Black Canyon Loop (Apr 20, 2014)

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black_canyon_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Wenas Lake
Area: Yakima
Reference: Desert Hikes Washington
Stats: 8.43mi, 2104 gain (for the loop)

I needed a flower trip. Tired of snow. Tired of the dark grey clouds. I needed some color, some sunshine, and some blue skies. I wasn't disappointed.

I headed out early. The talk of 2 hour traffic backups on I90 with the demo of the old snow shed wasn't appealing. I wanted to head over in the morning before lane closures and started back over the pass in the afternoon before the huge rush of holiday traffic.

So I was up by 5am, and on the road by 5:40am. At the trailhead...just before 9am. I wasn't sure the Jetta could make it to the TH. Some years the last bits of the road can be tricky. Well I managed to get there. It wasn't too bad. I parked just shy of the upper trailhead because I planned to do a loop trip this time. My plan was to hike up Black Canyon and then come out via the ridge (old road) between Goodwin and Spud Canyons.

I was moving up the trail by 9am. A few bits of color early on. Balsamroot, ball headed waterleaf, black desert parsley. There always seems to be a "dry" stretch for flowers on this trail. They are there at the start...then a long pause before they show up again around the site of the old homestead. This time was no different. Right after the TH the old road is bermed with a sign advising no unauthorized vehicles allowed. There was, however, lots of evidence that ATV drivers were ignoring the regs. Fresh tire tracks all the way up the road to the old homestead (1.44mi from the car) and beyond (there is a berm at the upper end of the road at the first road junction after the homestead...about 1.75mi from the car). After the old homestead, the old favorite flowers started to make and appearance...bluebells, buttercups, etc. No yellow bells though...none the entire trip. I'm guessing I'm a bit too late to catch these early bloomers.

I continued up the road and followed my usual route up to Umtanum Ridge. Along the way, more flowers...grass widows, spring beauty...

I arrived at the ridge (3.79mi from the car) and found...a cool breeze. Hmm..I had long sleeves on...time to put on a jacket. Very few flowers showed up along this stretch of the ridge. I continued up the ridge following the road to the highpoint shown as "Rattler" on the USGS quad (4.25mi from the car). I zapped off a couple of quick photos to family back east wishing them a Happy Easter and ring...ring...ring... Awesome....Meredith (my 4yo niece) was on FaceTime wanting to know what the Easter Bunny got me for Easter. A nice chat with most of the family back east ensued and then it was time to drop my pack and catch a quick lunch.

I had eyed a route back to the car following an old road along the ridge between Goodwin and Spud Canyons. This turned out to work well. Most of it was in good shape...not too rocky. At about 5.6mi from the car the road grade steepened a bit and the surface got a bit rockier. At about 6.1mi the grade steepened even more and the road got downright wobbly rocky all the way down to the lower road at about 6.8mi. It was a bit of a pain. I was surprised that as the road descended it (the road) actually got a bit brushy. It doesn't seem like 4WD vehicles use it much. Along this upper ridge walk I started to see lupine blooming. As the road descended, I started seeing more and more balsamroot. By the time I was down on the lower road...lots and lots of big headed clover!

The lower stretch of road follows a big elk (?) fence. It wasn't the most scenic stretch of "trail" but it was nice to see a whole different set of flowers going strong. It was only a bit over 1.5mi of walking this road to get back to the car. Best part of the day....(almost)...heading back over I90 early enough that I sailed right through the construction area without any backups!

Flowers are going strong but give it another week or so. The lupine and balsamroot are just getting started.
Black Canyon Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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