I decided to head over to the Ray Westberg trail outside Thorp. This trail is popular with the folks in and around Ellensberg. Early in the morning you meet a lot of runners and the occasional mountain biker. The trail gains about 1700 feet and is 4 miles round trip. I call that a good solid walk and a good test of the feet. I will leave it to the younger or crazier to actually run up this trail.
Nature study is a great excuse to stop and pause during such a walk.
This area is Shrub-steppe with a sprinkling of Ponderosa Pine woodlands in some areas of the slopes. I have wandered here quite a bit and it is one of my favorite places.
The wildflowers are just getting started with Gold Star, Crocidium multicaule and Grass Widows (Blue-eyed grass) Sisyrinchium angustifolim the major players at the start of the hike. I didn't think I would get to see the Grass Widows and they are often passed by now, but there were still plenty to enjoy.
One thing about blooming flowers is that they are adored by bugs. These little polka-dotted bugs are ubiquitous in this area and I have never been able to get them identified.
There were hardly any butterflies out but I did meet a few on my walk down the hill late in the morning. I was thrilled to spot a green colored Hairstreak. These butterflies are teeny tiny and I really gave a good try at getting a shot while one basked. I was down in the dirt on forearms and knees and was just reaching in when it flittered off. Impossible! There is no other butterfly like this leafy green sweetie, barely bigger than a blouse button.
The Rabbit Brush and sage are not yet greened up and I found this little nest, a remnant from previous season. It was very visible from the trail without the greenery to hide it.
The middle third of the trail is where you get above the surrounding slopes and you can see far and wide. Out here I started spotting Sagebrush Violet Viola trinervata, Bluebell Mertensia longiflora and Yellow Bells Fritillaria pudica. These three love the areas in and around the Rabbit Brush and sage and the shade they provide later in the month allows the bluebells to stick around quite a while. All the flowers out right now are THE signs of Spring here. Spring Beauty Claytonia lanceolata was just getting started in the high area of the trail where it is still a bit moist from melting snows.
I didn't spot any bluebirds at the nest boxes. I noted that there are more boxes than in previous years. Stellers Jay were pretty noisy and it looked like possibly two different couples were squabbling about possible nesting areas in some of the Ponderosa Pine. I also saw an American Kestrel sitting in a tree where in previous years I know there was nesting. Western Meadowlark were starting to sing as I neared the upper area. One of my favorite songs.
This little pee-wee chipmunk didn't move and inch while I shot some photos and passed by. It may have had a nest near and I suspect freezing in place is a good tactic.
The first 2/3 of the trail is where the hard gain happens, then the upper 1/3 slopes up more gentle like until you reach the top.
There are many memorials up here to members of the community including a fair number of POW/MIA. Sitting here is always a peaceful time and such great views.
The Stewart range with Mt Stewart dominating.
The beautiful hay fields of Kittitas Valley. My old trainer called this stuff "horse crack"
My New Shoes!! <3 br=""> 3>
After a brief sit it was back down , down , down...
...for I had a burger on my mind. I love the Red Horse Diner good diner food in an old converted Mobile Gas station. It is filled with a ton of gas station signs and a few old road signs from around the Kittitas Valley area. The Van de Kamps Bakery sign is certainly one I remember from kid-hood
The dry side is always a good bet for fair weather. Getting an early start to the day is key, for it wont be long when daytime temps climb into the upper 80's to 90's.