Exclamation Point Rock

I finally planned a trip east of the Cascade Crest to see spring wildflowers. I have seen a lot west of the crest but many of the best are to the east. It would be in the low 80s and part of the trip would be out in the open. I needed an early start. I was on my way just before 6:00 am. I cruised over Snoqualmie Pass and down to Cle Elum. I stopped for gas at the Safeway. Unfortunately, all the pumps had cones in front of them. I headed across the street and paid a dime a gallon more. That was still $.70/gallon less than the cheapest gas in Northwest Seattle. I turned onto the Middle Fork Teanaway Road and stopped for a few photos in the car. Mt. Stuart and the Stuart Range sit above a farm with green fields. There is still a lot of snow on Stuart and the higher Teanaway Peaks. At the end of the road I turned onto the dirt road section. It is only 1.5 miles to the gate but the road is in pretty bad shape. The last half mile is mostly potholes. I slowed to 5-10 mph along here. I arrived at the gate at about 8:00 am. There was one other car. I grabbed my pack and headed out at 8:04 am.

It was 57 degrees at the start. I headed out to the meadow. The first .80 miles is hiking down a huge green meadow. It was a little chilly until I was in the sunshine. The WF Teanaway River is out of sight to the left behind a wall of  trees. I saw a few wildflowers in the meadow but not many. Small desert parsley was here and in many places on my trip. I also saw some yellow violets. An old road turned trail climbs out of the valley. At the base is a slope of blooming camas and small yellow seep monkey flowers. I stopped for some photos. I then ascended the trail into forest. The road/trail heads off right at a point where I continue straight ahead on a very minimal path. This leads to the main path. I turned left on this trail. From here to the main road there are a lot of wildflowers if you time it right. Last year I saw them at their peak two weeks later than this. I expected to see some but not a lot of wildflowers.

I walked very slowly looking for some colors. I saw some trillium still in bloom. Next were spring beauty. They were just beginning to open up. I saw a whole lot of them all over the route. Calypso orchids are very small. Very colorful but very small. I looked carefully off the trail and did find one small patch in bloom. They very very bright colors. There were just a couple lupine starting to bloom. There were some yellow violets in bloom here too. Next I saw some ballhead waterleaf. They were seen much farther up the main road too. Last year I saw hundreds of chocolate lilies in bloom. I hoped to at least see a few. They blend in very well and are hard to see. I did not see a single one in this section. They should be blooming in a couple weeks. As I neared the main road I saw several Indian paintbrush beginning to bloom. I also saw false hellebore plants, They have neat big green leaves. I did not notice any new larch needles though I looked for them. I did see them on the way back. The forest walk was nice and cool. I popped out on the road and it was already much warmer.

I looked all along the roadside but did not see any chocolate lilies. The road drops to cross a creek on a new car bridge, climbs, and soon begins the descent to the WF Teanaway River. Near the bottom of the drop I did see a few chocolate lilies just starting to flower. I crossed the bridge and continued on. The giant puddles I call Lake Teanaway are much smaller than usual. Dingbat Creek, alongside the road, has more water than usual. I noticed a few trillium along here. Much of the way is in forest. When the road began to climb I was out in the open and 57 at the start now felt like 75 degrees. I brought my chrome dome umbrella and having portable shade really helped later at the temperature kept climbing.

Now I began to see chocolate lilies in bloom. Not a whole lot but dozens of them. Ballhead waterleaf made another appearance too. Silver crown had flowers almost ready to bloom. After a steady climb I left the road and started up the slick rock. I don't need a trail. Just follow the rock slabs rising above the dirt. I recalled seeing a rare flower along the upper slabs last year. Kim Brown pointed it out. I had seen it on the Diablo Lake Trail also. I could not recall the name of this flower. I also did not see it this time. The last part was in blazing sunshine and I was really feeling the heat. It was only about 10:07 am. One of the first hot days in six months and I was feeling it. Fortunately, it was time to go back into forest as I reached Exclamation Point Rock. I have now seen it about a dozen times but it is still so impressive. Utah has sandstone pillars. Washington state not so much. I took some photos and had a food and water break.

