Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
Walter and I went camping up at Lake Kachess in the Cascadesin once again in late July 2008. Kachess is a natural lake just east of Snoqualmie Pass off of I-90. Years ago they added a small earthen dam so they could control water flows for irrigation. Most years when we've visited, the lake has been drawn down quite a ways and we'd have to walk the boat out to the find the water.

Last year the lake level was higher than we'd ever seen before but still below historical levels. This year it was full to the brim and the then some with water flooding mature fir trees in the campground.

Here's a view where you can tell that things are clearly higher than normal!

Lake Kachess

The day we arrived it was 88 degrees and clear and sunny. The mosquitoes were out in full force--could this be due to all that standing water in parts of the campground that are usually dry?

Year after year we'd seen signs for Stampede Pass as we've gotten off the freeway to go to Kachess and wondered what the story was. So this year rather than sitting and swatting mosquitoes we took the road to see where it goes. Well, duh! It goes to Stampede Pass where there is nothing...

Once upon a time the railroad went this way but no more. The road doesn't even connect to the other side of the mountains anymore because the City of Tacoma has closed it since it goes through their watershed. Of course we didn't learn any of that on our drive--Walter researched it on the internet when we got home.

The next day we awoke to clouds and temps in the 60's. Perfect hiking weather. We drove over to Teanaway (east of Cle Elum) and took a hike to Esmeralda Basin. The sun came out but wonders of wonders it didn't get hot! We took this same hike 2 years ago in June and ran into lots of snow. This year, it being late July, the snow was gone and there were flowers.

The trail begins as Teanaway creek comes crashing down the hill.

Waterfall in Teanaway creek

After a steep 1/2 mile the trail evens out and there are little meadows sprinkled with flowers.

Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia)
Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia)

There are lots of small streams to cross and occasionally the streams run down the center of the trail. Butterflies congregated in the wet spots.

Blue Butterfly Orange ButterflyOrange Butterflies

Just about the time we were beginning to wonder if we really wanted to hike any further, we spotted the first of the big meadows of Esmeralda Basin. It was full of Angelica just starting to unfurl it's big white umbrella-like flowers.

Sawtooth Angelica (Angelica arguta)
Sawtooth Angelica (Angelica arguta)

Here's a panorama of the view from the meadow. The mountains as the Esmeralda Peaks.

Esmeralda Basin Meadow and Esmeralda Peaks

And here's another view of the meadow and the mountains. Views like this make long rocky wet trails worth the hike.

Esmeralda Peaks

The meadow not only had Angelica and Queen Anne's lace but this cool flower called Elephant's Head Loosewort. The little pink spurs on the flowers look just like elephant's heads when you get up really close.

Elephant's Head Loosewort Closeup Elephant's Head Loosewort Elephant's Head Loosewort

Mixed in amongst these were red and orange Indian Paint Brush along with the little white tufts of cotton grass and a white spear called Bog Orchid which turned out not to be terribly photogenic.

Red Indian Paintbrush

On the way back we spotted some Scarlet Gilia.

Scarlet Gilia Scarlet Gilia

Can't you just imagine hummingbirds going nuts over these guys?

One of the little creeklet's that we followed and crossed was full of these maidenhair ferns.

Maidenhair Fern in creek

They're so delicate that I always imagine fairies gathering under these ferns.

On the last stretch of trail, I found some lovely little plants growing in the shade and of course I had to take photos of them so I could figure out what they were when we got home.

Little Prince's Pinedrops (Chimaphilia menziesii)
Little Prince's Pinedrops (Chimaphilia menziesii)

The flowers on these plants are only about the size of your fingertip. And don't you just love the name?

Whiteveined Wintergreen (Pyrola picta)
Whiteveined Wintergreen (Pyrola picta)

Then when we got back to the parking lot I discovered a huge patch of Cascade Penstemon hiding behind someone's car!

Blue Penstemon

We stopped for lunch further down the hill along the creek. This was the view from our picnic table. Not bad huh?

Cascading creek at lunchtime

The next morning we had hoped to go kayaking. It was cooler than the day before and still cloudy and very windy. The lake even had white caps. We waited several hours hoping it would warm up and the wind would die down. No luck. So we packed up and went home. We'll go kayaking another day.

Hope you enjoyed getting to see the flowers without having to clamor up the hill!