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Tronsen Ridge near Blewett Pass, WA
May 2014

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.
From Haney Meadow it was only a one mile along the road to the trailhead. Naneum Creek was flowing strong with American Globemallow dotting the marshy streamsides. The trees that surrounded Naneum Meadow near the trailhead, were completely burned even two season after the fire much of the forest floor remained charred and barren. In the morning sun, the faint smell of charcoal pervaded the air. The Naneum Meadow was fully of blooming Shooting Stars, Prairie Smoke and Phlox. The green grass grew lush and strong, perhaps growing better from the nutrients that were returned to the earth.

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.
The ridge trail was complete with peek-a-boo views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Mount Rainier. All and all a great trail to enjoy in the early summer months.


Pictures (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bird List
Sooty Grouse males calling
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Spotted Sandpiper on creek, mating
Williamson's Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood-Pewee heard
Dusky Flycatcher
Gray Jay
Steller's Jay heard
Clark's Nutcracker
Common Raven
Violet-green Swallow
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch heard
Brown Creeper heard
House Wren
Pacific Wren heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet heard
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend's Solitaire
Swainson's Thrush heard
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Varied Thrush heard
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Chipping Sparrow building nest
Dark-eyed Junco mating
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Brown-headed Cowbird courting
Cassin's Finch
Evening Grosbeak

Yellow-Pine Chipmunk
Douglas Squirrel
Golden-mantled Squirrel
Snowshoe Hare
Blooming Flowers
Shrubby penstemon
Barestem desert parsley
Elegant cats ear
Arrowleaf balsamroot
Stream violet
Glacier Lily
False Solomon seal
Wax cuurant
Five-finger cinquefoil
Spring beauty
Woods strawberry
Butterweed groundself
Bastard toad-flax
Early blue violet
Small-flowered blue-eyed Mary
Ballhead waterleaf
Piper's desert parsley
Prairie star
Hairy rockcrest
Showy Jacob's ladder
American globeflower
Bonneville shooting star
Old man's whiskers
Petalless saxifrage
Spreading phlox
Harsh paintbrush
Oregon sunshine
Thompson's paintbrush
Western wallflower
Alpine collomia
Sharp-toothed cinquefoil
Western Lesquerella
Blue clematis
Heartleaf arnica
Golden corydalis
Side-flowered mitrewort
Foothill death camas
Olympic onion
Scarlet gilia
Threadleaf phacelia
Chelan penstemon
Roundleaf alumroot
Uplant larkspur
Whitney's locoweed
Sulphur flower
Columbian paccoon
Rockslide Larkspur
Cut-leaved daisy
Slender paintbrush
Big-leaf sandwort
Mourning cloak
Sara's orangetip
Anicia checkerspot
Green comma


National Forest info
Washington Trail Association description


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page updated: 6/5/14