My next objective was to get up on top of Mammoth Rock. A short climbing move would get you up top just a few minutes from Exclamation Point Rock. It would also mean missing the walk along the vertical wall of Mammoth Rock. In places the wall overhangs the trail. I have to duck to get under it. This north facing forested trail gets no sunshine. I even found some glacier lilies in bloom. The wall of Mammoth Rock has some yellow orange lichen plus some green moss in places. Farther along I found a mossy section that had blooming grass widows. My close up photos were all blurry. I did get one at a distance that is not too bad. After .20 miles the path climbs above the rock wall. I know there are usually calypso orchids in bloom here. There were many hundreds of spring beauty blooming. I went off trail a little and finally found a few calypsos. Not a lot but enough to manage a few good photos. A couple minutes later I was at the start of Mammoth Rock. There is a big patch of arrowleaf balsamroot here and it was near peak. There were a few blooming lupine to add purple color. The first thing I noticed was wind.

I had precious little wind hiking up. Now atop the rock it was blowing steady. That helped with the heat. The rock has almost no shade. I hiked all the way back to the other end of the rock and found that one spot where a few tall trees growing along my access trail create a little shade. It was now 10:54 am. I had hiked 4.7 miles in 2:50. That is monumentally slow but with a whole lot of photo stops and slow flower searching it was not that bad. My lunch only lasted for 11 minutes and I was back on my way. I planned one more in the open climb and I did not want to do it in the heat of the day. It was time to head back. With fewer stops I made much better time. Back across the WF Teanaway River and up the first hill. Before I reached the spot where I leave the road I did another slickrock climb on a mostly open hillside. It was more like 80 degrees now.  The chrome dome helped a lot. This section has an amazing display of bitterroot in early June. There are grass widows in early spring. I hoped to find a few round bitterroot "branches/leaves". They are tiny flowers with tiny branches. I did not see even a trace. The grass widows were long gone.

At the top of the ridge I did find balsamroot near its peak. That was some of the best color of the day. I followed a path down and came to another Mammoth Rock. This one is many patches of slick rock not one big slab. I did find a few finished blooming grass widows here. I have been to the top of the slick rock many times. This time I went further and hiked up to the highest point. There were no views through the trees. I went back down. I sat for a break and noticed some really tiny purple flowers. It suddenly hit me. These were broomrake. These were the flowers Kim and I saw below Exclamation Point Rock last year. I have now seen them in two places on this hike. They are so small that I could not see them while standing up. I went over to the far side of the slickrock slope where Janet and I saw some bitterroot in bloom last year at this time. I did not see any flowers but I did see some of the plants.  They should start blooming in a week or two.

Now It was time to head on down. Back to the road and soon off the road and into the forest. On my way back on the road I saw two bikers. As I neared the big meadow I ran into a group of mountain bikers hiking down to their bikes. They were the only two groups I saw all day. Once in the big meadow I now had about a steady 10 mph wind right in my face. It was cooling but it pushed the wide brim of my sun hat down into my vision. I could not see much except for my feet on the hike across the meadow. I was glad to reach my car. It was in the shade. It was now 2:16 pm. In 6:12 I hiked a little over 10 miles with 1800' of elevation gain. On my drive home it was 82 degrees at the trailhead, 86 in Cle Elum, 92 in Issaquah, and only 77 in Seattle.

This was a great hike. It was nice to get across the mountains again. I had the expected solitude on this hike. Exclamation Point Rock is just as impressive as ever. I did not have the profusion of flowers seen two weeks later last year but I did see quite a few different varieties. The calypso orchids, chocolate lilies, and especially the broomrake were real treats. I won't drive east for many hikes on 82 degree days this year but Tiger Mountain was much hotter. It was a good choice and a great wildflower hike.

The Stuart Range
Entering The Big Meadow
Seep Monkey Flower
Cams With Bug
WF Teanaway River
Calypso Orchid
Yellow Violet
False Hellebore
Forest & Meadow
Indian Paintbrush
Red Currant
On The Road Again
Chocolate Lilies
Fast Running River
Ballhead Waterleaf
Small Colorful Sedums
On The Slickrock
Exclamation Point Rock
Along The North Wall
Overhanging Rock
Glacier Lily
More Ballhead Waterleaf
Grass Widows
Spring Beauty
Colorful Calypso Orchid
Mammoth Rock
Mammoth Rock View
Yellow Flowers
Blazing Balsamroot
Prarie Star
Atop More Slickrock
Larch Needles
Small Meadow
Big Meadow
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2023