Icicle Ridge (May 12, 2018)

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icicle_ridge_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Chiwaukum Mountain
Area: Leavenworth
Reference: Day Hiking Central Cascades
Stats: 9.68mi, 4477' gain (round trip)

I wanted to do another trip with big(ger) gain. Because of the knees, I try to limit trips to about 3500' gain per day. My plan was to head out east again and get higher up. It's been a few years since I've been up the 4th of July Trail and it felt like it was time to head back. I didn't plan to go to the old LO site though. Instead, my plan was to head up to the ridge and head right to the top of the bitty bump Pt 6906. I've always gone up to the LO and stared over at this bump. Today it felt like it was time to head up there.

I had gone to bed early the night before and got up early the day of the hike. I ate a good breakfast and I was on the road just a few minutes after 5am. I arrived at the 4th of July TH about 7:30am. Even though I was excited to start hiking, I was tired. Oh well, I figured once I started moving I'd shake the sluggishness.

I headed up and it was already warm. I started out in shorts and sleeveless shirt and it wasn't long before I was really warm. The trail down low isn't all that interesting but I got a nice surprise right after the first creek crossing when I spotted some huge chocolate lilies right off the trail. I snapped a couple of photos and continued on figuring on the way down I could spend more time getting photos.

In the lower section of the trail (through the live ponderosas) there are a fair number of flowers blooming...lupine, tweedyi, balsamroot, larkspur.

Today I wasn't at my best. I was struggling, moving slow. I stopped and had a snack hoping that would recharge me and then continued up. It was a gorgeous day, there was a slight breeze and there weren't too many people on the trail.

The trail continued through the old burn area. The flowers seemed, to me, to be a bit behind what I was expecting. There were still quite a few blooming. When the LO summit came into view the trail traverses a grassy hillside dotted with charred trees. In this area I found my real treat for the day. I walked past what I thought was a vetch but for some reason I stopped and doubled back for a closer look. I was tickled pink to find it was actually a steer's-head flower. I've been looking for this flower for nearly 20 years and could never find one. It's a small flower, the blooms seemed to be small...less than an inch the leaves were pretty sparse. I made me wonder if I've walked by these many times but just couldn't see them. I spent some time trying to get some good photos because I wasn't sure I could find the blooms on the trip back down.

I continued up but I was moving even slower now and I was still feeling sluggish. Not enough sleep? Not enough fuel? Feeling the effects of the heat? I couldn't figure out what my problem was but I pressed on. I eventually hit fairly consistent snow about 350' below the ridge. By now I was starting to feel that if I continued higher up I was going to make myself sick. Still I kept going. Finally, about 6631' (the trail junction on the ridge is at 6799') I called it quits. I knew the views wouldn't really be any better higher up. I found a nice rocky spot tucked into the trees were I could take a long break, eat a good lunch, and drink lots of water. I took a nice long break and then headed back down.

I took my time on the way down. I wanted to take more time looking for flowers. I did find the blooming steer's-head, I even found a nice patch of yellow bells and I'd missed on the hike up. I stopped again to photograph the chocolate lilies. I was back to the car about 3:45pm.
Icicle Ridge Slideshow

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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