Umtanum Ridge

We had a big group for a weekend hike. Gwen, Kim, Jon, and Jim Miller joined me. The plan was a longer drive to Umtanum Ridge along the Yakima River Road between Ellensburg and Yakima. I have often hiked there in spring when the wildflower show is near its peak. Great colors everywhere. I had not hiked in November. We had a dump of snow the night before in the mountains and farther east. We met in North Seattle at 7:30 am. It was a chance to fill up my new used car. It was tight but we fit five folks and their gear. The drive east over Snoqualmie Pass was not much fun. The road was plowed but there was a little ice. Lots of dirt kicked up on my windshield form the sand put on the road. Worst was the low bright sunshine that was blinding reflection off the wet road. It was 128 miles one way. Off I-90 on Canyon Road at Ellensburg and then 11.7 miles south along the Yakima River. It was up to 39 degrees when we left the highway and 29 degrees at the trailhead. We arrived at 9:45 am.

It was partly cloudy in Seattle and very foggy at Snoqualmie Pass. There was not a single cloud in the sky at Umtanum. There is a $5.00 BLM parking permit year round. We packed up and headed across the suspension bridge over the Yakima River at 10:00 am. There was a little ice on the bridge. The ramp down on the other side was very icy. Sun was hitting some of the valley and part was in the cold shade. Most all the brush and grass was white with frost. Some neat photos here. A short way along the trail splits. Right goes up the Umtanum Creek Valley. Left climbs up a side valley on an old road turned trail. Though it was shady near the bottom we could see sunshine farther up. It was strange to be here with no wildflower color. The brown colors did look good in the sunshine.

We headed up at very different speeds. Some folks hiking steadily and others taking a lot of photos. That was fine. We had no long distance goal this day. Just to be out in the sunshine on the east side of the Cascades. The Doppler radar the night before showed steady snow falling. We did not see any snow in the valley or on the ridge all day long. The route crosses over the dry creak bed and climbs to the right. Now we were getting a bit of sunshine. It was amazingly warmer out of the shade. We met one group down low who had gone up this way but poor footing caused them to turn around. In the sunshine I could see why. When frozen the ground provided adequate traction. In the sun the trail turned to mud. Very slick mud. We move up using poles to help keep us upright.

It was so slick in places that we headed straight up to the side ridge. Steeper but much easier progress. From the side ridge top we had some very good views. Everything glowed brown in the sunshine. The tip of Mt. Stuart was in view. Lots of fresh snow on the peaks. Gwen went higher and we followed. This was about the highest point we went. Above the trail climbs steeply to the top of Umtanum Ridge. It is a boot path not a built trail. We could see a white line leading to the top. The dirt was frosted and visible from a mile away. Getting up would be tough. Coming down would be much worse. It was just not worth sliding on steep mud. We sat down and had a leisurely lunch. There was almost zero wind. It was in the upper 30s and very comfortable. Great views all around.

After lunch we chose to head down a different route. Instead of retracing our steps we decided to head east towards the ridge above the Yakima River. To get there we had to cross several drops and climbs along the way. The good news is that we did not have to deal with any slick mud. Even the steep drops into the gullies were not that bad. The last climb brought us up to the ridge above the river. We headed north along the ridge top as is slowly descended to the nose of the ridge. There we found the old road. The same road that we climbed up the gully in the morning. From the road we could look down on the trailhead parking lot. It was already in the shade at 2:00 pm. We were still in the bright sunshine. Our viewpoint had a great view of the Yakima River Canyon. We could see where the train tracks came out of a tunnel. A few folks were fishing in the river.

All to soon we chose to  head on back. I had walked this road a couple times in the past but not in about two decades. It descended into the gully we first ascended. Starting down we met a spread out group coming up. Only the second group seen all day. Jim and I kept moving when the others stopped at the edge of shade to put on more clothes. It did not take long to reach the Umtanum Creek Valley. There were neat shadows as ridges above formed dark patches on the valley wall. More folks were seen near the lower junction. Most people seem to have hiked the valley trail rather than the way we went. The suspension bridge was no longer icy. The parking lot was shady and cold once again. Jim and I were back at the car by 2:55 pm. The other arrived about 15 minutes later.

We stopped for dinner in Ellensburg and had an easy drive home. The roadway was entirely dry. Darkness at 4:45 pm is still  hard to get used to again. For the day I drove 258 miles to do a 5 mile hike with 1400' of elevation gain. The drive to hike ratio was not good. On the other hand, we had a bright sunny day with almost no wind. That is hard to come by on the west side of the mountains in late November. It was fun to meet Jim and do a hike with all the gang. A good time was definitely had by all.

Sunny Parking Lot
Icy Bridge
Icy Grain
Crossing The Tracks
Frosted Bushes
Cold Icy Trail
Sun & Shade
Frost Or Snow?
Icy Rocks
More Icy Bushes
Into The Sunshine
Tiny Forest
Colorful Icy Leaves
Ridge Top In Sight
Looking East
Not A Cloud In Sight
Snowy Mt. Stuart
Looks Like A Crater
View From Lunch Spot
Trail To Ridge Top
Vapor Trail
Group At Break
Cross County Hiking
Group Descends
Yes, Deer
Jim & Gwen
Kim & Jon
Top Of Mt. Stuart
Jim M Stands Out
Towers On Summit
"Crater" Again
Shadows In Valley
Car Is In Sight
Yakima River
Looking Down River
Bright Bush
Valley In Shade
Jim On Bridge
River In Shade
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018