Keystone Point

Suzanne has just moved to Wenatchee. Time for a trip over to hike in her new "back yard". The problem is the mini heat wave. At 9:30 pm the night before it was still 85 degrees in Wenatchee. Heat is my biggest hiking nemesis. Direct sunshine for hours with no shade is the worst. There was supposed to be partial overcast so I took my chances and signed on. Barry and I headed out of Seattle at 6:00 am. By 6:45 we picked up Janet in Monroe. We cruised over Stevens Pass and met Suzanne at 8:40 at the junction for Alt 97. Soon we were heading north to Entiat. We turned off at Entiat and headed a few miles to the Mills Canyon Road. Pavement gave way to dirt and we continued on for about three miles until we saw a red truck at a crossing of the creek. Rob and Steve from Wenatchee were also doing the one way trip and their cars at each end helped us figure where to park.

The road continues on almost to the top of Keystone Point. There is no fun in driving down now is there? Later on I would rethink that. Leaving one car we headed back to Highway Alt 97 and south about a mile to a large turn out where we parked. Even getting up at 5:10 am it was still 9:40 am when we started hiking. I was not expecting any trail on this trip but an obvious dirt path headed straight up the fall line. We thought there was a less obvious track to the left heading across the slope. There is. Our route went straight up. The grade was not as bad as the loose dirt with very little traction. It took a lot of effort to not slide back down after each step. Part way up the other track meets this one. The other one is less steep and probably has better traction. Live and learn.

We finally reached the ridge top. My GPS recorded .59 miles with 1100' of gain. That is pretty steep. Directly below us was the Columbia River. All around us were rounded ridges. One could roam for days and days up there. There were some flowers from the start. The lowest ones are finishing up. As we gained elevation the flower show became better and better. The boot path continued. It is distinct in places and nearly non existent in others. It does not matter. Just stay on the ridge top.

Though only 10:00 am it was hot. It would get a whole lot hotter. The overcast was very partial. The balsamroot and lupine and scarlet gilia and many other wildflowers took my mind off the heat. The route follows the ridge as it goes over several bumps. Flat then steep climbing then a little down then repeat. The views just kept improving as we climbed. Surprising to me is the fact that the 750' trailhead is the same elevation as Mt. Si though a few hundred miles up the Columbia from the ocean. Si is only about 30 miles from salt water. The 3884' summit of Keystone is 283' lower than Si. With the ups and downs the Keystone route has a little more gain in half a mile less distance. What Keystone lacks is trees or much of any shade. A sun lovers delight.

The trade off for the lack of shade is the 360 degree views on every step.  Rob and Steve left an hour ahead of us. We never saw them. We never saw anybody. Total solitude all day long. Just as I was going to remark that about the only wildflower we had not seen was bitterroot Suzanne pointed some out. A whole lot of them. Clumps of two dozen at once. I'm used to bitterroot on open dirt and rock slopes. Here they were mixed in with many other flowers in the grass. You almost couldn't walk ahead without stepping on them. Thicker than I have ever seen them. Most were pale though a few had a darker pink color.

A steeper climb up through grass, balsamroot, and sage had my heart pounding. Not the climb the brown thing with diamond shapes than slithered across the path right in front of me. I had only seen one rattlesnake in 25 years of east side hiking until seeing one at Black Canyon last weekend. This was by far the closest meeting I have had. Suzanne and Barry were waiting at the top. They were not alone. I could hear the rattle of another snake. Suzanne's dog Gus went on his leash for his own protection. A little later we neared the top of the next bump and there was another rattler. This one I saw very clearly. Three rattlers in 20 minutes. Four in one week. One rattler in my first 25 years. Amazing. That was it for the snakes. 70s gave way to 80s. There were a couple trees on the ridge that provided some shade. That was it for three hours.

Nearing the top the heat really began to affect me. I had been well ahead of Janet but she caught up and passed me. Not even keeping well hydrated helped. At the top is a small building and tower. The building did provide some shade. Thankfully. 3500' of gain in 3.6 miles. A pretty good workout. I felt a little better after lunch though I did not have much appetite. I would not have objected much to driving down that road after all. The road down is long and winding. Again, almost no shade. It started out with a few small ups and downs. After a mile I doubt we lost 50'. After several miles it began to descend. Lots of wildflowers along the road. Added to the mix were lots of Tweedy's lewisia. One of my favorite spring wildflowers.

As we dropped down into the canyon we crossed the creek. It ran right across the road. A rock dam above the road created deeper water. The first water we had seen since we started. Gas flopped into the stream. We were able to soak hats and bandannas. It felt great. There were some trees near the creek so we had shade too. The last mile or so seemed to go on forever. I was very happy to see the car. I logged 8.4 miles total so that road went on for 4.8 miles. Thankfully the descent was much faster. We drove back to pick up the other car then headed into Wenatchee where the temperature was in the low to mid 90s. Food and drink was in order before the long drive home.

It is always fun to hike a trail for the first time. this was more a route than a trail. The views were outstanding. The wildflower show was superb. The solitude was total. The wildlife was a little scary and unexpected. The heat was stifling. This proves that I am not one to climb steeply in the east of the Cascades mid day sun on a very hot day. Still, adding it all up and adding in good company the trip was a winner. Now back to nice cooler forest and/or early morning starts for the rest of the summer.

Heading Out
Starts Out Steep
Continues Steep
Reflection In Columbia
Where's My Overcast?
Grade Moderates
Roll On Columbia
Through Sagebrush
Farmland Below
Ridge Top
Endless Ridges
Spring Time Green
Gentler Grade
Columbia Valley
Mariposa Lily
Keystone Summit
Variety Of Colors
Climbing Next Bump
Sage & Lupine
Fresher Balsamroot
Green & Yellow
Bitterroot Everywhere
Colorful Bitterroot
Bright Balsamroot
Bumps On Ridge
Clover Like
Down Then Up Again
Colorful Bunch
Balsamroot Garden
Thick Patch
Yellow Slope
Yellow Sea
Scarlet Gilia
Old Burn
Knee Deep In Yellow
Approaching Summit
Keystone Summit
Dropped To Road
Flower Lined Road
Tweedy's Lewisia
Colorful Tweedy's
Big Patch Of Tweedy's
Hot Dog
Thicker Tweedy Patch
Big Tweedy Blooms
Tweedy Close Up
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013