Horse Lake Trails

Janet was planning a hike on Mother's Day and invited me along. The weather looked to be better east of the Cascades. Wildflowers were also blooming there. We settled on trails in the Horse Lake Reserve just above Wenatchee. My rule for many years has been to avoid trips on Highway 2 on a Sunday. This time I made an exception. Back  on Mother's Day in 2014 Janet and I headed east to hike Dirty Face Peak. Traffic was non-existent. We saw nobody between Sultan and Coles Corner where we left Highway 2. What are the odds of lightening striking again? It is a long drive so we left early. I was on my way at 5:45 am. We met in Monroe at 6:30 am. Janet drove this time. We headed east and saw nobody. Though it is May, there was fresh snowfall overnight. We drove slowly over Stevens Pass. When we dropped to the level of the train tunnel the snow was gone. The rest of the drive was fine. By the time we reached Leavenworth, we had a little traffic.

Janet called Suzanne to inquire about the wildflower status. She was in Europe. She suggested we touch bases with Barry. He was quick to offer us a guided trip. He and Suzanne live within 20 minutes of the trailhead. It took me just about 3 hours to get there. We arrived at the 1730' upper trailhead on Horse Lake Road at about 8:45 am. Barry was already there. We had on and off rain on the drive over but it was almost entirely blue sky in Wenatchee. Even though few folks had come over from the wet side of the mountains, the parking lots were just about full. There was still room to park along the road in places.

The day before, Gary and I did a 9 mile hike on Squak Mountain in the rain. Janet is recovering from foot surgery and was looking for a little more mileage and elevation gain than she had done post surgery. Barry put together a neat loop trip. It was neat for me since I had not hiked any of the trails. Janet and I had done nearby trails at Sage Hill a few years earlier. Janet had done parts of this day's loop. For me it was all brand new. The wind was blowing cold and  steady as we set off. I put on a jacket even though it was in the upper 40s and sunny. I never took it off. The wind was off and on all day depending on where we were.

We started by descending from the trailhead about 100'. We took Burts Trail, passing an old barn and then heading uphill. Over 40 years I have forgotten a lot of things on a hike. Food, water, sunscreen, my backpack once, and more. After 3 hours in the car I popped out grabbed my pack and started hiking. A ways down the trail I realized I still had my tennis shoes on. Completely flat soles with little traction. Oh well, I decided not to go back. The flower show down low is still going but many wildflowers are past prime. Balsamroot is especially about done. The story this day was that this is not a great flower year. Last year was exceptional. As we hiked higher we did get more flowers near their peak. Lupine and phlox were doing well down low. I also saw larkspur and some balsamroot. The views out were terrific. There were clouds to the west but the hills around us were sparkling green in the morning sunshine. There are few trees on the lower trails and views in all directions.

As was the case most of the day, we passed hikers here and there but it was never very crowded. There are a lot of trails for folks to disperse on. I have a concern for ticks on the sage covered slopes but with the wind I was covered except for my face. I even had gloves on at times. A lot of the trails are old roads. Some have two bare tire tracks of dirt. Some are now just a single dirt track. We also did some off trail tying trails together. As time went by some big puffy white clouds rolled in. They added another element to views and photos. For the most part they did not hide the sun for long. At the junction with the Glacier View Trail we went straight on the Old Ranch Road. At this junction on the way back we made another loop by taking a shorter trail back to the car. We soon reached another junction and turned right. This brought us into a big meadow. Some flowers here but more coming soon. Barry pointed out Horse Lake as we passed by. I saw it on the map. It was completely dry. No sign of Horse Lake this spring.

