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Colockum Pass, WA
July 2012


Synopsis

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.

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Pictures (click on thumbnail)



















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Bird List
Dusky/Sooty Grouse
1 on road
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Killdeer
Common Nighthawk
Calliope Hummingbird
Williamson's Sapsucker
2 males
Red-naped Sapsucker
1 male
Downy Woodpecker
1
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Western Wood-Pewee
Dusky Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Steller's Jay
heard
Clark's Nutcracker
1
Common Raven
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet
heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
heard
Mountain Bluebird
many, fledglings
Hermit Thrush
heard
American Robin
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
3
Song Sparrow
1
Dark-eyed Junco
Western Tanager
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cassin's Finch
House Finch
Red Crossbill
also 1 singing
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak
Other Critters:
elk
very vocal at dusk/night
coyote
very vocal at dusk/night
yellow-pine chipmunk
many
least chipmunk
many
golden manteled squirrel
many
douglas squirrel
pacific tree frog
froglets
Blooming flowers:
Common Larkspur
Oregon Checker Mallow
Elegant Cat's Ear
Buckwheat
Mountain Biswort
Sandwort
Douglas Onion
Hooker's Onion
Spreading Stonecrop
Lanceleaf Stonecrop
Aster
False Hellbore
Kittatas Larkspur
Yarrow
Yellow Monkeyflower
Death Camas
Shrubby Cinquefoil
Paintbrush
Lupine

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Information
Colockum Wildlife Area

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page updated: 7/23/12