Nason Ridge, 07/20/08

A Monday commitment meant that we were left searching for a Sunday day hike, and this time Nicole made the call: Nason Ridge, right between US-2 and Lake Wenatchee. Actually, she’s supposed to be writing up this trip report, but it seems we’ll have to settle for some of her comments and impressions on this hike toward the end of this entry. Or look for a separate post from her on this topic. So: based on the trip reports, we expected a moderately difficult hike with no snow, decent views, an alpine lookout, and the high possibility of a mountain goat encounter. We weren’t disappointed.

Like many, we approached Nason Ridge via Round Mountain Trail #1529. Green Trails Map #145 (Wenatchee Lake) shows three ways up to Nason Ridge from US-2, but the route up Round Mountain has the advantage of having the highest starting elevation, at 3900’. The trailhead sits at the end of Road 6910, which is maybe 1/4 mile east of the Nason Creek Rest Area–we knew it was coming, and we still ended up missing it and turning around (look for a driveway with mailboxes and a small 6910 sign) . The road up to the trailhead is in suitable shape for most anyone–we took the Focus this time, and had no problem making it the ~4 miles to the trailhead.

We arrived at the trailhead at 09:55 to find five other cars and an outhouse, which we didn’t use because we’d stopped at the rest area just minutes before. We’d left West Seattle at 07:35, and run into minimal traffic, so that’s a little over two hours of driving time. We stepped out of the car to put on our boots and were immediately greeted by hungry mosquitoes. After applying sunscreen and bug dope, we set off. 10:10.

The trail starts off west-northwest through the forest and quickly begins to gain elevation at a moderate-to-steep grade. Maybe 10 minutes in there is a small stream–at least at this time of year. It didn’t look very refreshing, but if you didn’t bring enough water this is the only place to get some. The trail is dry, dry, dry. I was carrying 7 liters of water for the both of us, and we drank nearly all of it–most on the way up. In case you’re wondering, as I was, how much 7 liters of water weighs, the answer is ~15 pounds. So I estimate I was carrying 30+ pounds in my bag from the start; I really need to buy a scale to weigh my bag at home…

Anyway: after about 20 minutes of uphill and evergreen needles we came upon the consequences of a not-too-recent wildfire. Here the trees were scorched silver and skeletal, but time had passed and there was plenty of new growth in the area. Actually, the trail was overgrown in places, and so we found ourselves rubbing shoulders with greenery and doing our best to avoid scratches on our shins. There’s also one or two small blow-downs along the trail, but they’re easily avoided. The trail works itself through the wildfire burn for another 20 minutes or so, turning rocky underfoot in the process. We left the wildfire burn behind us at 10:50 and continued through direct sun and sparse shade–which should’ve been a respite from the heat, but only encouraged the mosquitoes.

Old burn, new life.

Old burn, new life.

At 11:15, we reached the Nason Ridge Trail/Round Mountain Trail intersection. Here #1529 ended, after taking us up to 5200’ elevation in 1.6 miles, with a gain of 1300’. Our destination, the Alpine Lookout, was still another 1000’ higher, but we had 3.6 miles to gain the rest of the elevation, so we felt good knowing that the worst was behind us. We took a left at the junction, and headed west around the southern side of Round Mountain.

Just minutes up from the junction, views open up to the north over Lake Wenatchee and the White River valley, all the way up to Glacier Peak itself. Up until this point, we’d been moving constantly, and so the bugs had only been a nuisance; but here, as we stopped for a few photos and I removed my backpack, they began a full-force attack. They seemed particularly attracted to my sweat-drenched back. I’m normally the lucky one–Nicole seems to have the sweeter blood for attracting bugs. But the bugs on this hike were the worst we’ve experienced this year, and perhaps ever. We quickly decided that the ~20% DEET we’d applied at the trailhead just wasn’t cutting it, and pulled out the 100% DEET Jungle Juice. Mmmm. Delicious, delicious DEET. The stronger stuff seemed to work pretty well, so we finished up admiring the view and started moving again by 11:30.

Nicole looks out to Glacier Peak across the White River valley.

Nicole looks out to Glacier Peak across the White River valley.

In 15 minutes we realized we were hungry, and sat down for a snack in the sun with views to the south across US-2 to the Chiwaukum Mountains and southwest across the wildfire burn we’d come through. For the next hour or so the trail gains elevation overall at a very pleasant rate–and loses some here-and-there–while you work your way westward along Nason Ridge proper. There are some wonderful wildflower meadows to walk through, but it seems like they’d peaked at least a week or two prior. We saw purples and some reds where there had once been many purples and reds and yellows; I don’t know the names of them yet, except for the red Indian Paintbrushes. We were making such good time through this section that we didn’t even stop for pictures–though I’m sure we would’ve if we’d been here a few weeks earlier.

At around 13:00 we started descending the again-rocky trail to Ninemile Saddle. By this point, we were nearly 4.5 miles in, and so losing a couple hundred feet in elevation that we knew we’d be regaining on the way out wasn’t especially enjoyable. But it wasn’t very difficult. The saddle itself opens to the north again, with views of the surrounding rocky cliffs and slopes. We scanned for mountain goats for a few moments and then continued on. I should’ve taken out the camera at this point.

