Tuesday, June 13, 2017

(Not a) Hike of the Week : Umtanum Creek Trail

Today was a REST DAY. So we didn't go for a hike. We just went on a brief stroll. Honest.

We started at the Umtanum Recreation Area, parked, and then made our way to the bridge.

I love the fact that the bridge has NO VEHICLES physically incorporated in the barrier.

We headed across the bridge ... it's quite swingy and bouncy.

We did get some nice views of the river from the bridge:

We first set off up the wrong trail -- I'm sure it would have been a nice trail, but it would also have been a proper hike. And we were just out for a little stroll, okay?

So we retraced our steps, and set out on the correct trail. Amusingly, the WTA.org description actually says, "Very soon, after passing through a patch of vegetation, the view of the canyon opens up and you will see a large information board on your right and an obvious trail ahead, bearing left. Do not take this one, as it leads away from the creek and uphill. Instead, take the less clear trail to the right immediately after the information board. Soon the trail becomes clear and follows the creek upstream."

This is the "less clear trail":

And here's that trail again, now clear and headed upstream:

Now, remember, this isn't a HIKE. It's a rest day, dammit. So shhhhh.

We meandered along, just admiring the trees and the flowers and the creek. 

We had hoped to see bighorn sheep on the hillsides above us, but found none.

Large stretches of this trail reminded me of our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike -- after reaching the bottom of the canyon, but before getting to Phantom Ranch.

There were a couple of spots where we could probably have forded the river, but instead we just carried on.

We found a spot to sit in the sun and enjoy the view, and then headed back.

Under the railroad tracks -- really glad no train was coming while we were here!

And back across the bouncy, swingy bridge.

How far did we hike? DON'T CALL IT A HIKE. We just spent a nice hour or so gently strolling by a creek. Honest.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hike of the Week : Yakima Skyline ... Sorta

Sometimes things don't work out as you plan. To be fair, we only had to hike for 90 minutes on Saturday, and we got a good 2 hours of hiking in. But we didn't end up where we had hoped, and I've only now figured that out.

When I search for hikes in Washington, I start with WTA.org, the Washington Trails Association website. I find a likely candidate using their interactive hikefinder map, then read the trail description,  and look at recent trip reports to make a decision. Then I shift over to AllTrails to download maps. and get directions to the starting point. Most of the time, it works great. But not always.

On Saturday I wanted to hike the Yakima Skyline Trail. WTA described last stretch of road to the trailhead as:
Continue nearly 3 miles to a Y junction near an old fire station. Continue straight ahead on Gibson Road, and 0.3 miles past getting onto Gibson Road, turn right on Buffalo Road. Here the pavement ends and the L. T. Murray State Wildlife Recreation Area begins. Follow this rough gravel and dirt road 1.5 miles to the trailhead. There are no facilities here. Park your car (ensuring to leave room for other visitors) and hike down the road onto the trail, passing an old white metal sign on your right. Discover Pass required.

Okay, rough gravel and dirt road. Woody can handle that.

We used the AllTrails trailhead finder to navigate us ... not realizing that it was taking us to a trail that is close, but not exactly where. I mean, we still turned right on Buffalo Road and went to where the pavement ended. But then we were directed up a very very rough gravel and dirt road to a trailhead 1.5 miles away. I suppose I should have known we weren't headed to quite the right place when we got to this:

Yeah, that's a big gate. Now, the gate was unlocked, and to me a sign that says "PLEASE CLOSE THE GATE" implies that one is allowed to OPEN the gate. And as we were 1.5 miles from the trailhead, well, we thought this was where we were meant to go.

We inched our way along a very rutted road, nervously testing Woody's clearance by driving over plants grown up between the ruts. After about half a mile, I lost my courage and we turned back, parking in a wide spot off the road. We would walk in from there.

We walked about a mile up the road, alone except for a Jeep that slowly bounced past us. Look, Woody is a badass with potholes and bumps ... but he's not a high-clearance vehicle!

We started climbing, while still on the road. Falcons -- or were they hawks? -- circled overhead, occasionally diving into the grass and lifting off with a wriggling lunch. Circle of life, I suppose.

Eventually, we saw a trail, and -- checking on AllTrails -- saw that it was at least part of the Yakima Rim Trail loop. Possibly even the part we wanted. 

So we headed up the canyon. Now, the trail description I had read talked about "following the fenceposts", but, hey, we were headed up toward the bluff over the river, so we went with it.

The trail was narrow, but obvious, and we kept climbing. At some point we startled a deer ... or should I say we and a deer startled each other. We held our ground while she ran off. That said, judging by the amount of spent ammo and shotgun shells we saw near the trail, I'm not surprised the deer are skittish.

