Colockum Pass is an old road connecting Wenatchee and Ellensburg (Kittatas). It had been almost a decade since we last visited it, so we were due for another stay in the mountains. The road up from Kittatas was bumpy, but manageable with our Outback. It's probably even passable with a sedan (with good shocks). There's a lot of rocky patches in the road, but when the road is dry it's not too bad.
We set up camp near the pass in a meadow lined with alpine trees, false hellbore, and aspens. Despite the signs of heavy grazing and logging, the area was surprisingly beautiful. It definitely would have been an improvement to have bigger trees and lush grass fields, but there was still a lot of wildlife and even a good showing of wildflowers (albeit dwarfed). The elk were plentiful in the area. We saw many herds including young calves and a few spikes. At dusk and at night, the elk bugled and the coyotes howled. The cows also joined in the chorus and mooed through out the day.
With all the old logging and green dot roads, there were many trails to hike. They meandered through meadow after meadow. We got glimpses of the valley below and Mount Adams in the distance. Hiking around we had to be cautious of the many cow herds, especially if there was a bull. One bull was particularly upset by our presence. It growled and grunted even before we saw it around the corner. It didn't look like it was going to move away from the road, so we skirted around it, keeping a groove of trees between us.
Bird life was diverse and plentiful at the pass as well. A Red-naped Sapsucker and a Dusky Flycatcher frequented the trees near our campsite. A male Williamson's Sapsucker flew through the area as well. The Mountain Bluebirds formed large flocks including their young. They feasted upon all the grasshoppers in the meadows and rocky areas. Chipping Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Mountain Chickadees gleaned the pine needles for silk caterpillars. And Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches scaled the bark of the ponderosas.
Perhaps it was the timing or just good luck, but there weren't very many people driving the roads and we didn't see any other campers. There were a few trucks, jeeps, and dirt bikes on the road during the day, but we enjoyed the peace of the night and the quiet of hiking on the dirt roads. Without it being hunting season, we had a stark contrast from our experience 10 years ago.
When it was time to break camp and leave, we decided to go down the pass to Wenatchee. Immediately north of the pass was closed to cattle and subjected to less logging. A large fenced of area served as a refuge for the elk during hunting season. As a result, the environment looked richer; meadows were full of lush grass and the ponderosas grew much taller. The northern road was in slightly better condition than coming up from Kittitas. However, once we hit the road that followed the power lines down to Wenatchee, it was a much less exciting a scene. Still it would make a good future trip to find a spot north of the pass in a more intact environment.
Colockum Wildlife Area