Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Daytrip - May 31

I headed out early tuesday to meet Chris in North Bend for a still indeterminate day trip. I was leaning toward getting east of the mountains and away from the rain. So we headed that way in Chris' car, with her fine dog Coal in the back seat. We considered the Yakima River between Cle Elum and Thorp, and the Yakima Canyon between Ellensburg and Yakima, but ended up heading for Vantage and a loop in the sage desert and basalt cliff country east of the Columbia River.


Other than Taco Del Mar, our first stop was on Lower Crab Creek Road, where we hiked over a low ridge to Lake Lenice, about a half mile from the road.

I took what should have been some fine pictures to share, but there was some sort of camera or memory card malfunction between taking the last picture of the day and trying to upload them into my computer, and I have nothing. Sigh.

But Google did find some online pictures of Lake Lenice, so I am including links that give at least a little suggestion of what it is like. The wetlands were much greener than in those pictures, but they'll have to do.

After walking along the lake itself, we continued east through sage along the upper edge of the basalt ledges bordering the small coulee the lake, Crab Creek, and a string of wetlands are in until the terrain dipped again into a wet and wooded area, where we turned back south toward the road, where we returned back to the car along the abandoned Milwaukee Road rail right-of-way, now a trail.

The whole time, the Saddle Mountains loomed as a long east-west wall to the south of the road, with ever changing clouds of greater or lesser drama streaming up from behind them. Though there were occasional suggestions that it might rain, and Chris insisted that she and Coal were hearing thunder (could it have been blasting at the highway construction site across from Vantage?), we stayed dry and had more periods of sun than chill.

Back in the car, we continued through similarly attractive country east to The charmingly named "SE B" where we turned north toward the Frenchman Hills. The wind had risen, and dramatic dust clouds were rising here and there in the distance around us, and periodic rinsing of the mouth was appreciated.

At a well-known birdwatchers' destination, the ponds near the intersection of Frenchman Hills Road and Dodson Road, we saw less variety and fewer birds than I have ever seen before, probably due to the high winds and high water. But it was still a treat, and we had no regrets.

Continuing North on Dodson Road, we stopped briefly at the Winchester Wasteway, like Frenchman Hills Wasteway and the Crab Creek Wasteway, a product of irrigation runoff and raised subsurface water table.

Dodson Road led is back to I90, which we followed back west to Silica Road, where we immediately turned off the route to The Gorge amphitheater, and went down the old Vantage Ferry Road, which was part of US10 -- the main Seattle-Spokane highway -- from about 1930 to about 1962, when a new bridge was necessitated by the construction of Wanapum Dam. The old bridge replaced the ferry in 1927. The road now would disappear into the lake created by Wanapum Dam, except a boat ramp and parking area have been constructed at the waters edge.

The scenery along this road is a wonderful mix of basalt coulee, sage ledges, and the gorge itself. Returning up the hill, a long sleek dark gray mink-like mammal with a banded bushy tail ran across the road in front of us. Flummoxed us, and my theory is that it is exotic -an escaped pet or fur-farm animal.

From there it was back on I90 for some serious driving back to heavy rain on the wet side of the mountains, with thunder and lighting before I got myself home.


Herman said...

It was a great trip. such great scenery and compainionship. I did hear thunder (or something, I wondered about blasting too, but it passed with the storm clouds) and the wind was blowing the car so very hard at times. had to keep both hands firmly on the steering wheel.

I rarely get east of the mountains, so getting there and having such a great guide was wonderful. The saddle mountains were gorgeous and I quite enjoyed the road down to the old ferry dock

ok, the birds we saw:
common poorwill
GB heron
red headed duck
cinamen teal (don't think alan saw it)
meadow larks
rw blackbirds
tri-colored blackbirds
yellow headed blackbirds
bullocks oriole
bank swallows
we probably heard a rail

I am 99% sure the mammal was a yellow-bellied marmot. skinny from winter, it was to big to be in the weasal family. it was the skinny that confused me. but it had the yellow butt (kind of an extension of the yellow belly) you see in this link:
and here is another link:

...errr... think I've said enough now :)

Alan said...

Whoa, here's a satellite image!