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Clara and Marion Lakes

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arnicacordifolia

One of the easiest and most rewarding hikes near Wenatchee is the trail to Clara and Marion Lakes. With a round trip length of around 3 miles and 900 ft. in elevation gain, this is one you can even take the kids on. Usually about this time the meadows on the way to the trail are pretty riotous in flowers, though this year because of our heavy snowpack and cool spring plants are taking their own sweet time.

Heartleaf arnica, Arnica cordifolia, a common flower in woodlands, at lower elevations this has already gone to seed. Arnica's have been used in Europe and Asia for centuries in medicine, and the Native Americans also used this plant for similar purposes. The root of the plant was mashed up and placed on bruises and sprains as a poultice to help them heal.

This plant- of which I seem to always have great difficulty photographing because the flowers are about 6 millimeters big on long stalks that waive in the wind- is a mitrewort. We have a number of species, but threeparted mitrewort, Mitella trifida, is one of the showiest because of its comparatively larger white petals. "Mitre" refers to a bishop's cap, and wort is from an old English word- wyrt meaning plant or herb. Another common woodland flower is western meadow rue, Thalictrum occidentale. Western meadow rue plants are either male or female, so on some plants there are only stamens coming from the flowers, and on some plants there are only stigmas- the female organ that receives pollen and eventually makes seeds. Shown in the photo are a female plant's flowers, which usually have a purple color to them, unlike the male flowers. Both Clara and Marion Lakes are very clear and green, shown here is Marion Lake. Often this lake isn't very full- but it is full this year; this is why there are a bunch of sedges and grasses growing right in the middle of it as they usually have their heads above water.

The other easy trail with wildflowers currently blooming I recommend is the trail at Squilchuck State Park. As plants are drying out in the valley and going to seed, up higher things are just getting started. You DO need a parking pass though to hike either of these trails, as Squilchuck is state owned and now requires a Discover Pass (good for accessing over 7 million acres of State Parks), and the trail to Clara and Marion Lakes is USFS and requires either a day pass or a NW Forest Pass. Previously I erroneously said you didn't need a pass. But as of July 1st, all State Parks now require one.

Hiking guide for Clara & Marion Lakes from Washington Trails Association.