Some of the grass was very, very tall...

The day was getting hotter, and there wasn't a lick of shade -- but the higher we climbed, the more the breeze picked up.

We started down by those buildings, waaaaaay down there:

And then, with one final push, we got to the bluff above the river. Oooh, ahhh. We could see the Roza Dam below, but our campground was around the curve of the river.

We sat down on some beautiful basalt to take a break and admire the view.

The view upriver:

And the view downriver:

Oh, and of course we took a #bootie for posterity:

We saw that we had indeed gone up one side of the AllTrails loop, and considered trying to follow it around ... but then decided just to make it the out and back we had hoped to hike.

Then back down the canyon, along the road back to the car, and then inching back along the road. I honestly think we could have walked faster than I was driving. But we made it back through the gate and onto a paved road.

Oh, and of course we "recovered" with a trip to Tieton Cider, where we shared a flight of 6 ciders and bought a cold 4-pack to bring back to camp.

Now, here, apparently is what happened.

This is the trail as seen on AllTrails.

And here's what we actually hiked. Note that we started on the road ... I think half of our hike was actually just walking along the road.

But now that I zoom in to the map, I see that this is actually where the Yakima Rim Trail is:

Apparently we should have gone farther along Buffalo Road. This trail looks like it would have followed the ridge over the river all the way up, rather than up the side canyon. Perhaps there would even have been fenceposts.

To compare what we hiked vs. what we should have hiked... we hiked 5.0 miles, the actual trail would have been 4.8 miles. We climbed 1194 feet, the actual trail would have been 1447 feet.

Yakima Rim Trail -- sorta

5.0 miles
1194 feet elevation

Here's a gratuitous shot of some pretty amazing clouds over Yakima...

And our boots over the Yakima River Gorge.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Let's try this again : Mailbox Peak

Four weeks prior, we had attempted Mailbox Peak, but turned back when we didn't like the amount of snow about 0.7 of a mile before the summit. And of course, a few years back, when training for the Inca Trail, we turned back heaven only knows where because Ms. "I Fall On Sidewalks" got paranoid about breaking an ankle a few weeks before we were supposed to leave for Peru.

But our training schedule called for a 5-hour hike, and, well, this seemed like a good choice.

This time we timed our arrival perfectly for a few minutes after 7, and drove past the cars crammed in the lower lot and up to the main lot. By the time we actually set out, around 7:20, there were already more than a dozen cars up there.

We set off up the trail and had it mostly to ourselves.

We played leapfrog with a couple of other small groups, but otherwise things were the same as our list hike -- nice and peaceful.

Oh, except this. June 3, 2017:

That same spot 4 weeks earlier, May 6, 2017:

Not a flake of snow. And, yes, this wasn't the really snowy part -- but I didn't stop to take a picture there!

Eventually, we met up with the old trail and started across the boulder field. The weather had turned foggy, and we all chatted about how amazing the view was going to be from the top. I do think that my favorite part of the entire hike was this long stretch of stone steps. Not quite built to Inca standards, but a pleasure to hike up.

As I slowed down (sucking wind, basically!), we caught up with and were caught by other hikers, all inching their way up.

I sent Wil on ahead so I could take some pictures. And by "take some pictures" I mean "take a breather". This is a strategy I plan to use on Kilimanjaro, too.

The final push is quite steep.

Steep enough that we broke through the fog ... for at least a few minutes.

Slight spoiler alert: Wil's standing at approximately the point where I slipped and verrrry slowly fell down. Successfully not toppling way off the trail, but also somehow jamming a finger, scraping a leg, and bending a trekking pole. I am The Best at Descending. The Queen of Descents.

We made our way up the final few feet to the mailbox -- THE MAILBOX!!! -- but, sadly, once at the top we were socked in again.

It was surprisingly crowded at the top -- I wondered what it must be like on a sunny day!

We took a few photos, ate a snack, and then decided to head down. No pictures on the slippy part (sigh), but when we got to the boulder field I loved seeing the trail snake across it.

At some point we passed a guy on the way up who was also singing the praises of stairs. We high fived.

The way down was weirdly long ... we actually took a break for a bit. Usually I feel like out-and-back hikes are great, because they always feel shorter on the way back. Somehow this one didn't. We saw a lot of people headed up, huffing and puffing and wondering if they were almost there yet. Nope. One guy said, "Well, thank you for your honesty!"

This is a great training hike -- nice and long, a lot of elevation gain, some uneven terrain, and, if you're lucky, a spectacular view from the top. But I don't think I need to hike it again this year. Maybe in 2018.

Mailbox Peak (New Trail)

10.3 miles
4032 feet elevation