Long weekend on the East Slopes

I spent last weekend car-camping east of the Cascades, enjoying the sunshine, checking out various trails and snow levels, hanging with family, and getting in a long run in the Entiat. I brought my laptop and phone with me and set up a fairly functional mobile office in the van. It was a good weekend, but it’s also nice to be back in my own bed. #Vanlife is great but there is a lot to be said for hot showers and an actual living space – especially back here in wet Western Washington.

Trail conditions and other details below.

Friday April 28

Nason Ridge:

Date hike with Tom! We decided to head up Nason Ridge, starting from the trailhead near Kahler Glen. In general the trail is in reasonable condition.  A bit wet and muddy the first mile. We started hitting patchy snow around 2500 ft. By 3000 ft the trail was consistently covered in snow.  The snow was generally consolidated but with the occasional posthole to keep things fun.  We turned around after approx 3 miles, at 3200 ft, where the trail intersects a logging road.  The clearing at our turnaround point provided some good views of Big Jim Peak to the south. We also had relatively frequent views throughout the hike of Dirtyface Peak across Lake Wenatchee.

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Dirtyface as seen from the Nason Ridge trail
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Taking photos of taking photos (photo taken at approx 2500 ft – patchy snow)
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Tom in front of “Big Red,” a giant ponderosa pine.
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Big Jim on the horizon

 

Saturday April 29

Lake Wenatchee State Park

On Saturday night, Rowan and I took a girls-only camping trip to Lake Wenatchee State Park (Tom had to be back in Seattle to work at the distillery.)  The park website said only the south campground was open, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the north campground open as well. Ultimately we ended up camping at site 17, which is a big site right next to the lake. It would probably be a super sweet spot on a warm summer day, but it was pretty windy when we were there and we might’ve been better off in a more sheltered site. Other sites that looked good and were more sheltered were 96 and 188.

It rained on and off, but paused long enough for us a to roast marshmallows and eat smores. We spent the rest of the evening snuggled up in the van, reading and laughing and singing songs from Moana. (“I’m so SHINY!!!!!!!!”) We fell asleep to the sound of the rain tapping on the van roof.

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Snuggled up in the van, waiting out the rain.
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Not exactly beach weather (Lake Wenatchee and Dirtyface Peak)

 

Sunday May 30

Hidden Lake:

Sunday morning dawned relatively clear and sunny at Lake Wenatchee. Tom rejoined us, and our little family of three headed to Hidden Lake, which is located at the north end of Lake Wenatchee. The road to the trail head was clear of snow until approx 1/4 mile before the trailhead. The last 1/4 mile of road, though snow-covered, was easily walkable without any special gear (even for our 6 yr old), and will likely be completely melted out in the next week or so.

The trail itself was in good condition. No blowdowns, a few patches of easily navigable snow. We did the out-and-back route, rather than the loop described on the WTA website, and we did not cross the outlet stream (looked a little too sketchy for a small child). A really nice family hike!

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Hidden Lake with these two ❤

 

Lower Mad River Loop:

After our family hike, Tom and Rowan headed back to Seattle while I headed further east towards the Entiat. My original plan was to do an out-and-back up the Lower Mad River trail, going as far as I could until I hit substantial snow. I talked to a FS employee who said they had done recent maintenance on the first 3 miles of the Lower Mad River trail, but I wasn’t sure what to expect after that. I reached the Pine Flats campground/Lower Mad River trailhead around 2 pm, and off I went. It was warm and sunny, there were butterflies flitting about, and it felt like spring had finally arrived!

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A good example of the first three miles of the Lower Mad River trail 

The Lower Mad River trail is in great shape, particularly the first 3 miles. Just past the 3 mile mark, at approx 2000 ft, the trail switchbacks up the canyon wall through a field of balsamroot, and then meanders through shady groves of ponderosa pine above the river. There were a few blowdowns through this section, but everything was easily passable. It was at this point, when I was a couple hundred feet above the river, that I started itching to get some views from even higher up on the ridge. I kept following the Lower Mad River trail until I reached Camp 9, which was approximately 6-7 miles from the trailhead, depending on whether you believe the map or the GPS.

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Half-way up the short section of switchbacks, looking down on the trail below. I didn’t get a nice shot of the balsamroot, but it was in peak bloom on this slope.

 

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Views from the forested slopes
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Blue skies, sunshine, smell of warm pine
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One of a handful of blow-downs on the trail between miles 3 – 7 (no blowdowns before mile 3).

As has been mentioned in previous trip reports, Camp 9 isn’t really much of a camp. There is a small fire pit, and room enough for a small 1-2 person tent or bivvy. Definitely not a “destination camp” (see photo below). Camp 9 is at an elevation of approx 2700 ft, and there was still no sign of snow. I looked at my map and realized that I could easily access Tyee Ridge from Camp Nine, via some brief off-trail travel and a long stretch of forest service road. From Tyee Ridge I would be able to get a better sense of snow levels, and could then loop back to my car instead of doing an out-and-back as planned. I’m a sucker for loops.

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“Camp” Nine – not much of a camp, but it’d work in a pinch.
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I decided to go right here, towards Tyee Ridge, and see if I could find snow (nada).
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Views of the Lower Mad River from FS 5703

 

I traveled FS 5703 as it traversed below Tyee Ridge for approx 8 miles. Although I ultimately got sick of the road running, the views were gorgeous and it was cool to see the Lower Mad River from high above.

My highest elevation along Tyee Ridge was 3200 ft, and I was able to see clearly above me to approx 3600 ft, where there was still no snow. Just lots of sunshine and ponderosa pines. Oh, and ticks. There were also ticks.  I found several crawling around on my dog, and two on me. Considering we spent a bit of time scrambling around off-trail, that’s not too bad. No snakes, even when we were down close to the river, which surprised me, although I’m not complaining.

The last part of this loop was on a paved road, which wasn’t my favorite. I cut several switchbacks to save time and treat my feet to some softer terrain, which made the descent back to the trailhead a bit more bearable. I reached the car as the sun was starting to set, for a total of  approx 17 miles and just under 3000 ft of gain for the loop.

 

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Bighorn sheep scat in FS 5703. Paws for scale.
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FS 5703 is almost entirely snow-free, except for this patch. This is also the location of the only tree across the road, which is about 2 miles from the Camp Nine trailhead.
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Feline footprints

 

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If you have to run road, this isn’t too bad.
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Views of Devil’s Backbone from Tyee Ridge Rd
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Sun dropping below the hills as I reached the car

 

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Lower Mad River loop – approx 17 miles and a little under 3k of gain

 

Monday, May 1

Saddle Rock trail, Wenatchee:

I camped again on Sunday night and then started the drive home Monday morning. Along the way, I stopped at Saddle Rock just outside of Wenatchee for another hit of wildflowers. I admit I’d never paid much attention to the foothills outside of Wenatchee, but after reading this trip report I decided it was definitely worth a stop on my way home. Saddle Rock was scenic, not too crowded, and a great leg-stretcher.

All in all, a fun and mostly sunny weekend east of the Cascades!

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Saddle Rock sunflowers
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Kayaker playing in the Wenatchee River on the drive home

 

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