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Umtanum Ridge shim John & Kristie

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hikes :: Saturday, April 24, 2004
Umtanum Ridge
UMTANUM CREEK RECREATION AREA, YAKIMA, WA :: I decided I needed a change of scenery this weekend, so I headed east towards Yakima for a hike up Umtanum Ridge. The reports I read promised a dry landscape of basalt, cactus, wildflowers and no snow. A perfect break from the cold, dark forests and frozen lakes so common this time of year on the western side of the mountains. I left Seattle at 5:00AM and arrived at the Umtanum Creek Recreation Area parking lot at 7:00AM.

The trail starts out nicely enough, quickly making its way up a hill to a grove of aspen trees. I think I was supposed to go right at this point, but for some reason I chose to go left. I was using Karen Sykes' report as a guide. The trail eventually disappeared, but it is nearly impossible to get lost here. I had surprised a trio of deer and reached a plateau where I could look back down at my car and the Yakima River 700 feet below. From this point, an arm of the ridge gradually made its way to the top, about 1500 feet above me. I looked out over the valley to the other arm I was supposed to take, and it looked much steeper. You can see the arm I chose extending across the panoramic photo at the bottom of this page.

The hills were filled with yellow balsam root and columns of blue lupine. But I was on the hunt for the hedgehog cactus flowers. Not until I reached the very top did I find them. They're much smaller than I thought, about 3-4 inches in diameter, and their barbs are extremely stiff and sharp! I wouldn't be surprised if they could pierce the soles of my boots if I were unfortunate enough to step on one.

Other curiosities found along the way added some excitement to the trip: an old, bullet-ridden, rusted car and a weathered cross to mark the apex of a ridge. That's where I enjoyed my lunch... Well, where I was suppose to enjoy my lunch. Lunch was forgotten back at the house. So I enjoyed sipping my water, deciding not to use the emergency Powerbar in my pack.

I spent five hours wandering around the ridge and on a return route that wound through the valley. Back at the parking lot, there were crowds of people exploring the creek. I jumped into my car and made it back home by 2:00PM. Not a bad itinerary for an Eastern Washington hike. I'll have to consider the area more often.

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