Mt. Rainier
Blooming Glacier Lily
Beacon Ahead
Ridge North
Flower Carpet
A Few Clouds & Rainier
Mt. Stuart
Looking To High Point
Stuart Range
Mts. Thomas & Baldy
Lake Kachess
Silver Peak
Mt. Hinman
W Peak French Cabin Mt
Looking South
Spring Beauty Clump
Blue Sky & Lilies
Bigger Clump
Dual Lilies
Gary On The Ridge
Nice Color
Shaded Beauties
Wildflower Carpet
Beacon 55
Starting Down
Looking To Ridge Top
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010