Monday, August 18, 2008
Earl Peak, Aug 16, 2008
It started off hot, at the trailhead, through the tall trees standing shady beside Standup Creek in the Teanaway valley. It stayed hot, through the 3500' of elevation gain, as the trail switchbacked through thinning pines and rocky outcrops. It ended hot in the town of Cle Elum where we stopped for some burgers and were greeted with 95-degree temperatures, even at 6pm. Did I make the point? It was hot!
After picking up friends Jodi and Adam at Shilshole Bay Marina, we stopped by the boatyard and grabbed co-worker Adam V, who will be henceforth known as Adam V. We were on the freeway by 8, at the Cle Elum house/base camp around 930 and by 1030 we were hiking.
The trail starts off easy on an old logging road, skirting the west side of Startup Creek. After a couple miles and several creek crossings, the trail starts getting a little rocky and a little dusty, but mainly it starts getting a lot vertical. Fortunately, even as we were grinding our way up the south face of the 6000+ foot ridge, there were often respites of shade. If not the 85 degree temperatures would have killed us, or at least me.
Even more important to our little group than shade was the amazing abundance of water, which seemingly was never more than a few minutes away. Apparently, as we were to find out later, this area is filthy with springs, which formed year-round creeks as well as water that would just seep from the earth. On our way back down from the summit, we were hoping to reach the source of Startup Creek, which we could see just below the top of the ridge.
A few more grueling switchbacks and we were at the saddle where the Earl Peak hiker's trail starts. Views here were fantastic, north to the Stuart Range, including Mt Stuart and Mt Sherpa and south towards Mt Rainier, which was barely visible through the smog.
It was now almost 230 and after investigating the ridge that led to the Earl Peak, we decided to skip the summit and instead concentrate on the magnificent field of springs that were just below us. We were at 6500 feet and had enough up for the day. The springs were very intriguing, mainly because they were down (though just a little), they were wet and they presumably were cool and refreshing, which indeed they were found to be.
The field around the springs were rife with tall grass, wildflowers and dozens of cracks leaking water. One spring in particular was pouring straight out of the earth like a faucet and it's water was much cooler than some of the other springs. I filled my water bottles and drank straight from the spring until I had my fill. It was like nirvana (not the rock group), sipping the cool bubbling water as the sun beat down on the shadeless meadow.
After frolicking around for a while, it was time to get serious and descend the 3500' we had just gained. Losing patience, Adam V, methodically and much like a young mule, blazed the way down, reaching the car probably 45 minutes before the rest of us. We drove into Cle Elum, stopped at the Dairy Queen where I got perhaps the Absolute Worst Burger in the World. From there it was back to the house where we decompressed for an hour and half before heading back to Seattle, where we arrived at 930.
It was a hot, full day--very enjoyable thanks to the excellent company of the two Adams and Jodi. Since Jodi didn't get a spring named after her, I propose we call the meadow in which they were located "Jodi's Field."