Black Canyon

I joined Janet and Steve for my second trip east of the crest for the weekend. This time we went to Ellensburg, south to Selah near Yakima, then up North Wenas Road to Black Canyon. We met Zephyr and Josh from at the start. There was also a 12 member Mountaineers group. We arrived first and parked in the first grassy lot. Zephyr was right behind us. The Mountaineers arrived in three cars and went the short way to the berm where the road ends and the trail/road continues. We first met in North Seattle at 6:30 am. By the time we drove to Black Canyon and were on the trail it was 9:40 am. We made one stop in Cle Elum. Clouds over the mountains gave way to blue sky and bright sunshine all day long. The road up Black Canyon is a bit tough. Janet has high clearance and 4 wheel drive and we did fine. A sedan would be more challenging.

The slopes around the canyon were awash in the yellow of blooming balsamroot. Black Creek had more water than on my two previous visits. Plenty to nourish an abundant supply of plants. Sagebrush was leafing out. Much more so than the day before on the Iron Horse Trail. On the first part of the trail we saw some phlox, larkspur, woodland stars, and ballhead waterleaf. Serviceberry was full of white flowers along the creek. Zephyr and Josh quickly went by us and we did not see them again for some time.

Soon enough we reached the old cabin site. Janet and I immediately saw something different. The roof has partly fallen off. I thought it was gone at first but it's mostly still there. We soon continued on. At the junction we took the main right road. On my first visit we ran the ridge then dropped cross country to that road and made a loop. Now we saw buttercups and bluebells. spring beauty was appeared in several colors. As we ascended deciduous trees gave way to mostly fir and pine.  We were hoping to find grass widows in bloom. We always had on previous spring visits. And then they appeared. Lots of grass widows.  The widows and spring beauty lit up the ground with colors. I thought that I had seen a field of shooting stars on a previous visit. Janet concurred. A few minutes later we reached that spot.

The road was lined with grass widows and spring beauty. Just beyond was a field of pink. Thousands of shooting stars. This required more exploration. A closer look showed sagebrush violets, buttercups, and lots of small white flowers with five petals and bright yellow in the center. Purple lines radiated out from the center. I've seen them but do not recall the name. The Mountaineers caught up with us here. Turns out it was a Conditioning Hiking Series trip. Those folks will work up from seven miles in Black Canyon to a one way trip through the Enchantments by fall. They left and we stayed around enjoying the flower show. We heard frogs and went over to the pond. We did not hear a single frog over there. Oh well... Heading on I mentioned that I had not seen a single Indian Paintbrush this year. A few minutes later Janet pointed out some bright red ones a ways off the road/trail. Check one more off the list for this year. We finally reached the ridge top at 12:35 pm. We took almost three hours to hike up 3.5 miles. We had a lot of photo stoppage time.

We had not decided on where to go from the ridge top. The Mountaineers headed up towards the high point. Janet and I had some lunch and Steve soon arrived. We chose to follow the others up to the high point. Although it was after noon there was very little glare. We could see Mt. Rainier and all the Teanaway and Stuart Range peaks. Lots of snow still on the mountains. I could see over to Manastash Ridge and the UW observatory I visited a few weeks ago. When we reached the high point the Mountaineer were already heading down the ridge on an old road. Janet had taken the ridge down on one trip. I never had. We chose to go that way. From the high point we had great 360 degree views. Mt. Adams was now in sight. In the other direction we could see Ellensburg.

We headed down the ridge. Janet saw Zephyr and Josh out ahead of the Mountaineers. The road dropped down then went up a little then down and up. At that point we again saw the Mountaineers far below us on the Black Canyon side. That's not the ridge top route that Janet had done before. The Mountaineers left the lower road and headed down a side canyon into Black Canyon. We could drop to where they were and follow that route. Or we could stay on the ridge. We checked Janet's old GPS route and verified we were on that route. We chose to follow that. As we dropped along the ridge the flower show really took off. A few balsamroot became fields of them. We saw big head clover.  Next came lupine in bloom. Phlox was all over.

The flowers in the canyon were great. For pure ground coverage and color the ridge beat it by a mile. Fantastic color. I was very glad we did not follow the Mountaineers. The wildflower show was terrific. The gentle ridge grew steeper as we descended. It also began to turn away from Black Canyon. The map showed we could likely just head straight down and cut off some distance. At first it was steeper but later the grade eased. At that point the balsamroot covered everything. As thick as I have seen it. Rather than continue down to the old road below that cuts over to the Black Canyon road we chose to traverse directly towards the car. Our navigation was on target and we crossed one more ridge and the car was right below. Zephyr and Josh were back but still there.

We arrived at the car at 3:40 pm. Seven miles with about 1900' of elevation gain in six hours. Not a fast pace but a whole lot of photos. The flower show started okay and had some great spots on the way up. It was much better on the ridge route down. Our timing was almost perfect. So many of the wildflowers were right at their peak. We were lucky enough to have nailed it. This was one of Steve's first trips to the desert of Central Washington and he had a great time. Traffic was awful on the drive home but the hike was well worth it.

Great Colors From Lot
Ridge Above Parking
Desert Parsley
Bunch Of Balsamroot
Lone Balsamroot
Very Green
Brown Flower
Steve On Trail
Woodland Star
Looking Down Canyon
Ballhead Waterleaf
Janet On Road
Grass Widow
Spring Beauty
Sagebrush Violet
Field Of Purple
Shooting Stars
Yellow Bells
White Flower
Pond Reflection
Bright Grass Widow
More Bluebells
Another Widow
Indian Paintbrush
Mt. Stuart
Wider View
Almost Opened
Ridge Top Road
Ridge Route Down
Janet & Mt. Rainier
More Flowers
Very Colorful
Big Head Clover
Flowers On Ridge
Lupine & Balsamroot
Steeper Descent
Sagebrush & Flowers
Janet & Balsamroot
Yellow & Blue
Route We Descended
Death Camas
End In Sight
Terrific Colors
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017