Sunday, May 8, 2011

Black Canyon Field Trip

Black Canyon Road

Last week I had the opportunity to leave the kids at Grandma’s for a few days. I had some time to take care of appointments, a bit of work, and just thinking clearly for a few moments. I also got a totally free day to explore! I coerced encouraged a friend of mine to come along on my adventure.

It took forever to get out of Seattle – so much traffic for the mid-morning. Traffic was bad over the Pass, too, with construction and an accident and rain and fog. But finally we made it out of the grey. The clouds gradually lightened as we drove farther east. Suddenly, there was sunshine and blue sky! Ellensburg was warmer but breezy, and we drove through and onto the Umptanum Road. Up we climbed into the hills, the pavement soon gave way to gravel and dirt. Bluebird houses lined the fences for the entire route, and I was ecstatic to see the first wild western bluebirds of my life. We took our time driving, stopping often to take photos and just soak in the scenery.

Looking out over the sagebrush to the windmill farm and the Stuart Range

Eventually we made it to the turnoff for the Black Canyon road. I tried to make it up the road a bit, but my Camry protested, so I turned around and parked in a wide spot. We walked up the road. It was such a relief to be in short sleeves with sun glasses after all the grey and wet we’ve had this spring. The air was dry and fragrant. There were flowers all along the sides of the road.

Balsam Root on either side of the fence

Sagebrush with insect galls

My friend got a good introduction to hiking with me, as I stopped every few minutes to take a photo of a flower. The bird song hung like a liquid golden curtain on either side, western meadowlarks and bluebirds fluttering out ahead and behind.

Desert Violets

We met another gal along the trail, and slightly envied her for staying the night. We decided to stop and turn around at the true trailhead. I did want to go on farther, but we had a long drive home and my friend was ready to be done. We slowly made our way back down the road, finding a few flowers we had missed on the way up.

Ladybug on desert parsley

We realized that we had actually climbed pretty far up from the car. The drive back home took less time, and too soon we were back into the rain and clouds of the west. The sunshine and birdsong faded into the distance. But we’ll be back.

A herd of elk, as photographed through the windshield

We saw elk, deer, butterflies, beetles, and lots of flowers and birds I couldn't identify. I have put a few pics here, but there are more on my post.

Note to self: Get the Best Desert Hikes book, and a desert flower book.

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