Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kachess Beacon Scramble

May 23, 2011

Kachess Beacon Scramble Route (Easton)

Another great trip in Easton with friends – no ticks today, no sun either.

Four of us started from the Easton Ridge/Kachess Ridge (also known as the Silver Creek trail) trailhead. Instead of Easton Ridge we headed uphill (a steep start) on the Kachess Ridge trail.

The trail doesn’t mess around – it gets down to its business immediately. Perhaps the trail itself is in a hurry to get to the views and wildflowers for which this trail is known. The Kachess Ridge trail is a long trail (you can hike to Thorp Lookout on this trail system) but we weren’t going that far today. Besides, this time of year crossing Silver Creek can be challenging (especially this year).

After a steep climb with a few breaks to photograph flowers (first Indian Paintbrush of the season, at least for us) such as trilliums, yellow violets, lomatiums, even Calypso orchids at lower elevations we reached the hard-to-miss junction (unsigned) where a branched path leads off (left) as the main trail continues on.

We left the main trail and began our hike on a faint path winding between rock outcroppings, following the spine of a ridge with several good overlooks along the way. Dennis and Michael had taken this route before and when we began to hit snow patches they knew exactly where to go. The snow was perfect for hiking – not too icy, not too soft with only a little post-holing.

We were denied most of the views because of fog and clouds; but as we continued along the ridge there were interesting rock formations to ponder as we climbed. With wisps of fog coming and going it was moody and beautiful.

Then – a glitch for Bob. The lens popped out of his glasses and his eyes are as bad as mine. If we’d been born a few centuries ago we would have killed ourselves tripping or falling with our poor vision. This has happened before – he did his best to make a repair but it was time-consuming so he told us to carry on, he’d wait.

We continued on up, now mostly on snow. The last 300 feet or so were a bit of a struggle for me (I’d hiked the day before) but when I saw the Kachess Beacon I knew I could make it. We did not linger at all – it was too cold and we wanted to get back to Bob and eat lunch with him.

After meeting up with Bob again we continued down, seeking a warmer spot for lunch. Bob wasn’t able to fix his glasses so resorted to his “spare” glasses. He had a little trouble with depth perception but did pretty well considering.

Back at the car Michael shared a lemon pie with us, made by his daughter to celebrate his recent birthday. That made a sweet ending to a cold but fun day.

By the way savvy hikers can make a loop out of this by way of the official Kachess Beacon trail that takes off from the Silver Creek trail though that trail doesn’t seem to show on our maps. Perhaps it’s not an official trail anymore. If I were to do this as a loop I’d go up the scramble route and then descend down to the Kachess Ridge trail on the “official” Kachess Beacon trail. However now there’s still a lot of snow in the Silver Creek valley and trail reports indicate there are a lot of trees down on the Kachess Beacon trail from Silver Creek.

Stats: A little over 4 miles round trip with 2,200 feet elevation gain. Maps: Green Trails No. 208 (Kachess Lake, WA) and No. 240 (Easton).

To get there: From Seattle take I-90 east and turn off at Exit 70. Drive over the freeway and turn left onto a frontage road signed Kachess Dam Road and proceed to Forest Service Road No. 4818, turn right. Stay on Road No. 4818 to an unsigned road junction and turn right – continue about ½ mile to the trailhead, elevation 2,400 feet, no facilities. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. The maps are Green Trails Kachess Lake No. 208 and Green Trails Easton No. 240.

Additional information: Cle Elum Ranger District (509-852-1100).