Umtanum Ridge

It was time to take a break from snow scrambles for a day of enjoying the flowers east of the Cascade crest. Bernadette joined my for another trip up Umtanum Ridge. Last year I hit the peak of the bitterroot. I was hoping the recent hot days might help bring more flowers to their peak. It was raining in Seattle when we left at 6:30 am but dry before we passed North Bend. In one week the totally snow covered slopes at Snoqualmie Pass were now largely bare. Lake Keechelus was noticeably higher as well.

We exited the highway near Ellensburg and a light rain began. I recalled that a parking fee was instituted at Umtanum a year or so back. In fact, a sign stated that the fee begins each year on May 15th and the $2.00 fee had been raised to $5.00. Remember to bring money for the fee. With the mid 90s heat in Central Washington most of the week the water level in the Yakima River was higher than I have seen. It was also dark brown instead of the usual clear state.

We headed across the suspension bridge at about 9:00 am. Color began almost immediately. Lower down the balsamroot was just a little past it's prime. The lupine was peaking from the bottom to the top of the ridge. It came in 3 or 4 colors. I recognized a few desert bluebells and some larkspur. The route was wet with the rain and as slick as ice. It was all we could do to stay on our feet in places.

When we topped out on the ridge coming down from the top of Umtanum our footing was much better. We were now entering the clouds. Visibility was minumal. We could see many flowers close by but not at any distance. We also heard the constant sound of birds. Progress was slow as we made numerous stops to photograph the flowers. An umbrella proved to be perfect to keep me from overheating.

We caught up with and passed a small group from a botanical club. High on the ridge the variety of flowers hit a maximum. Lots of yellow, blue, and white. The ridge top came into view peroidically then would disappear again. We reached the ridge top to find no view at all. At least the rain had about stopped. After a quick food and water break we headed left on the ridge. The balsamroot on top were about at their peak. The road was lined with color.

I took a short detour to look for bitterroot and cactus in an area where I had seen both before. We did find both plants. The bitterroot were very close to blooming but none were more than about a quarter way open. The cactus was a little farther behind. The flowers were just beginning to open. We continued down the ridge to the bottom of the steepest drop. I had seen many cactus flowers there a few years ago. This year I saw one cactus that was a few weeks short of blooming.

That was a good spot for lunch. The view to the south opened up. We could see part of Mt. Adams. One minute we were in clouds and then views would open up. The walk back along the ridge provided more flower photo opportunities. This time we took the road/trail and did not retrace our detour. As it turned out that short section was where we found the best bitterroot. A number of them were almost fully in bloom.

By the time we were back where we reached the ridge top the weather had changed markedly. Now it was mostly sunny. Mt. Stuart suddenly came out of the clouds. The dramatic change in the lighting made quite a difference in photos. Where we had 50 feet of visibility coming up it was now more like 50 miles. Coming down the ridge with all the colors was great.

At the bottom of the first steep slope we met the second group of the day. Within a mile of the trailhead we met another group. They were pointed ahead. They showed us a group of four big horn sheep. Those were the first wild ones I have seen in Washington state. Back at the trailhead it was now warm and sunny. We wore long pants and sleeves to ward off ticks and because it was a little chilly in the morning. Now it was shorts and short sleeves.

There is no time when all the flowers are in full bloom on Umtanum Ridge. We did find some balsamroot, lupine, and others at their peaks. In the next couple weeks the bitterroot and cactkus will be peaking. It is a great place to see flowers in the spring.

Bernadette On Bridge
Yellow Flower
Untanum Canyon
Bright Yellow
What Is It?
Small Flowers
More Yellow
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2006