I spent this past weekend doing some canyon cruisin' in one of my favorite places in Washington: Umtanum Canyon. It's sort of odd that I never knew how gorgeous the Eastern side of Snoqualmie Pass was until some family drama required me to be in Yakima two Christmases ago. Silver Linings, folks!
Last March, I took this same trip to Umtanum with one of my oldest friends, Jasmine. We attempted to summit the ridge crest but were unsuccessful. It was pretty brutal since there was still snow on the ground and traction was a definite issue, especially towards the end. After winding through the canyon and steadily climbing elevation towards the ridge line, you come upon two GIGANTIC, dusty hills. Worst part is, it looks like one giant hill until you crest it and discover the second one behind! Gahhh. Approaching the peak viewpoint while moving farther away from the Yakima River turns the earth below your boots to a crumbling brown dust, which required me to maneuver on my hands and knees more than once.
Reaching the cairns at the top felt like a huge success to me after turning around on this trail just over a year ago. Spectacular views of Mt. Rainier on a good day, which it was. 65 degrees and sweaty! Lupines and more in bloom. We ran into two guys who had crushed the climb up and were shocked to find out that one of them had only one sock on and kept switching it back and forth to avoid blisters! Never judge a book by its cover out on the trails. Some of the most experienced and knowledgeable hikers I have met over the last few years have appeared out of shape or elderly. I love telling the story of my favorite hike encounter with 71 year old Don, but I'll save that for another day. Suffice it to say, he kept my pace no problem.
Recently a friend told me that she gets anxiety when she reaches the top of a hike. Something about the return trip sends her nervous system into overdrive. The feeling of accomplishment from sitting atop a peak, or reaching an alpine lake hidden at the top of forest trails, can be dampened by the idea of more work without as appealing of an endgame (return to your car, to your day, to life outside of the woods). All of this is practice in absorbing and living the present moment. Everything about hiking does this for me. One step in front of another, and another, and another, and no step is better than the last, regardless of what you see or feel. You just push through and feel everything as it is.
Climbing our way up the Canyon ridge line took almost three hours. Coming back down took a third of that time, even though we were in no rush. In the warm, late afternoon hours the entire canyon floor was illuminated bright green. It was stunning, and so much more lush than you would ever expect from the "desert" of Washington.
I definitely need to investigate floating the Yakima River this summer. It looked ridiculously inviting after such a strenuous hike. So excited that I was able to complete 2500ft of elevation gain in three miles up. It is the most elevation I have hiked in 1 day since dislocating my kneecap last April. Treated myself to a delicious Dairy Queen Blizzard after as well 'cus #dualitybaby !
Note: The private parking lot that borders the trailhead is $5 day use and $15 overnight. DISCOVER PASS NOT ACCEPTED.