Tronsen Ridge

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.

Bright Red Paintbrush
Clouds Over Stuart Range
Teanaway Peaks
Meadow & Trail
Twin Bright Paintbrush
Janet & Lupine
Old Man's Whiskers
Columbia Lewisia
Scarlet Gilia
White Bitterroot
Yellow Locoweed Pods
Red Locoweed Pods
Green Pod Bitterroot
Bitterroot In Crevice
Pink Bitterroot
Multiple Colors
Tweedy's Lewisia
Many Tweedy's
Lavender & Yellow
More Lavender & Yellow
Another Scarlet Gilia
Big Tweedy's
Bright Yellow
White Flower
Red On Black
Paintbrush & Penstemon
More Red Paintbrush
Purple Clematis
Twin Balsamroot
Balsamroot Bloom
Tiny White Flower
Red & Blue
Janet & Kim
Colorful Lupine
Mariposa Lily
Janet & Lousewort
Stumped Paintbrush
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010