Past the Last Resort in Ronald, WA, beyond dirt roads and riverbeds, lies the trailhead to Davis Peak. This 11-mile trek lines ridges and basins in the Alpine Wilderness, rising over 4,000 feet in elevation to overlook lakes, valleys and more than 10 Cascade peaks. My editor and girlfriend for life, Natalie and I tied up our boots, filled out our Wilderness Permit, and started on the rich dirt trail that would gracefully host us for the next 9 hours or so.
The trail kicks off with a newly built footbridge that crosses over the Cle Elum River, leaving the real world behind with it. From the get-go, the trail is mostly covered and made up of switchbacks stacked on top of one another like pancakes. The trail opens as you continue, revealing meadows full of wildflowers and wider views of Lake Cle Elum. The first few miles are the steepest, but the thought of cracking open our peak beers overlooking the wilderness kept us going.
As we rose, we discovered bare, previously forested areas that were healing due to fire damage, and scattered foliage rimming rocky terrain that reminded me of trekking through Yellowstone. The mountain lilies and lupine faded as we were surrounded by silver trunks, charred with vertical stripes as black as coal. We did encounter a bit of wildlife including a brilliant mountain bluebird, scavenger chipmunks, and a proud marmot that shrieked down at us from his grand rock above.
At the first ridge, the terrain changes from moving grasses and burnt trunks to exposed rocky ridgelines. We decided to stop at this first viewpoint and make a bit of freeze dried chowder over the Jetboil, using nearby snowmelt that thickened into a warm soup that felt like fuel. We continued toward a steep ridge with loose rock straight ahead, giving us the false sense of nearing the summit. We backtracked and double-checked our GPS, as the trail actually splits off to the right, descending into a partially snow-covered bowl before climbing up again towards the actual peak. Here, the terrain opens enough to where you will be able to peer SE and see the peak itself. Really pushing the last mile or so, the elevation settled in and we rose into the clouds quicker than we expected.
Upon summit arrival, there is rock stacked into a shelter that fits 4-5 people comfortably, a place where we found stillness on a windy day. The trail continues a bit to line the top of the ridge for different angles of Terrance and Opal Lakes, Goat Mountain, Mount Daniel, Mount Hinman, Mount Stuart, Hawkins Mountain, Jolly Mountain, Sasse Mountain, Red Mountain, Lemah Mountain, Chikamin Peak, and Mount Adams. Unfortunately for my friend and I, we only received partial views due to the thick fog, but all the more motivation to hike this trail again!
We hunkered down as we watched the fog engulf our view and drape upon our fortress, giving us enough time to embrace it and watch it go, soaking in the best of it as we do in all areas of life. We used our Jetboil to make a couple of mugs of hot chocolate and double fisted the mugs and our cold peak beers as we sang, “We are the Champions” by Queen, celebrating in an awkwardly delirious way before thanking the fort for a moment of shelter and continuing back downward where “reality” awaited us.
Let me know if you try it out,