Wenas Road (May 21-22, 2011)

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wenas_rd_coverblack_canyon_coverConditions: Road trip, day hikes
Gear: Big camera gear for the birding, nothing special for the hiking
Map: USGS Wenas Lake
Area: Selah/Ellensburg
Reference: Best Desert Hikes Washington
Stats: 9.82mi, 2172' gain (2-days), Big Burn 2.1mi, 711 gain (round trip), Black Canyon 7.72mi, 1461' gain (round trip)


I had been raving about Wenas Road to Karen and the birding possibilities for a while. I stumbled upon this area a few years prior and Karen wanted to see it. Birding here is a nice change from the birding along the WA and BC coastal areas. Different flyway means different birds. Karen drove down from BC the night before and we got an early start heading easy on Saturday (21st).

We picked up the north end of Wenas Rd just outside Ellensburg. I really do love this drive. Pavement at first and then quickly it turns to a gravel road (usually in really good shape) higher up. When I'd first been out this road, it was the bluebirds that first got my attention. Western and Mountain Bluebirds galore. On the previous trip out, I'd even seen a Lewis' woodpecker. That really got Karen's attention.

We were pretty lucky on our drive. Lots of bluebirds (Mountain and Western), western tanager, california quail, western meadowlark and even a short eared owl (bingo!). We drove slow and stopped often. This place is just loaded with all kinds of birds, colorful songbirds, waders, raptors...you name it. Birding doesn't get much better. Further along we saw snipe, elk, killdeer, goldfinch, a large hawk, the elusive Lewis' woodpecker (nice) an american kestrel, flicker, kingbird, and a northern oriole (male and female). Really nice trip.

The plan was for us to drive the road early in the day and hike up Big Burn Canyon. We parked at the Big Burn Canyon TH (if you can call it that) and started hiking up the "trail". It was actually easier to just head up a ridge to avoid the brush. Karen was on the alert for ticks. I hate tick but Karen hates them more. We didn't get so lucky on our hike. Thunder clouds booming overhead had us bailing on the trip just over a mile in. Ratz! We raced to get off the ridge and back to the car before the rain started. Karen found that she had picked up a couple of small hitchhiking ticks along the way.

Now what to do? It was too early to call it a day. We returned to our camp site in a campground next to the Yakima River and poked around for a bit. Karen headed off into the woods looking for birds. Eventually it was late enough that we pondered what to do for dinner. We decided to head into Ellensburg for some Mexican food and found a great spot (Fiesta En Jalisco).

Sunday morning arrived and now what to do? I suggested a hike up Black Canyon since the previous day's trip up Big Burn failed. Karen was game. Early wildflowers were out (shooting stars, dwarf monkey fiddle, spring beauty, big headed clover, balsamroot, and larkspur). We hiked up to Umtanum Ridge, followed it NW for a bit, and then dropped down a spur road meeting back up with our trail/road a bit down below.

After returning to the car, it was one more drive back along Wenas Road where we spotted the osprey atop the telephone pole just as the road exists the canyon outside Ellensburg.

Wenas Road / Big Burn Canyon / Black Canyon Slideshow

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black_canyon_map

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