We now started seeing some ball head waterleaf, spring beauty, prairie stars, blue bells, and some with names I could not recall of did not know. There was not a profusion of wildflowers but we did see quite a few different kinds. We next turned onto the Upper Apricot Crisp Trail. This is a mountain bike trail. It has a number of short curves. Someone has recently piled dirt to make banked curves for faster cornering. We saw few bikes on our route. None of them up high. At the end of the Apricot Crisp Trail we headed a short way uphill to the top of the ridge. It was now 10:58 and time for an early lunch. I had breakfast at 5:10 am so it did not seem all that early. To the south side of the ridge we could now see the Mission Ridge Ski Area. There were a number of green ridges between us and it. Wenatchee was now far below. In places we saw over to the Stuart Range and Icicle Ridge. They were more cloudy. I don't think we could see it from our lunch spot. There was some cold wind but it was not bad for the ridge top. At 3175", this was right about the highest point of the day. A few more bumps on the ridge were close.

At 11:15 am we were packed up and on our way. The next section was on the ridge top. There is a boot path though not a real trail. We dropped down then climbed to another point then down and up and down and up. This was a bit of a challenge for Janet with her repaired foot and she did great. Several descents were short and quite steep. I would have liked to have hiking shoes with traction. I managed to get down without falling. I love ridge walks. There were a few trees but mostly it was wide open views in all directions. We started to see some other wildflowers as well. A few death camas turned into a lot of them as we continued. There were also a lot of salsify in bloom. Barry noticed a lone red buckwheat. We saw some small pink penstemon too. The ridge splits in one place. Having Barry along made navigation a snap. The descent had one long step section. The hillside was grassy and soft enough for pretty solid steps. The last descent was gentler and brought us back near the junction with the Old Ranch Road. But first we hiked a short trail up to a bench at a nice viewpoint. The wind was howling here and I just took a few photos and retreated. We then dropped quickly to the Old Ranch Road completing our upper loop.

We dropped down the Old Ranch Road to the junction with Burts Trail. Here we turned right on the shorter route back to the car. The clouds were now coming in and providing more shadows on the surrounding ridges. I kept stopping for more photos. The lighting changed by the minute. The parking lot was in sight and we could see that the road had a lot of cars parked along one side. We started to see families with small kids out for an afternoon hike. Our road/trail route only had about one mile to go from the Burts Trail junction to the car. We passed a second big barn along the way. This area was a far not too many years ago. It is great that it was converted to a great hiking and biking area right on the edge of Wenatchee.

We made it back to the car at 1:10 pm. The lot was full. The road was packed with parked cars. On the winding 2.25 miles drive down to pavement we passed more than half a dozen cars coming up the road. It is a popular place. I had not seen Suzanne and Barry's home since they moved to Wenatchee. Barry invited us to drop in. They have a great view of Wenatchee and the hills around it. By about 2:30 pm or so we headed back. Would it take 3 hours or 4 or 5? It was a Sunday on Highway 2. It was also Mother's Day. We headed out with no idea how long the drive would take. The pass was snow free. It had all melted. That made it much faster than on the drive over. No slow down in Gold Bar, None in Startup. We whizzed through Sultan. Really? Yes indeed. For only the second time in 8 years there was not even a slowdown. Both happened to be Mother's Days.

This was a fun trip. I love to hike trails I have not done before. After 40 years they are hard to come by. I love open ridge walks. This one had a great one. Our route was never crowded. For the day we hiked about 7.3 miles with about 1800' of gain. The flowers were as good as I expected in a below average year. Still plenty of variety and colors. The weather was a bit moist for a good part of the drive but really good in Wenatchee. Less wind would have been nice but it was sunny. A jacket for wind is better than for rain. 275 miles round trip is a long way to go for a day hike but in this case it was well worth it.

Snow On The Road
Blooming Lupine
Clear Day
Old Barn
Colorful Hillside
Barry & Cooper
Pink Flower
Lupine Close Up
Green Hillside
Sage & Views
Bunch Of Phlox
Flowers & Views
Ball Head Waterleaf
Horse Lake?
Janet & Serviceberry
Spring Beauty
Yellow Bell
Clouds Roll In
Lunch Spot
Mission Ridge
On The Ridge
Cloudy Stuart Range
Steep Downhill
Janet On Ridge
Icicle Ridge
Yellow Flowers
Pink Flower
Barry Crosses Meadow
Big Meadow
Bench Viewpoint
Phlox & Lupine
White Lupine
Janet At Work
Great Colors
Almost Done
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2022