Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iron Bear (Iron Creek), Teanaway Ridge

Iron Creek, Bear Creek trail - June 11, 2009

Old-timers still refer to this trail as the Iron Bear trail though it is only in Mary Sutcliff’s out-of-print “Teanaway Country” that refers to this trail by that name. No matter what you want to call it, it’s a fine flower hike in late spring through early summer. By mid-June some of the earlier flowers were withering but others are just getting started. This is usually a lonesome trail, never as crowded as popular trails like Esmeralda Basin or Ingalls Lake deeper in the Teanaway.

It took us a couple hours to drive to the trailhead from Seattle. The Iron Creek road is well signed and in good condition the first 3.5 miles – the last stretch of road could be dicey in spring as you drive through a creek to get to the trailhead. If that is the case, you can find parking a little further down the road. We had no problem getting to the trailhead (mid-June).

The trail starts off leisurely through the forest, crosses a small stream then begins to wind around a rocky hillside before it enters another forested stretch. A couple of minor streams/freshets are also crossed – none a problem. Forest and open areas alternate to Iron Bear Pass – it is about 800 feet gain to the pass. From Iron Bear Pass there are options – the Teanaway Ridge trail begins here – we headed north on the Teanaway Ridge trail (right) the trail continues for several miles, coming out at Stafford Creek Road in the Teanaway. If you head the other direction (left) you’ll eventually get to Red Top lookout. That was too many miles for us – we were content to savor the flowers, stopping our hike at a high point (knoll) overlooking Mount Stuart, Miller Peak and other Teanaway peaks. We might have stayed there forever had we not heard ominous booms in the distance as dark clouds began marching toward us. Time to head down!

Fortunately, the storm veered off and we were soon at the trailhead – we missed the rain. That was good - you never want to get caught in a thunderstorm.

As for flowers – this hike is often described as a “flower hike” and indeed it is. Bring a flower guide if you have one. We saw Indian paintbrush, lupine, death camas, puccoon, waterleaf, false Solomon’s seal, mountain ash, serviceberry, forget-me-nots, larkspur, lomatiums, penstemon, desert parsley, wild onion and several tiny flowers we could not identify. The starring attraction of this hike is bitterroot, just coming into bloom above Iron Bear Pass. The flower was discovered by Meriwether Lewis in the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana.

We hiked about 7-8 miles round trip with roughly 1,800 feet of elevation gain to our high point.

The maps are Green Trails No. 209, Mount Stuart and No. 210 Liberty.

Getting there: From Seattle take I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass, bypass Cle Elum and follow US 97, pass Mineral Springs campground and turn left on Forest Service Road 9714 (Iron Creek Road), continue 3.5 miles to trailhead, elevation 3,800 feet, no facilities. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

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