For nearly every hiking trip described in Trailblazer columns within the Outdoors section of the Yakima Herald-Republic, there's another trip that won't make it into print. We will attempt to fill in this year's missing notes (both figuratively and literally) in today's column.
Most of these hikes occurred locally, but one major segment happened considerably south of the Washington border during a two-week trip we made to California. The primary targets of this trip were Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as the mountains near Lake Tahoe. More on these hikes later, but let's return to those trails in the region near Yakima.
Trips completed that didn't make it into this year's lineup of Trailblazer columns included the following: Devil's Table, Nelson Butte, Fife's Ridge, Coleman Weedpatch, Kloochman Rock (twice), Lion Rock, Naches Peak, Navajo Peak, and Granite Mountain. The good news is that readers can expect more detailed descriptions of the last two destinations in upcoming columns planned for 2004. Both of these trips were taken late in the season and any opportunity for readers to benefit from those write-ups this year were considered chancy at best.
Figuring prominently in our early choice of hiking trips was fellow Cascadian Don Cooper. It was due to his leadership that we traveled to Devil's Table in the Nile area up the Rattlesnake drainage. The primary purpose of the hike was to enjoy profuse blooms of the bitterroot wildflower. Bonus scenes on this trip included viewing of a sizable herd of elk and the cliff-edge vistas of forests and peaks which encircle Devil's Table.
More than a dozen years ago, we made our first and only hike to Nelson Butte. This year, with Cooper's guidance, a small Cascadians group including myself once again explored this abandoned trail, gaining views not only of Nelson Butte but other landmarks of the Rattlesnake peaks such as Mount Aix and Bismarck Peak. Hopefully, we will return to this route before forgetting how to get started on the trail.
Yet another hiking trip spearheaded by Cooper was a visit to Fife's Ridge. We accessed the ridge trail from forest roads up the Little Naches. Along this hiking route, views extend south to Goat Peak and Mount Adams and west to Fife's Peak and Mount Rainier. The rock cliffs which extend south from the ridge trail provide a splendid spectacle as well. And as a result of doing a little cross country exploration, we did gain views of a small herd of mountain goats.
For several years we have considered checking out the Coleman Weedpatch trail near Walupt Lake. This route connects to the Pacific Crest Trail and leads into the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area. So this summer we finally drove over to Packwood and continued on forest roads some 23 miles to the trailhead.
It turned out we made a solitary trip on this trail, never encountering another person either on the way out or back. Each hiker has his or her own preferences, but what appeals to me is a mix of hiking in groups, large or small, and hiking independently. For a chance to really savor the outdoor experience, a trip alone seems to enhance the pleasure at times. We want to caution readers that such a choice may not prove wise in some circumstances. Hikers taking off on their own need to be especially sure they inform a responsible party of their hiking plans and go prepared with all essential equipment.
Although we enjoyed exploring the Coleman Weedpatch trail and gained views of Mount Adams along with the Goat Rocks, somehow the trip left us feeling a bit flat. This might partially be due to the presence of pesky mosquitoes along the high point of the trail when we had some views. Mostly, though, it seemed like forest limited the views, and those views we did gain were anything but spectacular.
For a rush of excitement with only a brief drive from Yakima, we recommend a trip up Kloochman Rock near Rimrock Lake. Twice this year we clambered up the rocky route to this summit, once with my daughter Barbara and another time solo. In both cases we had the place mostly to ourselves and arrived on clear, sunny days with no bugs to distract our enjoyment of the scenery. That takes in Rimrock Lake, Divide Ridge, Russell Ridge, Bethel Ridge, Goose Egg peak, and even Mount Rainier. On our last visit we spent time reading the register atop Kloochman and discovered the name of Les Maxwell, a former Cascadian president who is now 93 years old. Making it to the top of Kloochman at that stage of life is truly impressive.
It seems no hiking season would be complete without a swing around the Naches Peak loop trail at Chinook Pass. This easy three-mile trip uses a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail and leads hikers past views of lakes (some with names and others without), and numerous peaks of the Cascades, but most impressively the majestic bulk of Mount Rainier stands out. We always travel this loop clockwise so we are walking toward Rainier. The route is a great late summer trip featuring wildflowers or an autumn trip featuring ripe huckleberries.
Now that we have you anticipating details of the hikes to Navajo Peak in the Teanaway region and Granite Mountain just west of Snoqualmie Pass, it's time to shift focus southward. Cascadians Gib Smith and Jean Chott joined me and my wife, Sue, on a two-week adventure to California last July.
Suffice it to say that space is way too limited here to provide full details of this trip. However, we can't help but at least spotlight some of the destinations at Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe that stick in our memories like cockleburs in hiking socks.
The two most outstanding hikes were the Glacier Point-to-Yosemite Valley route, which utilized part of the famous Mist Trail below Vernal Falls, and a loop hike to Cathedral Lakes in the upper country of the park near Tuolomne Meadows. Just slightly less extraordinary were the hikes to the upper falls of Yellowstone Falls and to the top of Lembert Dome (once again in the Tuolomne Meadows area). We also spent at least half a day exploring the lower portion of the meadows along the Tuolomne River, firing off several rolls of film featuring granite rocks and plunging water.
Although our hiking activity was limited in the Lake Tahoe area, we couldn't leave out one of our favorite routes on the vacation trip. Gib and I spent one day in the Desolation Wilderness Area west of Lake Tahoe, once again tramping along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, as we investigated numerous mountain lakes and peaks. We ran out of film a bit soon on that outing.
If the 2003 hiking season was a jigsaw puzzle, regular readers of our column would have a very incomplete puzzle before discovering the extent of our travels as described here. Now that we have filled in the gaps, that scene is relatively complete.
Yet that doesn't mean the symphony is finished nor the book finally done. For the notes resound into the next year and many more journeys await. Stay tuned for more details in the coming year.
Ron Graham, an elementary school teacher and native of the Yakima Valley, is an avid outdoorsman who has hiked throughout the Pacific Northwest. – less – More from ZoomInfo »