South Fork Tieton
and Conrad Basin, June 29-30, 2006
I have visited this place previously three times -- April
22-23, 2005, July
7-8, 2005 , and Sept
So why go back again? Because I like it there!
Conditions on this trip were pretty much halfway between the first two
trips last year. Apparently the heavier snowfall and later spring
this year neatly compensated for the calendar date.
Quick summary of trail conditions and route... North side of the
loop was snow-free to well past the first meadow at the top of the
switchbacks. Spots of snow obscured the loop trail approaching
the South Fork Tieton crossing. Shortly past the crossing, and
reaching the hiker trail to the Conrad Basin, snow completely covered
the loop trail and made it impossible to follow. I backtracked to
the meadow and started up the horse trail to Conrad Basin. About
400 feet higher, that trail became covered with snow also, but the
forest was sufficiently open that I just bushwhacked along the ridge
until I could cut over to the Conrad Basin. The flat there
appeared completely snow-covered from a distance, but in fact sheltered
areas under trees had already melted out. I used the same
campsite as July 2005 and was able to put the tent on bare ground,
although I had to kind of shoehorn it in between the trees and a
6-foot-tall snowdrift. Overnight was warm, certainly above
freezing. Snow conditions everywhere were ideal for hiking --
very firm but not crusted. On top, there were fresh large elk
tracks that had pressed in less than two inches. I think I
postholed only twice, in the trees. Return the next day was a bit
more interesting because I tried to bushwhack back out by eye and ended
up getting stuck off-route twice, once above cliffs that I needed to be
below, and then below a flat that I needed to be on. I confess,
checking where I was then versus the previous day's GPS track saved
some time. The north side loop had not yet been maintained,
roughly 15 trees down.
Large wildlife was limited to a total half-dozen elk on three
sightings. On the lower meadows, no cows yet. The grass was
beautiful. Quite a few insects below snowline, but flowers still
very early, not many kinds in bloom.
I did not see any other hikers, but I did keep running across one other
set of fresh boot tracks on top. They looked so much like my own
that I wondered for a while if I was going in circles!
There were at least two sets of horse tracks on the north loop and
partly up the horse trail to Conrad Basin. I encountered two
people on horseback on the north loop, several horses and dogs on the
At the fork, going in, I talked with two young Forest Service men who
were going in to clean the Surprise Lake side. I saw them again
coming out the next day, and they said that had gotten it clean to the
lake. They were frustrated by budget cuts that had reduced the
crew from six men last year to two men this year, making it impossible
to get the trail in good shape for anticipated heavy use over the 4th
of July weekend. Their version was that not only were there
overall budget cuts, but that most of what money there is, is going to
the "front country" crews who maintain the wheeled-vehicle routes.
Here's the map of the route (some tracks from previous trips!).
Pictures (click any to expand)...
Along the river trail.
First view of the Conrad Basin flat, around 5:30 pm. The sky was
partly cloudy all of the first day.
This is the creek coming down from the Warm Lake area, which I had to
wade to get to & from the campsite I wanted. Soaked my boots
going in, but they dried nicely overnight. Coming out, I changed
into running shoes to keep boots dry. The dry part was good, but
dang! that water is cold in running shoes! This picture and all
others of this area were shot on the morning of the second day, which
was completely clear.
Meade Glacier at top center, the rest is all snow that will melt in a
Snowdrift over trail.
The campsite, tent almost hidden behind snowdrift. (I had to
stand on the snowdrift to see the tent at all.)
The campsite, up close, snowdrift at the left in this picture.
The campsite, from 50 yards away. The mound of snow to the right
of the tent is in fact all snow -- the ground is very level here.
Insects, of course we got insects...
Arrowhead Blues (and one ant!). See also http://www.photomacrography1.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5262.
A severely deformed specimen, all wings very curled and non-functional.
Arrowhead Blue with very hopeful ant!
Snakefly. See also http://www.photomacrography1.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5272.
Flashy caterpillars on Forget-Me-Not. See also http://www.photomacrography1.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5273.
This is a non-denuded Forget-Me-Not of the kind the caterpillars were
Carpenter ants. See also http://www.photomacrography1.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5277.
The above closeup was actually just one small part (red rectangle) of a
much larger collection of ants (green ovals).
At the creek on top.
This purple flower was pretty much all that was out in quantity near
the top. This picture is on the horse trail to Conrad Basin, a
couple hundred feet below snowline.
Closeup of the bunch at lower right in previous picture.
There were even some Speyeria
around. S. zerene,
Apparently salt is a precious commodity. This little day-flying
moth really liked the handles of my trekking poles.
This Tortoiseshell butterfly took a rather more direct approach.
I had to shoot this left-handed -- the skin being slurped is my right
index knuckle. These butterflies were not deterred by the deet
insect repellent on my hands or shirt.
Anything else? Oh yeah, the "basic stupidity" story.
Coming down, I realized at noon at the meadow that my wallet was not in
the upper pocket of my pack, where I had put it when starting
out. I ransacked my brain for all the places where I had had that
pocket open and might have lost it. I found that most of them
were still accessible, albeit with a bit of backtracking, but no joy --
and no wallet. I ate dinner on the trail, having no money to buy
food on the return trip, and resigned myself to spending a day or more
canceling and replacing various cards. Most annoying.
The wallet was hiding behind a label in a pocket of my tent -- folded,
rolled, and bagged. The
one place I didn't think to look. Fortunately I unpacked everything before canceling
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Page last modified July 4, 2006