Black Canyon (May 7, 2017)

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black_canyon_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Wenas Lake
Area: Yakima
Reference: Desert Hikes Washington
Stats: 7.21mi, 1782 gain (for the loop)

I saw a trip report for Black Canyon a week ago and it mentioned the flowers were going strong. I was wanting to return to do a repeat of a loop I did a few years ago. Then there were the horned toad lizards...Steve kept mentioning he still hadn't seen one...

Reports said the road was rough. They weren't kidding. I've been to the canyon numerous times and this has to be the worst I've ever seen the upper stretch of the road. Regular cars can still get to the gate and possible a bit further with a bit of car. But then the road gets bad...really bad. There is a sucking mud hole that will swallow regular cars. Beyond the mud hole the road is rutted and gullied. A Subie can make it to the trailhead. High clearance is better. The new 4Runner had no problems at all.

We were the first up the road in the morning but we were quickly followed by several other vehicles. We parked, sorted gear, then headed up the canyon (trailhead 2466').

There were lots of flowers out. Ballheaded waterleaf and balsamroot were everywhere. A few yellowbells and bluebells came out right before the site of the old log cabin. The cabin has seen better days. Looks like recently a small branch has fallen on the roof. I wonder when it will be that I visit here to find the cabin roof and walls starting to cave in.

There was no snow along the trail. But there were lots and lots more flowers. Higher up it was western springbeauty, shooting stars, and grass widows.

JimK and I reached the ridge (3.6mi, 3901') and stopped for lunch. Steve was no where to be seen. Eventually he did show up (delayed by photographing the grass widows down below). We then headed to the east along the ridge to Rattlesnake Benchmark. Right before this highpoint Steve finally scored his elusive horned lizard.

Front he benchmark (4.2mi, 4212') our group of three continued along the ridge between Spud Canyon and Goodwin Canyon. We could see another group that had taken the 4WD road (4.3mi, 4199') down the ridge between Spud and Black Canyon and we could see them pause and drop down that 4WD road back down to the Black Canyon trail. For us, staying high was nice. Following our ridge took us into a whole new group of flowers. Tons and tons of lupine mixed in with balsamroot. Lots of other flowers too...we even spotted some big headed clover.

At about 3528' (6mi) we left the road and went "off trail" (or in this case "off road") straight down the fall line aiming to cut off some of the mileage we'd have to do if we stayed on the road. We continued heading straight downhill until the grade eased at about 2560'. We stayed pretty much at this elevation all the way back to the car to complete the loop (there was no need to drop down further to the road (Elk Ridge Ln). We arrived back at the car at about the same time as the other two groups.

Note: Bugs were out. All of us were surprised by the numbers. They weren't really biting...but they were really annoying. Hopefully this is NOT a sign of a bad bug season to come.
 
Black Canyon Slideshow

black_canyon_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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