Minutes later we came around a curve in the trail and met a mountain goat head-to-head. I quickly called to Nicole to close the few steps between us. This goat had a small kid with it, and Nicole caught up just in time to get a good view of the adult–I assume it was a nanny, since it was with a baby–though the kid was only a blur of white into the rocks. We stood on the trail for a few minutes, looking up into the rocks where we could see the goat standing over us. It kept an eye on us as we turned and headed onward, completely satisfied with the hike now that we’d had our first up-close mountain goat sighting.

Our first close mountain goat sighting; he was closer.

Our first close mountain goat sighting; he was closer.

In just another few minutes we came to sign indicating the spur trail up to the Alpine Lookout. The trail up is rocky and slightly exposed, but far from scary. At this point, however, we were exhausted, and ready for a relaxing break at the top. We met a pair of hikers coming down from the top who kindly assured us that we were almost there, and then told us that they’d seen several families of goats up at the top, after we’d excitedly stated that we’d just seen some of our own. (We’d also passed–yes, passed–a group of three hikers perhaps two miles earlier–two of whom were wearing bug nets.)

At 13:25 we reached the lookout, where the mosquitoes were the absolute worst they’d been. We’d been hoping for a strong breeze and a break from the bugs, but it wasn’t to be. I snapped a few photos around the area just to keep moving–Mt Stuart and Mt Rainier are both just visible to the south–and then the ranger manning the lookout came outside to say hello and offer us shelter from the mosquitoes.

The Alpine Lookout, Nicole, and Glacier Peak.

The Alpine Lookout, Nicole, and Glacier Peak.

From the Alpine Lookout to Glacier Peak Wilderness.

From the Alpine Lookout to Glacier Peak Wilderness.

We gladly accepted, and ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in silence while he made calls on his radio to other lookouts in the area. We talked for a little while about his job, recent conditions, the Dirtyface fire of a few years ago (which he’d seen start from this very lookout and we’d seen smoking from Lake Wenatchee), mountain goats, F-18s, et cetera. I think a ring-tone on his cell phone was the theme song to Sugarfoot, which had something to do with Sugarloaf Lookout and reminded me of Arrested Development. While we were talking, the trio of hikers we’d passed arrived to find a mountain goat only feet away from them. We watched them out the window while we talked; having seen a goat already, we weren’t in too large of a hurry to rush outside into the bugs and forsake safety, food, and conversation. Eventually we felt like we should leave him to his work, and thanked him for the hospitality. I grabbed my camera and set off to find the goat, but it’d apparently wandered out of sight after posing for pictures. I gave Nicole back the camera and took one last look around.

Jeremy climbs some rocks for a better view.

Jeremy climbs some rocks for a better view.

It’s a good thing that I did, because I spotted the goat below me that’d been hanging around the lookout before. Normally I don’t stalk wild animals, but since all the goats that hang around the lookout seem pretty familiar with humans, I stepped down from the rock, grabbed the camera, and walked a dozen feet or so down toward the goat. It walked down in front of me–not far away–and worked its way around to my right. I took a few steps up onto a rock to get a better view, and the goat started getting closer and closer. I was amazed. Then, when he was within about five feet of me and looking right at me, I got a little scared. It’s got horns, after all. I backed off; I’m not sure if the goat was just curious, or curious with the intent to kill.

friend, or foe?

The mountain goat: friend, or foe?

That picture wasn’t even taken with my 55-200mm VR Zoom lens–which, alas, is still broken–it was taken with my 18-55mm Zoom lens. This was definitely a close encounter. I hope we get to see many more mountain goats in the future, but I hope we’ll see them in an environment where they’re not so accustomed to human beings, and so I hope I’ll need a bigger lens…

It was 14:15 by the time we left the Alpine Lookout–we’d spent nearly an hour at the top. The breeze picked up a little bit on the way down, and I was carrying a lot less water, but bad knees kept us from making truly amazing speed on the way out. Still, we were back at the car with our boots off by 16:45. So much of the middle section of this trail is nearly flat that you won’t make significantly better time on the way out.

The total distance, from the Round Mountain trailhead to the Alpine Lookout and back, was 10.4 miles. I believe the lookout sits above 6200’, so the total elevation gain (and loss) was 2300’+. As for the time, it took us ~3:15 on the way up, and ~2:30 on the way down; total hiking time: ~5:45, trailhead to trailhead time, with bugs, lunch, lookouts, and goats: ~6:35. Overall, it’s a great hike. There are excellent views up toward Glacier Peak, and you’re nearly guaranteed to see at least one mountain goat. Most of the hard work is near the trailhead or the lookout. There were a lot of bugs this time, but that won’t last forever. And there’s no water to speak of, so make sure you bring enough of your own–it gets hot and dry. And with those trail conditions, you can count on some dirty legs.

Nicole's legs weren't this dirty, or I'd have pictured hers.

Nicole's legs weren't this dirty, or I'd have pictured hers.

Don’t worry, you can remedy this by driving a few miles to the beach at Lake Wenatchee and wading in to your knees, if not further. That’s what we did, and it’s a great way to cool off and clean off after a good long hike.

As always, there’s a few more photos at Flickr.

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3 Responses to Nason Ridge, 07/20/08

  1. xomebody says:

    Good Goat pic; when youse gonna track some bear?

  2. jeremy says:

    Bears are up next, I hear they pose for the camera and even ride unicycles.

    Problem is, I only have the one lens, so I’ll have to get real close to take a picture. That, and since Nicole works Mondays now, it’s harder for us to get into bear country.

  3. Pingback: The Year in Review « Don’t Look Down

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