Bear & Jester Peaks
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
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
Lots Of Balsamroot
False Solomon's Seal
Big Pine Trees
All Lit Up
Looking Down Valley
Even Better Higher Up
Slope Of Color
Near Iron Bear Pass
Bunch Of Flowers
Summit Just Above
Big Tree Atop Jester
Iron Bear From Jester
Earl & Navaho Peaks
Forget Me Not
Yet More Balsamroot
Click on thumbnails to get
Bitterroot In Bloom