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, 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.

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