Decided to take advantage of the long Memorial Day weekend and do a few days worth of overlanding around WA Route 97. First, I did my research on the snow levels by checking the Washington Trails Association trip reports and the USDA Forest Service Cle Elum District Roads web portal, both are great resources for trail conditions in general, but become invaluable when hunting for clear trails in the late PNW spring. Both were updated recently and gave a favorable outlook on snow levels above 5000 feet elevation.
(SNOW REPORT: Snow has completely melted away up to at least 5200′ in the Teanaway area and up to 6105′ in the Liberty / Table Mtn area).
The first day was to explore was the Teanaway Ridge, Wenatchee National Forrest area. Beginning up Teanaway road. off of Route 970 and north from I-90, is a picturesque shallow valley of very well kept farmlands and horse pastures. Somewhat reminds me of Pennsylvania, strangely enough. After 7.3 miles is Teanaway Road North Fork, which will take you up into the Cascades and to quite a few forest trails, many of which terminate at hiking trailheads. On the right will be NF-9738, which begins as a dirt trail but reverts to a pothole filled paved road after a quarter mile or so. 9738 has several offshoot trails that are worth exploring but there were lots of biting bugs in the tree shade so camping around here would not be pleasant. (Note to self: check if you have enough bug spray and sunscreen before heading out on the trails).
After driving around the trails it was time to find a camp for the night. For me, part of the fun of overlanding is previewing Google Maps, in terrain view, to find prospective camp locations before heading out. I had found a interesting spot that looked suitable and entered a mental note to look for it. When I arrived at the spot, it was much better than expected.
The location was a old Agate/Amethyst mine, obviously excavated with heavy machinery at some point but had lots of recent evidence of rockhounds digging through the remnants. I found a few small samples of amethyst deposits around the spot so there still are some treasures to be found.
Exploring around the camp gave some stunning views of Mt Rainier and Mt Stuart / The Enchantments.
At night, the spot was perfect for spotting satellites, meteorites and the International Space Station.
The second day I ventured east over Route 97 and towards the Table Mountain area. The trails are (mostly) cleared of tree falls and the snow has melted up to 6103″. The rain free weeks that we’ve had recently have done wonders for drying up the trails – they were actually dusty.
After that, there are some residual snow drifts that can be easily navigated – just try to avoid the few spots of deep mud as it will damage the trails. NF-35 leading up to Table Mtn was devastated by the forest fires last summer, which made for an eerie sight.
Once one gets to the top of Table Mtn the views open up.
It was getting later in the afternoon and finding a campsite was becoming a priority. I drove around 9718 a bit and finally came upon a clearing near where 9718 and 9712 meet with 4W339. With a view of Mt Stuart and the Enchantments, it was a perfect spot for an evening campfire. Plenty of space for a light wind to make its way through the few Douglas Firs and keep the bugs mostly at bay.
The next morning I awoke early enough to capture the sunrise on Mt Stuart.