Iron Bear & Jester Peaks

Rain was forecast for both sides of the Cascades. East looked to be a little better though it would be windy. I headed east, leaving Seattle at 7:25 am. It rained much of the way from Issaquah to Easton. Then it began to improve. I sailed up Highway 97 with a little blue amidst the white sky. Two miles north of Mineral Springs Resort I turned left onto the Iron Creek Road. The road is in good shape. three miles later I reached the creek crossing. Water was running across the road but my sedan had no problem. The road to the trailhead is narrow and often rutted in the spring. With low clearance and two wheel drive I chose not to try. The lower parking lot was full. I headed back across the creek and parked. Two other were soon parked there. I was on my way by 9:30 am.

The road walk to the small lot at the trailhead is short. It is also in surprisingly good shape. No big ruts and no encroaching brush. Other than one big root to get over it is fine for most cars. There were no cars in the lot. The wildflower show began at once. yellow violets were along the start of the trail. A few minutes later I saw orange Indian paintbrush. The route begins with a gentle ascent through forest near the creek. It then abruptly begins to climb out of the forest. The grade eases and remains moderate all the rest of the way. This is a motorcycle trail and I was passed several times during the hike. I don't find it to be a big deal.

As I rose out of the forest the flower show picked up. The largely open slopes on the way to Iron Bear Pass are filled with desert wildflowers. Those open slopes melt out early and provide an easy access to a nice floral display. Lower down the arrowleaf balsamroot were well past prime.  Some were about done. Higher up I found some still at their peak. Penstemon were blooming here and nearly everywhere along the trail. I soon saw just a few blooming scarlet gilia. One of my favorite desert wildflowers. There were quite a few larkspur in bloom too. There were lots more red and orange Indian paintbrush. A few were more of a yellow color. White serviceberry flowers were in a number of spots along the trail. Death camas showed up in several spots. While there were a lot of balsamroot in bloom I saw only a few arnica. A little higher up silver crown were blooming. Lupine is just getting going along the upper trail below the pass. All in all, the flower show is still looking good.

I hiked at a good pace but made many photo stops. My cell phone works very well for close up flower shots. I brought my dslr too. Unfortunately, before I reached Iron Bear Pass the battery went dead. Another did not last long and the last one was used up earlier. Poor planning. I mostly used a point and shoot during the winter and have not kept up to date on those batteries. Long shots were not great but the cell phone did great for the wildflower shots. The sky was sometimes blue and sometimes white. Clouds blew through all day. It did stay dry. As expected the wind picked up near the pass. The wind made flower shots challenging all day as 10+ mph gust had them bouncing all around. Those gusts were more like 15+ at the pass. At the four way junction at Iron Bear Pass I turned right and headed towards Iron Bear Peak.

A trip report from a few days earlier mentioned that the bitterroot at the pass were closed in the late morning but opened up in the afternoon. I saw closed up bitterroot at the pass at 10:50 am. I hoped they would be open on my return. I love bitterroot but had not seen them in several years. Once off the pass and climbing the switchbacks to Iron Bear Peak the wind was much less noticeable. Still some wind but not nearly as strong as at the pass. There were some flowers in bloom along here but much less than below the pass. Higher up there is some more forest. I found several trillium still in bloom there. There was no snow left below the summit. There wee some glacier lilies still blooming. One short little climb and I reached the summit. For or five folks left just as I was arriving to minimize the crowd. Even with the sunshine almost everyone but on a jacket to fend off the wind.

Another recent report mentioned that rare steers head were in bloom near the summit. Try as I might, I could not find them. I did have a sighting just last year but had no luck this time. The tip of Mt. Stuart was in clouds but most other nearby peaks were in the clear. Snow is melting fast but there was sill a nice coating of white to see. Near by Miller Peak had the usual long snow patch but it is not very large. There are still a few snow patches near the summit of Iron Bear. I found a spot out of most of the wind and took a break.

I reached the summit at about 11:35 am. Jut over two hours up with plenty of photo stops. Soon the crowds arrived. Time for me to find a little solitude. I headed on a bit farther. There was only one snow patch on the north side of the peak. One down log too. I headed over to the junction with the County Line Trail. The larch trees all have their bright light green needles now. I went on up to the top of Jester Peak to find even more wind there. More like a steady 10 mph gusting to 20 mph. Even with a jacket on it was cold. Very cold on my exposed hands. I found another out of the wind spot and spent about 25 minutes on top. It was too windy for a long stay. Soon enough I was back at Iron Bear Peak. The crowd was now even larger.

I headed down at 1:15 pm. I took my time to give the bitterroot every opportunity to open up their flowers. It was 1:55 pm when I reached the upper end of the pass. What do you know? All those bitterroot were now in bloom. These are very small bitterroot. I have seen many that are twice the size. What they lacked in size the made up for with some excellent color. That alone made the trip a success. Best of all, since they hug the ground the wind did not cause any problems with taking photos. I spent some time there and then continued down.

I took a number of photos on the descent but far fewer than in the morning. The lighting was not as good though it was different. I figured it took well over an hour to come down from the pass. In fact, it took just under 45 minutes. That still does not seem possible. I did see a number of groups heading up while I came down. Still only one car at the upper trailhead lot. On my drive out I saw many more cars parked for the hike. There are several campsites that have parking and they were all packed with cars. Arriving early helps.

It was an interesting drive home. Sunshine along Highways 98 and 970 back to Cle Elum. Clouds soon overhead and rain just west of the Cle Elum River. The rain was off and on back to North Bend but at times it was torrential. 50 mph traffic with double speed wipers. A bit of a white knuckle drive at times. It was raining a bit in North Seattle. I always enjoy a hike on the Cascades east slopes in the sun when most everywhere to the west it is raining. This was a prime example. This was not a difficult hike nor one providing ample solitude. I knew that all along. It was a nice mostly sunny spring day among a plethora of colorful wildflowers. Not a bad day in the mountains at all.

Empty Parking Lot
Partly Blue Sky
Start Of Flowers
Bright Paintbrush
Closer Look
Lone Flower
Pink Penstemon
Motorcycle Track
Unusual Color
Lots Of Balsamroot
False Solomon's Seal
Vanilla Leaf
Big Pine Trees
Scarlet Gilia
All Lit Up
Really Bright
Ballhead Waterleaf
Looking Down Valley
Trail Below
Unknown Flower
Even Better Higher Up
Slope Of Color
Near Iron Bear Pass
Teanaway Ridge
Death Camas
Bunch Of Flowers
Glacier Lilies
Summit Just Above
Another Unknown
Almost Open
Big Tree Atop Jester
Iron Bear From Jester
Teanaway Peaks
Earl & Navaho Peaks
Opening Up
Yellow Bell
Forget Me Not
Yet More Balsamroot
Nice Colors
More Penstemon
Interesting Paintbrush
Bitterroot In Bloom
Double Bitterroot
Very Nice
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2016