Black Canyon (May 5, 2013)

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black_canyon_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Wenas Lake
Area: Yakima
Reference: Desert Hikes Washington
Stats: 10mi, 2140' gain (round trip)

Another return trip to Black Canyon. Jim was in but wanted an early start due to the heat. One other person couldn't make it at the last minute. So off we headed for the long drive out to Wenas Road. We arrived, one car parked next to the road, Dirty Gertie took the chance and tried going up the road more. We did make it further but with Gertie (my Jetta) I'm more careful of clearance than I was with the Roadrunner (my Subaru). It got pretty rocky in one spot so I found a nice place to pull off the road and we parked the car. It was about 1/4 mile to the gate and we found a Prius parked off the road. So...Gertie likely could have made it. Not sure about the 3/4 mile more of road up to the real "trailhead". Some places are a bit washed out. I made it all the way last year in Gertie but the road condition really is hit or miss each year.

At the real trailhead the road is closed, bermed to prevent motorized traffic. It was a warm...OK...really warm day and we were on the lookout for rattlesnakes.

About 2.4 miles from the car we reached the old cabin...thankfully still standing. I worry about the cabin each year. Will it collapse? Will we find it burned down? Really, I think the greatest threat are the yahoos who just must carve their name into the old logs to let everyone know who comes after them that so and so was there. Yuck.

We took a brief rest from the sun and heat and then continued up the road. All the flowers I was hoping to see (except yellow late for them) were out. It was a bit strange. This year, the flower show seemed really far along for this time of year. Balsamroot, blue bells, lupine, ballheaded waterleaf down low...

We continued up higher on the road reaching a road junction (higher up motorized traffic is permitted) and stayed straight taking the most direct route to the ridge.

The old frog pond that I recall seeing in all previous years now looks completely dried up. It was bone dry. Past one sharp turn in the road and up a short steepish section and just past a gate, I was on the lookout to the right in a section that does seem to stay wet late into the season. In previous years I'd seen this area covered in shooting stars. At first no luck. We did get a nice view of Mt Rainier. Then...I say it...we just needed to walk a little further. A huge cluster flock of shooting stars. Down went the pack. Out came the cameras. The crawling started.

All other times I'd been up the canyon to the ridge, I turned left (heading west) and made a kind of lolly-pop loop trip out of this hike. Today I wanted to head right and go higher up the ridge to a highpoint, interesting that it's marked "Rattler" on the USGS map. We didn't see any snakes up high but the chilly wind was sure a welcome relief. More flowers up there...different than the ones down lower. Still no yellow bells.

After lunch we retraced out route back out to the car. One the road walk portion we stopped to take some photos of huge clusters of phlox and lupine. One nice bunch was a few feet off the road. After snapping off a few photos returned to the road and barely took a few steps before hearing the tell-tale rattle (and hiss) of a small rattlesnake that I'd nearly stepped on. Yikes. No more walking into the sagebrush today.
Black Canyon Slideshow

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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