Swakane Canyon

Kim wanted to take another trip to the east side of the mountains to check out spring wildflowers. She had been to Swakane Canyon once before and I had never visited. Janet was also interested in going. Kim and I met Janet in Monroe at 6:10 am. We left early in the morning to allow lots of time on the hike. Janet drove as we headed east on Highway 2. The forecast was for below average temperatures and some high winds in the afternoon.  The mostly cloudy part was way off base as it was blue sky all day around Wenatchee. We stopped in Wenatchee to pick up a Fish and Wildlife permit. Wal-Mart sells them. From there it's about 5+ miles north on the highway to Entiat (97 Alt).  The road up Swakane Canyon is bumpy but not difficult. Just take it slow.

I thought the trail went up the canyon. Actually the route we took did not. It climbs the north wall of the canyon and heads back towards the Columbia River. It switches around to the north side of the ridge before climbing to the ridge top. Views expand as elevation is gained. There was one other car at the 1500' elevation gate. It was around 9:30 as we started out and still pretty chilly. On the drive east from Leavenworth we saw yellow hillsides of balsamroot in full bloom. The lower Swakane trail had balsamroot though not as plentiful as we saw earlier.

Janet has had two knee surgeries in the past year and I managed to tweak my knee last week. We were both a little nervous about walking an old road. In fact, the grade is very steady and the road is not gravel. It was as soft as many trails on our feet. As we ascended the wind picked up. It was cold but with the sunshine it was not too bad. The balsamroot was good down low and most were in full bloom.

We could look down the valley of Swakane Canyon and up to ridges with a little snow still showing. Long shadows shone off the trees on the other side of the canyon. It really is a pretty spectacular place. We came to another gate. This one is two swinging gates. One is still standing and the other has been knocked over. After the balsamroot petered out we began to see desert blue bells, phlox, spring beauty, and even a few shooting stars. I'm used to seeing shooting stars in wet areas. I had not seen them on a dry desert hillside.

The road headed farther east and we could see the Columbia River. Mission Ridge and Wenatchee also came into view. It was past noon when we neared the dike. Kim mentioned this geologic feature earlier. We neared the crest of the descending ridge. It continued down to the Columbia. Just a ways below where we crossed it is a line of rock up the side of the ridge, over the top and down the other side. It looks like a rock dam sitting on the descending ridge.

Janet went ahead and Kim and I photographed her as she dropped down the ridge to the rock dike. We followed and had lunch there. We could look northeast to the Waterville Plateau, down to the Columbia, and southeast to Wenatchee. Burch Mountain was south across Swakane Canyon. It was a great place to take a break except for the read ants that climbed onto us. When we headed back up the ridge to the road we saw several new flowers. One looks a little like a paintbrush and another was a pre flowering bitterroot. I bet there will be lots of bitterroot in a few more weeks.

We hiked a little over 3 miles to reach the dike. From here the road continued to the north. We found lots of spring beauty, violets, and even more shooting stars along here. Each of the gullies were full of green. A little water goes a long way here. The road then rounded the ridge and began to head west on the north side of the ridge. Things changed rapidly here. Big trees dotted the slope. There was even some underbrush. We saw a few lingering patches of snow. The other group of hikers passed us on their way down. They were the only people we saw all day.

Across the valley we saw a strange pattern. Some signs of fire and half the trees had been knocked down. A wind storm must have blown through and half the trees fell but half did not. Very strange looking. A few more switchbacks brought us to the top of the ridge. When Kim was here before they dropped off the south side of the ridge here and cut off a lot of the road walk. We could see the road below but neither Janet nor I had the knees to try it.

Janet and I took a nice long break here. Kim was slower as she can find things to photograph where I see nothing of interest. The high point was around 3700'.  Our turn around point was about 5 miles in. The road continues up the ridge and a road could be seen across from us just below the far ridge. It looks like you could wander around up here all day. The trip down was easier until our knees began to feel the cumulative mileage. Janet felt it first then I did. The last few miles were a bit painful. At least the road was not rocky which really helped.

It was never hot due to the steady cool wind but I wish I had put on more sun screen. Red but not burned. On the way home we stopped in Leavenworth for Mexican. Pretty good food. Traffic was not a problem on Highway 2 coming home. Stevens Pass ski area is now closed and the outdoor crowd is post winter but pre summer. A short respite before the summer crowds. This was a fun trip. Less flowers than I had hoped for but a nice variety and many if full bloom. It was also nice to have a sunny day. It was cloudy and damp as we crossed over the pass coming home. Blue sky all day where we were. I'd like to come back when more flowers are in bloom.

Janet's & Kim's report is here:  Nwhikers Report & Photos

Wenatchee River
Canyon Near Trailhead
First Balsamroot
Looking Up Canyon
More Balsamroot
Kim At Work
In Full Bloom
Janet On The Road
Swakane Canyon
Thicker Balsamroot
Balsamroot Flower
High Above Canyon
Our Route & Columbia
The Dike
Puffy Clouds
Janet Crossing Wall
Close Look At Dike
What Is It?
Nice Colors
Spring Beauty
Brighter Colors
Shooting Star
Close Up
Desert Bluebells
More Desert Color
Rolling Ridge & Dike
Looking Down Canyon
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009