White Bluffs - Ginko

Kim had been anxious to get back to the White Bluffs overlooking the Columbia River in Central Washington. I had never been there. After a wet hike to Calligan Lake on Friday I was ready for some sunshine. With the long drive we were on the road by 5:50 am. Kim drove and we had rain nearly all the way to Snoqualmie Pass. Things improved  as we headed east of the crest. We stopped at the Cle Elum Bakery so Kim could get breakfast. From there it was east past Ellensburg and to the Columbia River at Vantage. Once across we headed south along the river. Kim planned to meet Damian at their campsite and we found it with easily enough.

Damian and his friend Mike had camped out just off the highway. We saw the first flowers of the day there. Some death camas, balsamroot, and phlox were in bloom. After our visit we headed south along the Columbia River. A turn to the east took us to Mattawa. At the end of the road we went left a few miles to the entrance to the White Bluffs area. We made a few stops on the road in. We stopped at a wetland then found patch of yellow bells in bloom. At another stop I saw the biggest tumbleweed I have ever seen. It was nearly as tall as Kim.

A few years ago there was a fire here. Much of the plant life was burned up. Now Kim keeps coming back to document the rebirth of life in this desert environment. We finally reached the end of the road parking lot. It looked down on the Columbia. On the other side of the river is the Hanford Nuclear facility. Thanks to that government reservation this section of the river is still fairly wild. An old road descends from the parking lot down to the river. It cuts into a the steep walled bluff. The road is paved as well. After a few photos from the parking area we headed down.

The morning rain was long gone now. It was warm and sunny though a cool breeze was blowing. As we descended the road we found several places where tumbleweeds covered the road. We had to weave our way though. We left the road before the bottom and cut across the flats. A short climb brought us to the ridge above the river. Beautiful views here of the river below and grass all around. A path led us down to the area just above the water. Kim went off exploring and I had to stop to eat and peel off a few layers. It was very warm now.

I dropped to the river and found a number of animal tracks in the sand. I also found the water was just a few degrees above freezing. Not quite ready for summer swimming yet. Nearly all the sage brush burned up in the fire. We did find a number of isolated shoots coming back. The climb back up to the truck was harder than it should have been. Even a few hunderd feet of gain in the bright sunshine was hard. It's been a long time since I've hiking in 70 degree temperatures. We drove back to the highway while planning where to go next. Kim did stop where we found a line of trees.

Blowing tumbleweeds were caught by the trees. They were leafless this early in the year but they did have limbs full of tumbleweeds. We headed to Mattawa for a late lunch. Kim's favorite restaurant in the area is El Jato. It's closed up! She was deeply disappointed. We found a number of other short hikes near the river. They all required a Fish & Wildlife permit. Oops, so did the White Bluffs area. Kim had one but it expired two weeks earlier. We chose to take no more chances and headed back to the I-90. Once across the river we headed north to Ginko Petrified Forest State Park. I had never visited.

There is a museum and viewpoint near the river. We headed a few miles wetst to an old CCC park building and trails linking petrified trees. The trees were buried in an old lake before being buried in lava. In this way the trees were preserved and not burned up by the hot lava. We did a counter clockwise loop seeing a number of trees. Higher up we could also see back to the river. It was very windy at the high point. By the time we completed our loop everyone else was gone. It looked like our trip was over and we just had a long drive home.

Well, not exactly. As we passed the Wild Horse wind farm Kim spotted a sign stating that visitors were welcome. The power generating wind mills are all over Whiskey Dick Mountain. We drove in and followed the signs three miles to the new visitors center. The wind was howling as we headed indoors. The center has been open for one year though neither of knew it existed. It includes info on the wind farm and pictures and movies of the construction. A computer screen shows the status of all the turbines. There are 127 wind mills generating enough power for 55,000 homes. A visit is well worth the time. The commanding view is great too.

Now we headed for home with just one more stop for dinner in Ellensburg. It was 9:00 pm by the time I reached home. Fifteen hours on the road made for a long but very enjoyable day. We went from a rainy day on the wet side of the mountains to a dry sunny day on the east side. It was all new to me. I had not seen any of it before. We were a few weeks early for blooming flowers but we did see a fair smattering of early bloomers. Best of all, it was nice to have a snow free hike on a sunny day. Summer is coming it's just taking it's time.

Blooming Balsamroot
Campsite Flowers
Single Pink Flower
Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Death Camas
Burnt Sage & Tumbleweed
Yellow Bells
Burned Up Sage
Big Black Beetle
Kim & Big Tumbleweed
Wetland Plants
View Down To Columbia
Heading Down Road
Tumbleweed Barrier
Folded Hill
Down By The River
Riverside Grass
Nice Day For A Stroll
Warm Sunny Day
Riverside View
Colorful Grass
Tumbleweed Border
Kim & Camera
Layered Cliffs
Hanford Buildings
Another Balsamroot
Phlox Close Up
Tumbleweed Catcher
Tumbleweed Tree
Ginko View
Ginko Balsamroot
Wild Horses Windmil
75' Windmill Blade
Wind Farm Visitors Ctr
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009