April and half of May slipped on by without a flower
hike in Eastern Washington. With showers and rain forecast for the mountains
and mid 70s temperatures for Ellensburg it was time to head east. Suzanne
was free and accompanied me. We left Seattle at 7:00 AM and by 9:00 we
were at the trailhead off Canyon Road along the Yakima River. On the drive
over it rained from North Bend almost to Easton. At the trailhead it was
partly sunny and already comfortably warm. There was one other group about
to get hiking and a big empty parking lot. We crossed the suspension bridge
into Umtanum Canyon and immediately turned left up the first side canyon.
This trip was three weeks later than my hike here last year and I feared
we might be too late for the flowers. Those fears were quickly put to rest.
There was a little balsamroot down low but a plethora of other flowers.
Some I recognized from previous trips here but some I don't remember seeing.
Different trips at different points in the spring seem to bring out very
different flowers. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of flowers and
colors. We saw yellow, white, blue, purple, and red among others. Higher up
pink bitterroot appeared. In fact this was the single best hike I have done
for seeing bitterroot. They are just about at their peak now with more blooms
still to come. We hiked up the canyon on the old road then turned off on
the side trail heading higher. The higher we went the more types of flowers
we saw. We also came upon a well camouflaged lizard. We were to see many
more of them all around the ridge.
As we climbed it got hotter and muggier. The humidity had sweat pouring
off my brow. One thing I have noticed while climbing up the middle section
of the side ridge is the constant bird songs. I never see the birds but hear
their songs close by. High up the side ridge more balsamroot were blooming.
Not as many as I usually see but they were still nice. Just before reaching
the ridge top a huge military cargo jet roared overhead. It was huge, like
a C-17, and only a few thousand feet above us. The noise and closeness
was a real shock. It looked like they were practicing low level flight.
Finally we crested the top of Umtanum Ridge. Clouds hid the mountains
but the view to the north, south, and east was excellent. After climbing
in the hot sun a cooling cloud now put us in the shade on top. Suzanne immediately
spotted a flowering cactus giving hope that we would see many more in bloom.
Alas, it was not to be. We saw only a few more flowering. It seems most
of them are finished for the year. We turned left on the ridge and headed
east. I wanted to go to the area where I saw so many blooming cacti last
year. The bright yellow balsamroot show of last year was replaced with a
wide variety of flowers. Bitterroot was the star but there were dozens of
The ridge is never flat and we followed the undulations up and down.
We decided to turn around at the steep drop where I saw so many cacti last
year. I was disappointed to see that they were already finished but the other
flowers made up for it. This was a good spot for lunch with great views
in all directions. As we were getting ready to head back we met the first
person since the trailhead. A lone runner stopped to talk for a minute. He
was on his way to Selah and had started at Central Washington University
in Ellensburg. It was just another 35 mile run with 4000'+ of elevation gain.
Nothing like an extreme comparison to make you feel like a slacker.
Heading back along the ridge we met the brothers we had seen at the trailhead.
The hike down from the ridge was much faster and easier. We dropped from
the ridge top to the parking lot in just under an hour. We were back by
1:45 and the lot was nearly full. Based on the 5 groups we passed all day,
most people were down in the canyon. The car thermometer read 82 degrees
which was about 8 degrees warmer than forecast. It was plenty warm for me.
We missed the peak of the balsamroot and cactus but saw some of each.
The variety of other flowers peaking was outstanding. After lots of snow
hikes the past month a day of flowers without trees was refreshing. The flowers
will soon be finished and the temperatures will be getting too high for
me this far east. I'll be back next spring for another round of desert hiking.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Red & Yellow
Suzanne & Sadie
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2005