Head for the hills… for the wildflowers

EROV Stuart

Eriogonum ovalifolium near Windy Pass

By late June the wildflowers at the lower elevations in Central Washington are past their peak, but at higher elevations, especially above 4000′, the snow has receded enough to allow access to prime hiking, and wildflowers!

The Cascades offer innumerable areas to explore.  Each year I have a list of areas to get up and in to and I never seem to get to them all; work (and life!) has a way of limiting the time available.  Still, I always seek out several new areas and within a one to two-hour drive from Peshastin there are many.  The nearby Wenatchee Mountains contain a large number of endemic species, plants that are only found in this area, in large part due to the presence of ultramafic soils (e.g serpentine) and the distinct geologic history of the area.

Several areas I will go back to every year or two, and always seem to find something new.  Three of my favorites are:

Claytonia megarhiza favorite

Claytonia megarhiza near Iron Peak

1. Check out the great hikes and flora above the north fork of the Teanaway River (including Navaho Peak, Iron Peak and the Esmeralda Basin.)  The geologic diversity, including large areas of serpentine, make for great trip for the botanically inclined; that’s where I was introduced to the rare and lovely Wenatchee spring beauty, seen above.

Tronsen top

2. Tronsen Ridge – Great views and loads of flowers from June through August, accessed off of Highway 97 just north of Blewett Pass.  The large rock garden above is at the highest point.


Western blue clematis (Clematis occidentalis) on the Wedge Mtn. trail

3. Wedge Mountain – This hike is rather short, less than two miles to the ridge overlooking the Snow Lakes, but begins at nearly 4000′ after climbing a rough road (good clearance and 4WD a must!).  It takes you through forest, serpentine and alpine settings, with over 125 different species of plants identified along the way (so far).  I’m leading a flower walk up Wedge on July 6th for the Native Plant Society and have several slots left; contact me if you want to come.

There are plant lists for all the above areas, and many more, available online through the Washington Native Plant Society (//www.wnps.org/plant_lists/exploring_native_plants.html); having the list with you as you hike along is great for use in identifying those lovely wildflowers.

Lovelies atop Wedge

Two lovelies at the Snow Lakes overlook

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