Grand Coulee - Northrup Canyon

My Subaru's engine died. Kim was laid off. Janet had some bad news regarding her knee. We were a sorry lot. We could just sit around Seattle and drown our tears or we could head to central Washington and go camping. That was an easy decision. Janet and Kim planned this trip and with my car woes I qualified to come along. Kim picked me up at noon on Friday and we drove to Janet's work in Redmond. Gear transfered to Janet's Subaru and we headed east. We knew it would be cold over there. Looked like lows in the 20s. We planned to camp two nights and then head home on Sunday.

I had not been between Vantage and Coulee City in many years. We sped east to Cle Elum to pick up the makings for dinner on Saturday. Kim had planned Friday's dinner at her favorite Mexican restaurant in Grand Coulee. From there we drove across the Columbia River and near George we headed north. There was not much snow east of Cle Elum though nearly all the lakes were frozen solid. We motored through Ephrata and stopped briefly at Soap Lake. We stopped again at Dry Falls. The visitors center had just closed (4:00 pm). We looked around though it was very cold.

One more stop in Coulee City for gas and we were heading north along Banks Lake. The coulee walls were covered with frozen waterfalls and icy seeps. As we drove north there was some snow on the ground. We pulled into Steamboat Rock State Park before dark. On the road from the highway we found only a dusting of snow on the ground. As we entered the camping area it deepened significantly. Only one loop was plowed out with about half a dozen camp sites. One was taken by a camper. We quickly set up camp in about 5-8 inches of snow. With the sun down it cooled rapidly.

The next order of business was to drive into the city of Grand Coulee for dinner. Kim raves about La Presa. When we arrived there were only a few folks there. She was right. The food was excellent. We stayed quite awhile as we did not look forward to a long night in cold tents. It was past 9:00 pm when we arrived back at camp. We had a near full moon lighting the sky. It was very cold. I did have a chance to try out my new Exped Downmat 7 DLX and found it to be terrific. I was warm enough on the snow.

The others were not as warm and the consensus was to head back into town for breakfast in a warm restaurant. Flo's it was. Good food and a chance to warm up. I slept in my down booties and did not want to put on frozen boots in the morning so I kept the booties on in town. Next we headed to the Grand Coulee Dam Visitors Center. Not too crowded in February. Interesting place to visit. After that it was off to the bridge over the Columbia. It has boards along both sides of the bridge. They show the history of the dam and the geology of the area. Kim knew about it but none of us had seen it before.

One last tourist trip was up to the Crown Point viewpoint. It is a state part. From high above the river we had a great view of the dam and cities. There was more snow up there though the road had been plowed. It was after 1:00 pm by the time we headed to Northrup Canyon. Kim had done a couple short hikes in the canyon but Janet and I had not been there. The trailhead is several miles north of Steamboat Rock SP and less than a mile from the highway.

There were no other cars at the trailhead when we arrived. By 1:30 we were on our way. The canyon has wildflowers in the spring. It was also very neat in the winter. The whole valley had snow though it was not very deep. The trail was packed down a bit and easy walking. Getting off trail the snow was deeper. It was sunny to start but we hiked up the sough side of the canyon and soon were in shade. The sunshine was just across the valley. It was much colder in the shade. This canyon has forest. There isn't much of it around the coulee country but we saw lots of pine trees.

The coulee walls are high and nearly vertical. We heard the sounds and soon saw doves nesting high up in the walls. A couple of other hikers caught up and passed us as we spent as much time taking photos as hiking. At a big meadow we found three small buildings. The trailhead board mentioned the Northrup family lived in the canyon from 1889 to 1937. These buildings were to small. Perhaps some hen houses or store houses. I climbed up onto some rocks and could see ahead to another meadow and an old building. We decided to continue on that far.

Janet was ahead as Kim and I had to find a way down form the rocks. The sun was now on us and it was warmer and just beautiful. Half way down the meadow we rounded a bend and saw a whole lot of buildings. The one I saw earlier was just the tip of the iceberg. A several looked very old but one did not. It had the windows boarded up but did not look nearly as old as the others. It even had powerlines leading to it. Hmm.... not from 1927.

Kim caught up and we took a short break. Janet's knee was sore so she headed back first. It took us about 2 hours to hike the 2 or so miles with all the photo stops. It was now 3:30 and we had less than two hours of daylight left. We made much better time coming out. Within 50 minutes we were almost to the car. At that point we began to see lots of folks. One couple who lived nearby explained that the eagle festival was next week. Up to several hundred eagles normally winter in the canyon. This year is different as Banks Lake is frozen over and there is no fish for the eagles. We did see two eagles and several hawks plus magpies feeding on a dead deer near camp.

Far down the canyon we now saw dense fog heading our way. We decided against cooking dinner as dark and fog descended then a very long cold night. Instead we headed back to camp and packed up. On the short drive back we saw the fog coming down over the coulee walls. The low sun shone on it creating a spectacular sight. It was past 5:30 when we headed south. We stopped in Ephrata for another Mexican dinner. Janet drove that far and Kim drove the rest of the way home.

At the Vantage bridge over the Columbia we found the densest fog of the trip. Visibility went down to zero. We couldn't see the road or the side of the bridge. Scary for several seconds. Once we rose up above the river the fog thinned dramatically. I made it home at 11:15. This was a fun trip. We camped out, ate in, played tourist, and even managed to hike. Northrup Canyon is beautiful in the winter. The combination of blue sky, white snow, tall trees, and golden grasses was terrific. The company was great too. Another engine was put in my Subaru this week and it had a blown head gasket. A lot of wasted labor cost and now another engine is coming. Well, it looks like my luck is still crappy. Oh well...

Sun Lakes SP
Dry Falls
Bed Time
Grass & Snow
Sage & Steamboat Rock
Columbia From Town
Grand Coulee Dam
Deep Sea Diver
Janet & Friends
Bridge Tour
Columbia Below Dam
Behind The Dam
Dam From Crown Point
Blue Sky & Snow
Kim At Crown Point
Janet On Northrup Trail
Northrup Trees
Red Osier
Nearing The Sunshine
Sage & Snow
Vertical Walls
Snow On South Wall
Very Different
Doves In The Wall
First Meadow
View Ahead
Janet In Front
A House?
More Buildings
Building Behind Tree
Power Line?
Wispy Fog
Fog Descending
Sun Coloring Fog
Steamboat Over Bay
Great Colors
More Fog
Last Fog
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Trips - 2009