Yakima River Canyon ~ September 16-18, 2011

Finally climbed that big hill!

Driving through Issaquah on Friday eve. Tiger Mtn in the center, Squak Mtn on the right.
On the right edge of Squak is the jump off point for paragliders (bald patch near top). Turns out to be relevant for this weekend.

The lighting was dramatic as I drove towards Preston.

It really looked like that! No photoshopping was done to any of the pictures on this page.

Through North Bend, the magical lighting was gone. But this place still excites me. I love these mountains: Mailbox, Defiance, Bandera, Washington...

Just east of Snoqualmie Pass I-90 is being widened.

If you've heard about people getting rocks through their windshield, or had to sit through a highway closure because of
blasting or an avalanche lately - this is the problem area right here.

Pastoral Ellensburg. Where the weather is (almost) always nice.

Saturday morning a tractor parade drove through the canyon from Yakima to Ellensburg. Not very many this time.

I seem to see a tractor parade every year out here. But this weekend there were so few (maybe ten) I can't help but wonder if the glory days are over.
A few years back there were over 50 tractors, maybe 100. These fellows seem younger than the usual participants (with newer tractors too).
I think our generation is more interested watching football on TV on the weekends instead of hanging out with old-timers who have been doing
tractor parades since they were kids fifty years ago. Surely the real old geezers and their ancient tractors can't drive this road forever.
Was it a hard winter last year? Is this all that's left? It's looking to me like this old tradition is fading fast. (Hope it was just the weather.)

Our camp. We're sitting by the fire, drinking hot coffee, wondering why the weather isn't anything like the forecast said it would be.

The kids caught crawdads in the river. The yellow bucket was crawling with them. They boiled them and ate their tails. (mini-lobsters!)

And after eating the back half, the front half makes a neat finger puppet!

Waiting for the rain to stop.

Late in the afternoon the weather did clear up a bit. Half of us decided to do a partial float, a few of us wanted to hike,
and the rest preferred to stay in camp to fish, sleep, read, or lounge around.

Rich hiked a half mile or so. But hiking takes a lot of effort and having fun in camp sounded more appealing after a while.
It was a free-form weekend, everybody did what they felt like doing.

Looking towards the top that's visible from camp. But it's not the real top, oh no, that's miles away.

Looking back towards Big Pines campground.

The trail climbs steadily but not too steeply. Camp is visible on the right.

A look over the other side of the hill to the river below. The tower in the distance is our quest for the day.

The cars in camp are getting tinier.

Far ahead we could see parasailers near the summit. I put a zoom lens on the camera to capture the sight.

I turned the zoom lens back towards camp, just as Andy with his Minnie Winnie (Winebago), were leaving with the rafters. (Our camp is top right.)

George, Therese and I kept climbing.

The trail just keeps going!

And going!

Two parasailers were heading straight for us!

We could hear the wind whooshing through his cords as he flew by.

They seem to have excellent control of their wings.

His buddy preferred to stay up high.

They were flying to the green field on the right. We later learned there were about sixty flyers with two kegs camped there.

We scared up lots of grouse on our hike.

A wide angle view of the bend in the river. Looking upstream towards Ellensburg (which would be on the right).

Looking to the left, downstream towards Roza dam and Yakima.

And still we kept hiking.

There was an old barbed wire fence up here. Most of the fence poles were blown over, but the "rock box" anchors remain.

On the left half of the picture you can see the ridge we've been hiking up.

Therese had her binoculars out, looking for the rafters we knew were down there somewhere.

Another look downstream.

We're getting higher!

We're nearing the summit.

And there's a crowd already up there!

They drive up, and then fly down.

The wind lifts their sail, they run a few steps, and then they're airborne. Amazing!

One after another.

The more I watched, the more I thought "Hey, I could do that!" And then, "I wanna do that! Show me the training video!"

Just a few more steps.

Feeling pretty good! (That's a little tower, not visible from below.)

The big tower, and as high up as we could go on this mountain.

A look back down. I think we're higher than that hill across the way now.

Heading back down.

Trying to beat the darkness to the bottom.

One last look downstream. A little color in the sky for a sunset.

The last good daylight picture of the day.

The evening poker tournament. Rich played strong and took all the chips.

In the morning we had the beautiful day we were supposed to have Saturday. (Sunday was supposed to be the rainy day!)

Cooking up last night's chicken for breakfast. Nobody starved this weekend.

Therese lost her gloves on the way down last night. And we felt like hiking back up to look for them.

Instead of taking the usual roundabout trail, we took the more direct gulley trail.

George is pointing to where he thinks the gloves might be.

A look back down at our route. Therese and Lauryn are catching up.

George cut across the hill here. I walked up the gulley a bit more before cutting over towards the top.

As it turned out I did a flanking maneuver on George and ended up ahead of him when I expected to be behind. He found the gloves!

A look down at camp from what looks like the top of the hill from camp (but the true top is where the tower is).

I hauled the zoom lens up, so of course I'm gonna use it. Look, there's now a river site open next to our camp!

A look up at yesterday's achievement.

The rocks don't look interesting from far away. But when you're right there, you see they have a lot of color and texture.


A couple fishermen on the river way below.

A really great trail. The more I hike it, the more I like it.

Moseying down the hill.

Another look up the ridgeline.

Even though camp is to the left, it's much quicker to stay on the trail and follow it around the long way.

A touch of purple along the path.

The trail eventually bends back around towards our camp.

The home stretch.

Driving away from Big Pines you can see the ridge and tower from the road.

A look back at the ridge we had climbed all weekend.

Why couldn't we have this weather yesterday?

A butterfly on the flowers.

With scenery like this, I drive slow.

Low water levels this weekend. That gravel bar on the side of the river is usually under water.

For some this river is world class fishing. To me, the whole canyon is world class fun.

And world class beautiful.

Even if you don't float the canyon, it's worth driving!

Past Ellensburg, approaching Thorp, these were the last patches of sunshine I saw all day. Back to Seattle!
Another weekend well spent.

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