Time for my
fourth annual Tronsen Ridge flower hike. I joined Janet, Kim, and
Jonathan for this trip. We met in Bellevue at 7:00 am and headed east.
We made several stops along the way. From Cle Elum it was north on
Highway 970 then 97 over Blewett Pass then 5 miles farther to the aptly
named Five Mile Road on the right. This road is a challenge for a low
clearance car as there are always ruts and often water on the road. In
Janet's Subaru Outback we did just fine. The road was no worse than
last year. We arrived at the trailhead at about 9:30. Surprisingly, we
were the only ones there. Nobody camped at the several spots available.
This has been a late year for flowers and a report from about 3 weeks
earlier showed little in bloom. Mid June is normally the peak for most
flowers. This year we hit it just about perfectly. Wildflowers began at
the car and never let up. I have been as much as 6 miles down the trail
but knew that we would not be going that far today. Janet is in
recovery mode from knee replacements and needs to build back up slowly.
This day even a quarter mile would have been far enough to get in an
excellent flower hike.
The trail is not steep though in a few places motorcycles have made a
narrow rut that is hard to walk in. For the most part the trail is in
excellent condition. I suspect those motorcyclists have been the ones
who have recently sawed a number of logs that spanned the way. There is
only one log left in the first 3 miles and the trail now skirts the end
of it. The great thing with this trail is how it changes to often.
First is grassy meadow covered in lupine, paintbrush, mariposa lilies,
lousewort, balsamroot, and many more. Then comes forest followed by
desert rock gardens, then forest, and on and on.
Tweedy's Lewisia was abundant though I saw less color variation than in
previous years. We also saw a number of mushrooms in the forest
sections though no morels. Kim and Janet came along last year and they
each remembered specific places where we saw certain flowers. Knowing
this we looked closely to find purple clematis and a big patch of old
man's whiskers. Our pace was slow and I took more photos per mile than
on any previous hike. Over 300 in six miles round trip. We had a nice
combination of bright sunshine and overcast. It was darker on the
return and allowed for better photos.
There are also several spots with good views. We could clearly see over
to Teanaway peaks like Miller, Little Navaho, Navaho, Earl, and all
Three Brothers. Half the Stuart Range was clear and half in clouds. We
saw Mt. Stuart on the drive in but not from the trail. A nice grassy
spot provided a lunch break at about 1.75 miles. It was already 11:20.
From there we soon reached the start of the rock garden stage.
A short off trail jaunt took us to where we found a treasure trove of
flowers last year. Balsamroot, Columbia Lewisia, lupine, mariposa
lilies, small yellow daisies, a dozen others, and my favorite, scarlet
gilia, were present. Now we crossed an open rocky slope with desert
flowers. Bitterroot began to show up. It was windy at the trailhead and
had begun to die down though the open slope made it hard to keep
flowers from blowing in the wind. Not the best situation for photos.
At the end of this open slope the ridge drops back down and the trail
meets it. Here is the thickest concentration of bitterroot. The
bitterroot on Tronsen Ridge are not typical. The vast majority are
white not pink. They are much smaller than most others I see. Lastly is
the presence of a fairly unique variety. The pods are green not brown.
The flowers are completely white. Not a trace of the lightest pink.
Janet first saw this plant two years ago. We searched all around and
did not find another. This year a search found two more plants close
by. I have only seen this variety once before in the northeast corner
of the state.
Once again the trail went back into forest though it was now grassy
meadow beneath the fir and pine trees. New flowers would appear
regularly if you were looking closely. Two motorcycles went by and
later passed us again on their way out. That and one hiker were all the
people we saw. So much for Fourth of July holiday crowds. At the 3 mile
point we reached the junction with the Red Hill Trail. Shortly after
this the trail crosses another open rock slope. We chose to head to the
ridge top. This was our turnaround point. Lots more Tweedy's Lewisia
along this part of the trail.
We could see off to the east and to the west. Mission Ridge was east of
us. Hopefully next year access to that trail via Cashmere will be
restored. I took a detour across this next rock slope while the others
began heading back. I found wallflower, paintbrush, and many more
Tweedy, but no more scarlet gilia. They were not as prolific as in past
years. Some clouds came in and the better lighting meant even more
photo stops. Some of the photos that were washed out in the morning sun
were replaced with better shots. With our one mile per hour or less
average pace we were not back to the car until after 4:30. We spent 7
hours to hike 6 miles with 1200' of elevation gain. Every minute was
time well spent.
Each year I have written a report and each year I return to find almost
nobody on this trail. I have no interest in hiking it once the heat of
summer begins but in wildflower season it is one of the best. There is
absolutely no water to be found on this route. Be sure to bring plenty.
Thanks to my companions this day for an excellent early summer trip to
see spring flowers.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Bright Red Paintbrush
Clouds Over Stuart Range
Meadow & Trail
Twin Bright Paintbrush
Janet & Lupine
Old Man's Whiskers
Yellow Locoweed Pods
Red Locoweed Pods
Green Pod Bitterroot
Bitterroot In Crevice
Lavender & Yellow
More Lavender & Yellow
Another Scarlet Gilia
Red On Black
Paintbrush & Penstemon
More Red Paintbrush
Tiny White Flower
Red & Blue
Janet & Kim
Janet & Lousewort
Trips - 2010