Saturday, January 30, 2010

Muck in the desert

Whew, between massive home projects that have kicked off around here the past 1.5 weeks that need monitoring as well as having a few presentations on the schedule (which both went VERY well!) I've been quiet of late. And I also haven't had much chance to use the cameras even though the weather has been stellar, warm, and El Nino wonderfully dry! But I did take some time to at least stretch my legs a bit on my Yakima trip this week, enjoying some long needed fresh air hiking in one of my favorite areas of the Best Desert Hikes-Washington book, the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area between Ellensburg and Yakima. I've hiked up Umtanum Creek Canyon well over a dozen times, and roamed upward toward Umtanum Ridge almost as many. But it keeps sucking me back into stopping there by the suspension bridge crossing over the Yakima River...and it worked again this trip.

It was very overcast - typical for the inversion type of conditions in January in the Columbia Basin. But what really struck me were the ground conditions. Yuck!!!!!! When the desert soils are making the transition from frozen ground to thawed soil, the muck you have to walk in makes it very hard to actually enjoy hiking around. I've typically avoided hiking much in areas like this in late February for this reason, instead waiting for March and seeing nature wake up. But January is a great hiking time out there! Not this time - the warm El Nino conditions of the past week had temperatures even in the cold pockets like this nearing 40* for much of the week (it was 46* when I pulled in to Yakima that evening!). I still went for a two hour roam, but between the muck in the sky vs. the muck at my feet, let's just say this won't be the most photographic or memorable stop I've ever had here! But I did realize it's only two months until things really come to life, and I'll be all over the Columbia Basin ready to enjoy it!

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