Tiffany Mountains, Okanogan National Forest, WA
Over 15 years ago we first camped and hiked at Tiffany Mountain. I knew I wanted to return when I stayed there in 2004 and every year there was some excuse not to go back. We finally made the time to go back to Tiffany Mountain and I was sure glad to return. The 2006 Tripod fire had ripped through the area shortly after our first visit. We vaguely remembered a recent burn in the area, but now the burn was much more extensive. Tall "gray ghosts" stood out along the mountains sides and lined the open wildflower and manzanita meadows. Dense groves of young lodgepole pines grew beneath these tall bare snags.
As with our stay years ago, we camped in Tiffany Meadow along the forest road and hiked the 12-mile loop on the road up to Tiffany Spring over to Tiffany Lake up Honeymoon Pass over to Whistler Pass along Freezeout Ridge and back down to the forest road to complete the loop. In the late summer, wildflowers were blooming though the peak of the season had passed a couple of weeks ago. Still there were fields of lupine, yarrow, ragwort, fireweed, asters, and paintbrush to enjoy along the roads and trails. Pikas were very active in Honeymoon Basin - collecting vegetation to store up for the coming winter. We loved hearing them call from the rock falls and watching them scamper along the rocks. Birdlife was somewhat sparse in the alpine setting, but large mixed flocks of predominately Yellow-rumped Warblers, with Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Wilson's, Townsend's and Orange-crowned Warblers would occasionally liven up with young groves of spruce and lodgepole pines. We spotted a female Dusky or Sooty Grouse along the side of the trail and flush a couple of more near the top of Whistler Pass. Olive-sided Flycatchers and Western Wood-pewees called from the snags. During our loop hike, we decided to hike to the top of Tiffany Mountain - following the deep cut of the trail through open grassy meadow strewn with large rocks. At the summit, we took in the views of the surrounding mountains and of Lesser Tiffany and Tiffany Lakes. Black Swifts buzzed around us, close enough to hear the rush of wind through their feathers. An American Pipit and a Horned Lark hopped around the lichen covered rocks. Along Freezeout Ridge, a family of American Kestrels circled the meadows, while a group of Clark's Nutcrackers gave chase to a passing Cooper's Hawk.
While walking the closed logging road from Tiffany Meadow, we encountered a family of Spruce Grouse and watched them calmly pick at the ground vegetation and seeds before disappearing in the brush. Families of Mountain Bluebirds, Western Wood-pewees, and Dusky Flycatchers flitted about the open meadows. And in the evening Common Nighthawks glided over the treetops in silence. We were lucky to encounter a black bear while hiking along the forest road. It quickly took off into the short trees for cover. It peered at us from the cover of the young pine stand, before taking off into the forest. We were also extremely luck to have a moose visit us in the meadow across from our campsite. Once it realized we were there, she took off in a hurry. That was our first moose sighting in Washington!
All in all returning to Tiffany Mountain was a great treat to our summer. The views were fantastic, wildlife amazing, wildflowers delightful and birding was pretty fabulous (though I would have liked to see a Boreal Chickadee). I hope to be return and maybe not wait so long before we visit again!