Last night the girls and I went trail running on a three trail loop located above Ellensburg in the Wenatchee NF. I’ve run this loop a couple of times this season and its best in the evening when the sun starts to sink behind the hill which will remain off to the west. It’s cooler in the shade of the hill and there is usually a breeze coming out of Alpine Lakes Wilderness which keeps the bugs off and drops core body temperatures as well.
Add to this that there are more elk here than you can count. Last night on the way down Owl Creek Trail (#1371.1) we’d run up on cow and calves and occasionally bulls munching the greens out in meadows or send them crashing down the hill through stands of trees. Having the hill pushing you down the way and running with elk is an experience which comes highly recommended.
The lower portion of Owl Creek is steep and dusty; the trail surface has been eroded by summertime motor cycle use in many locations. It was good to have trekking poles along for this descent as there are plenty of opportunities to turn an ankle here. Be careful, my compulsion is always to let my clutch out and fly down these segments. More energy means worse injury if anything goes amiss, and you can bet that eventually it will.
Owl Creek Trail eventually intersects with Naneum-Wilson Trail (#1371). If you turn right and head down the hill you’ll work your way down the valley back toward Ellensburg. Turn left however, and you get to climb back up the hill over multiple benches some with sage, others with meadows of tall, alpine greens and False Hellebore (which is really stinking about this time of year), stands of trees and volcanic boulder fields.
Again there are some very steep sections on the lower portion of this trail that have been eroded by summertime motorcycle use. In places where the trail is obstructed or particularly difficult the motorcycle users have usually made use-trails off the side of the established path which are showing signs of additional erosion and have no control elements (water bars, switch backs, etc.) installed.
About two-thirds through the loop you’ll encounter another trail intersection. Take the right and you’ll continue up Naneum-Wilson Trail (#1371) turn left and you’ll be headed up the Naneum Creek Trail (#1381). We turned left as the Naneum Creek Trail meets the road we parked on not far from the trail head of Owl Creek Trail (#1371.1).
This segment is my favorite on this loop. For some reason the motorcycle use tends to be lessoned, there is increased horse use, and even though there are a fair number of dead-falls across the trail the trail tends to be in much better condition as you climb out the rest of the way. Add to this that there are a number of prime overlook spots where you can watch the alpine glow on the far mesa and see the area from a vantage.