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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Soggy Boggy 4th Greetings

So the joke comes true, here in Western Washington, Summer starts tomorrow.

I took advantage of the half holiday on Friday and simply took the full day off. I had to go in to work today and I knew it would take me at least four hours so it worked well for everyone.

I knew the weather was going to be dreary on Friday but I was determined to see how Kendall Katwalk was faring. Trail reports I read sounded good. I had never visited this trail in the Summer and I knew there were some amazing environments to visit.

I posted about the Kendall Katwalk last September. It was here I found amazing blueberries and mushrooms. I knew this area was also good for views and a thrilling trek across the narrow ledge of the Katwalk itself.

The parking lot was totally empty when I arrived. This surprised me a bit since this hike on the Pacific Crest Trail is popular and a starting place for many backpacking trips. It was so chilly that I pulled out my polar fleece and threw on my rainproof poncho. It was raining that type of rain that does not really fall but simply floats about. Organized fog I call it.

I like being in the open woods on the Cascade Crest. You can see more inside the environment. Here large boulders can act as nurse boulders for trees.

Ferns were everywhere.

There were a lot of birds and in many places the sound of young. Even though it is cold and gray, nature cycles on. In one spot I heard noises that I was not too sure of , so I "pished" to see if I could call in or make some bird movement. Pishing is done with the voice and sounds like a scold call. Many birds will react to the sound by moving or even coming closer. I saw movement of a dark shape and then saw a more familiar Gray Jay. The first dark shape popped up and it was a baby Gray Jay. It sat on a limb near me and started begging, mouth open wings fluttering.

Well I knew my next responsibility. I opened my pack and pulled out my apple. I placed a small bit on my open hand and one adult came over, took it and plugged it into the beggars mouth.

I should not feed them but I cannot resist.

Pressing on I started encountering snow on the trail in open areas. Ahead I could heard a waterfall. I stopped when I finally saw it shooting over the wall of the ridge to my right.

Getting nearer my heart sank. This torrent was on the right side of the trail.

Where the water crossed the trail it was about 7 feet wide. Too far to leap across and there were no handy, flat rocks that were well above the waterline. Near the left edge there were a few usable rocks, but they were right on the edge and there was about a 10 foot drop. I knew enough to turn back then, I hate having wet feet and while I probably could have made it, risk is not my first or middle name. Returning, I immediately encountered two "well-set-up" * men. I told them I was not feeling sprightly for crossing. We chatted about the season and parted ways. Since I did not see them again I assume they made the crossing just fine. Returning to the parking lot there were still no others cars except that of the two men. One (or both) were firefighters!

Ah me. (Oh yes!)

Saturday promised better weather east of the Cascade Crest (as is usual) so I knew I needed to get up early to possibly beat any traffic and get to Esmeralda Basin. I visited this area extensively last July. It is a wonderful wilderness area that is easy to access and presents five different hike options. Each trail visits a different area in or around the basin and each has an ecology different from the other. All have wonderful views of the mountains. When I look upon some of them I always hope to see Mountain Goat.

The relatively flat Esmeralda Basin trail heads north circling Mt. Esmeralda counter clockwise. The prime feature of the basin trail is meadows and bogs filled with wildflowers. I also like that as the trail climbs upward you switchback several times. Each time you cross the same streams and at each level the surrounding ecology is quite different. Right now the lower area is rich with blooming Jeffrey Shooting Stars and Yellow Violets.

I also found Northern Green Bog-orchids. The bog meadows are saturated with water that is running off the hillsides.

Later there will be many other flowers and grasses in bloom. Cottongrass grows here. It looks like a grass stem with a cotton ball on top. I found two Fairslippers. Can you see this orchids little friend?

I hiked about three miles and was reaching an area I had pre-determined to turn back at. I wanted to visit a second trail I had never been on. The DeRoux Trail is two miles south of the Esmeralda trail head and slightly lower in elevation, perhaps 200 feet? What a big difference. The woods here were filled with blooming Vanilla Leaf and solid with Trilliums, which were past blooming. It must have been a sight to see in the previous month. Immediately after leaving my parking area I found Western Spotted Coralroot. These were the nicest examples I have ever seen.

There was a sprinkling of Columbine, asters, and Tiger Lily which I had seen along the North Fork Teanaway Road for the last eight miles in.

Rounding a bend in the trail I passed another bog meadow. I could see the shooting star and appreciated the size of the meadow. I moved on and coming around some trees I glanced into the meadow again. Something here was different.

I carefully picked my way deeper into the meadow and knew I found one of my favorite wildflowers. Here it is still a bit closed and flowers not yet out.

Elephant-head Lousewort. So aptly named. They stood well above the lighter purple shooting stars. Mixed in were the Green and White bog orchids. All told this day I saw five different orchid species. I took my pictures and carefully picked my back out, retracing my previous path.

I pressed on up the trail about two miles and decided that I would call it a day. I need to revisit this whole area in the next few weeks. Ingalls Pass and Iron Peak which form the east wall of the basin are two wonderful areas. Both provide magnificent view of Mt Stewart. Next to Mt Rainier, Stewart is the mountain that I never get tired of looking upon.

Tomorrow is a holiday. I hate being on the road in the afternoon but I cannot say no to a sunny day.

(* "The Curious Sofa" by Ogdred Weary)


  1. Great post, Marti. Really like the shots of the Lousewort (also one of our favorites), the Columbine and the fern. Superb work.

    We're off early in the morning for Mount Robson and 5 days of backpacking. Can't wait to hit the trail.

  2. Thanks Ron. I look forward to your wonderful pictures. have a safe and exciting journey.

    See something wonderful for us all.

  3. These photos are amazing. I can almost smell cool freshness in the air, the colors and images are so vibrant.