Cash Prairie & Bethel Ridge, Naches, WA
In the continuing trend to visit places ~10 years later, we returned to the Bethel Ridge area one late summer weekend. A turn of the hot summer weather brought in a couple of windy days, which made for some cool (unexpectedly cold!) hiking and camping. The birdlife seemed a little muted compared to our previous visit, but this may have more to do with the recent Bethel Ridge wildlife that had taken out most of the ponderosa, hemlock, and larches in the previous year.
We camped along the Cash Prairie road at a small pullout at the edge of the ridge. The site had a great view of Mount Adams (when it wasn't covered in clouds) and below we watched a group of 8 adult mountain goats with their 3 young. One evening the family decided to climb to the top of the ridge to a spot 50 feet from our camp. Our presence was a surprise for them as they watched us warily trying to decide if we were bad news. When a car sped by on the road, they decided they had enough an headed back down the cliff side.
During the day, we hiked to the end of Cash Prairie road (past the campsite we had stayed at ~10 years ago) to the trailhead where we tried to recreate sunset views over Mount Rainier to the east. We weren't very successful with the cloud cover and the bitter winds blowing in, but we did enjoy clear views of the mountain on our last morning there. We also hiked along the Ironstone Mountain trail for a short time, before turning back because of the impending clouds that were blowing in. It was a nice trail along the mountain ridges through ponderosa forest and sage meadows. The wildflower season was past it's peak, but the area would have been pretty spectacular 3-4 weeks earlier.
We also hiked up Bethel Ridge Road, which was popular with the jeeps, dirt bikes and ATVs. A few families in their high clearance vehicles also drove to the ridge for camping, picnicking, and sightseeing. Along the road, numerous pika called and tended their piles of drying fodder among the rocky fields. These charming mammals are always a delight to see and watch. We did have some great view of two groups of very tame Sooty Grouse. These young of the year birds didn't seem to mind us watching at close proximity. From the top of the ridge, we spotted another group of mountain goats. This group had about 24 goats that we could easily see. They seemed quite comfortable lounging along the rocky steep mountain side.
Although the trip wasn't bird filled as I had hoped, we still had an enjoyable time watching wildlife, soaking in the mountain views, taking in the last remnants of summer.
Pictures (click on thumbnail to enlarge)