Monday, December 29, 2008

A night in the Desert - 12.28.08

Jennifer wanted to get out while she was on break from College. She was interested in a snow shoe, but avalanche danger was high in the mountains, and quite frankly, I didn't really feel like going for a snow shoe.

We decided to spend two days in the central Washington desert instead. We were going to see some geological history (Dry Falls) and some Native American history (Lenore Lake Caves.) The goal was to drive out Sunday. We would set up camp at a state park, and then hike. The following day we would take down camp, go for a hike and come home.

Things started out good with a snowy drive up to Snoqualmie Pass. After the pass, the skies cleared, and it was sunny and cold. We found Sun Lakes State Park with no problems and soon became the only people intending to camp there. (And really, the only people using the park.) Sadly, I brought the wrong poles for the tent, and this meant setting the fly up as a tarp, but that did not deter us. We settled on a camp site and decided to set the tarp up later and go for a hike around Umatilla Rock.

Almost immediately our hike became interesting. Near our campsite we witnessed a hawk take one of the quails. We then started down the road to our destination. Snow coverage was about 8-16" depending on drifting etc. The trail is mostly road, and some sections even seem like they were recently plowed. It would have been nice snow for XC skiing. After a bit we arrived at an intersection with a sign and map indication trails. We opted to circle Umatilla Rock counterclockwise, and proceeded to take an off trail course in that direction. We saw and followed many coyote tracks, and even saw a den, but we never did see a coyote. Later, near the far (north) end of Umatilla Rock, we witnessed a good sized rock fall off Umatilla Rock. The scenery was beautiful, and we had the coulee all to ourselves. Once on the west side of Umatilla Rock, we regained the road, and hiked back to camp during sunset.

We set up the fly between two trees before preparing dinner. After dinner and an evening walk, we went to bed. (around 7:30pm) I fell asleep quite easily, but Jennifer could never get warm, and at 11pm woke me up to let me know she was going to sleep in the car. I stuck it out outside, and awoke at 7am to snow falling on my face. I went to wake Jennifer in the car, and we noticed that the Nalgene in the car was icy. Apparently, Jennifer couldn't keep the inside of the car warm enough to keep water from freezing. The NWS had predicted a low of 22°, which didn't seem that cold to me.

After we sorted ourselves out, we headed to Lake Lenore Caves. These are caves left by the Great Missoula Flood, which Native Americans have used for millennia. It was a short hike with some interesting caves. We entered most of them and looked for petroglyphs, but did not see any. Unfortunately, vandals have put graffiti in most of the caves. It snowed the whole time we were out on Monday, and we had a long drive back to I90 on snow covered secondary roads. Fortunately, not all 200 miles of driving was done under snowy conditions.

Dry Falls pics are here.
Cave pics are here.

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