Tronsen Ridge near Blewett Pass, WA
A fire in 2012 burned its way through many patches of forest from Blewett Pass down the mountains toward Ellensburg. Many people would look at it and say, "it's a shame." But I look at it and don't feel that way. Fire is a natural cycle to the forests and many pine species such as the Lodgepole and the Larches depend on fires as away to continue or start their life cycles. Fires clean out the pests that have infested the tree. Woodpeckers, such as the Black-backed and the American three-toed, depend on large stands of snags. From the fires rise the phoenix.
All that said, the burns sure made it hard to reach our destination for the weekend. We had planned on camping near the south trailhead of Tronsen Ridge, but found it blocked (perhaps intentionally) by a fallen tree. The road beyond was soft mud, so it was probably best we didn't go any farther. We camped at Haney Meadow, near the horse camp, which was closed from dangerous conditions. Despite the fire being two years old, trees were still falling - even ones that looked healthy.
Our camp spot next to the meadow was beautiful and peaceful. It was still early enough in the season to discourage other campers from braving the cold, freezing temperatures at night, so we were able to enjoy the open meadow and remaining stands of lodgepole pines. Swainson's, Hermit, and Varied Thrushes serenaded us at dusk and dawn. Blankets of Glacier Lilies covered the forest floor.
Most of the roads in the area allowed and exhibited ORV usage. Despite Tronsen Ridge being closed to motor vehicles from mid-October to mid-June, it was obvious someone recently disregarded the signage and drove their bikes along the ridge. We were lucky not to encounter any motorbikes, and for the day we only encountered a handful of hikers and a couple of bicycles on the trail.
Tree falls and a few patches of snow blocked the south end of the trail, but once it opened up to the ridge, the trail was clear. Motorbike use made the trail rocky, dusty, and trench-like in some places, but the trail was in relative good condition. Traveling northward, the trail gradually descended crawling and dipping through patches of forest, sagebrush, meadows, talus, and rock cliffs.
The wildflowers along the ridge were putting on a spectacular show in late May. Blue Clematis, Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Death Camas, Lupine, Scarlet Gila, Arnica, and Bitterroot put on a dazzling display of color. The beautiful and endemic Tweedy Lewisia and Alpine Collomia grew with such vigor and in such high densities it was easy to forget they are considered rare.
Birdlife along the ridge was not too disappointing - not to the same density or diversity as the blooming flowers though. A Black-backed Woodpecker was pounding away on the burned trees. A Williamson's Sapsucker was tapping at the live ones. Western Tanagers sang loudly as did a few Black-headed Grosbeaks and Lazuli Buntings. Yellow-rumped and Townsend's Warblers were abundant along the trail. As were the omnipresent Chipping Sparrow. We heard several Sooty Grouse hooting from the tops of pine trees and were able to finally locate one of them.
National Forest info
Washington Trail Association description