Biscuit Ridge Road. The sun was shining brightly in the sky as we set out on our hike on Biscuit Ridge Road on March 18, 2023. With five eager hikers in tow, we were ready for an invigorating adventure.
The trail was challenging, with a 1000′ elevation gain of almost two miles. The beautiful weather and stunning views of Walla Walla in the distance made the climb more than worth it.
Despite the occasional patches of snow, we made steady progress. It was a perfect blend of physical challenge and natural beauty, shared with the best of company.–Karen Yager
Pikes Peak Road. On April 9, 2023, we set out on a hike up Pikes Peak Road, eager to explore the stunning Walla Walla Valley from above. The road was in good condition, except for a few rutty places, and the fir trees on either side of us added to the serene and peaceful atmosphere of the hike.
The climb was steep, and at times it felt like the trail was almost vertical, but the gorgeous views of the valley below kept us motivated. We trudged through some patches of snow. After less than two hours of hiking, we finally reached the summit at 3639 feet, marked by a group of cell towers. We paused to catch our breath and take in the stunning views of the verdant Walla Walla Valley below, feeling a sense of accomplishment at having made it to the top.
The descent was easier as we enjoyed the beauty of the natural surroundings. We spotted elk tracks near the bottom, a reminder that we were guests in their home.
By the time we finished the 3.38 mile hike, we were exhausted but exhilarated. It was a day that reminded us of the beauty and wonder of the natural world, and we were grateful to have been able to experience it together.–Karen Yager
Barnes Rd. On April 15, 2023, we set out on a hike up Barnes Road with a group of four hikers. The evergreen trees surrounded us, and there was water everywhere. We had to navigate through patches of snow and enjoyed the sunshine and blue skies.
After 1.5 hours of hiking and covering 2.08 miles, we finally reached the summit at 3173 feet where we encountered deep ditches in the road. The views were stunning, with snow-capped mountains in the distance, vibrant purple and yellow flowers lining the trail, and two dozen elk running down the hill to the east of us.
The descent was very steep as we headed south toward S Coppei Rd. By the time we finished the hike, we were tired and rejuvenated by the beauty of nature and the physical challenge of the hike.–Karen Yager
Wallula Gap. On April 19, 2023, we set out on our Wallula Gap hike, a group of nine eager hikers, ready for an adventure. The sun was shining and the puffy white clouds in the blue skies above promised a beautiful day ahead.
As we hiked, we saw all sorts of stunning sights – beautiful yellow and purple flowers in bloom, fragrant green sage, towering basalt cliffs, and scoured valleys and ponds.
The highlights of our hike, however, came when we spotted a singing coyote in the distance and a happy vibrant meadowlark. We stopped in awe, listening to the coyote’s haunting melody echo off the basalt rock formations around us.
Continuing on, we made our way up and down the hills, enjoying the challenge of the 574′ elevation and taking in the breathtaking views of the Twin Sisters peaks and the mighty Columbia River below.
As we walked, we chatted and laughed, enjoying the company of our fellow hikers and the beautiful scenery around us. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to explore the Wallula Gap.
Finally, after covering 4.34 miles, we made it back to our starting point, feeling tired but invigorated by the experience. It was a wonderful day full of friendship and the beauty of nature.–Karen Yager
N Fork Coppei Falls. April 22, 2023, was a beautiful sunny day for a hike as seven eager hikers set out to conquer the steep and strenuous hillside full of brush, wet long grass, and treacherous slides. We wore leather gloves to help pull ourselves through the brush without getting hurt.
From above, we could see water cascading over the waterfall, which was about 71 feet high. As we were admiring the waterfall, we saw a herd of elk running down the hillside in the distance. We also spotted a snake and a couple of conch shells (which seemed unusual on a steep hill away from water), as well as some lovely mountain flowers. The ground was wet from recent rain, and in some places, it was slick. Our hiking poles were a lifesaver, helping us traverse the hillside without too much slipping.
There was lots of evidence (black trees) of the lightning caused Columbia Complex Fire which began as several smaller fires (e.g. Columbia Fire, Whiskey Creek Fire and Cory Eye Fire) on August 21, 2006 near the south fork of the Touchet River just south of Dayton Washington. They eventually merged into one large fire. In the early stages of the fire high winds, hot temperatures, and low humidity fanned the flames and by August 23, the fire had grown to 43,000 acres.
As the day began to wane, we knew we had to head back up the mountain. The ascent was even more challenging than the descent, as we tried to find areas with the least amount of brush.
When we got to the top, we knew we had experienced something special. The hike had pushed us to our limits, and the reward was worth it – the memory of the stunning waterfall and the sense of accomplishment would stay with us as two of the hikers pronounced this hike a “10”.–Karen Yager
Yager Hill-Leid Rd-S Coppei Rd. May 13, 2023. On a gorgeous sunny day prior to Mother’s Day, 11 hikers shared stories and memories of our mothers, expressing our deepest appreciation for the women who had nurtured and guided us throughout our lives. Then we started the steep climb up Yager Hill, our spirits high, eager to conquer the challenging 1000’ elevation gain trail that awaited us.
We were rewarded with birds chirping, elk tracks, evergreen trees, deep canyons, and spectacular views of the snow-covered Blue Mountains in the distance, as well as the cities of Walla Walla, Tri Cities, and wind turbines in the Pomeroy area. The camaraderie among the group blossomed as we relished the joy of newfound friendships.
As we descended Leid Road and returned via S. Coppei Road, we marveled at the peace and quiet. Even though the 5 mile journey in almost 4 hours had been physically demanding, the beauty that surrounded us made it worthwhile. We carried memories of a beautiful day among friends.–Karen Yager
S Fork Coppei Falls. May 20, 2023. Eleven enthusiastic hikers started our hike on Lewis Peak Road, heading down a private road (with permission) that was fairly well-maintained. Once we got to a washout, the road was no longer maintained, so we had to climb over and duck under trees and limbs. When we got to an open meadow, we had a beautiful view of the canyon. Ahead of us was a very steep hillside, full of lovely mountain flowers of all varieties, including wild onion plants, and lots of rocks.
After traversing the steep hillside, we came to the falls, which were not very spectacular this time of year. We entered the forest and had lunch right above the falls. On our way back, we attempted to find some elk trails to make it easier to climb the hill. Instead, we did some more bushwhacking, climbing up a steep hillside full of brush and trees. Eventually, we made it up the hill to a private drive which took us to Lewis Peak Road.
It was a great adventure with lots of camaraderie and fun. We hiked for about four hours. It was a glorious day with clear blue, sunny skies, and a little breeze. It was perfect weather for a strenuous hike.–Karen Yager
Juniper Dunes Wilderness. May 27, 2023. Mr. Joy’s desert cows galore to welcome us, sand dunes lifting themselves up to the clear sky as far as the eye can see, a gloriously shining spring day with air that invites you to explore a world untouched by roads or any sign of human habitation. Wild flowers (pale blue flax and rosy lilies fading toward summer), robust and berry-laden Juniper trees thriving in these northern hills that hide their water deep. We were just eight light-hearted hikers filled with shouts and laughter, exhilarated to follow our curiosity and our unbounded gaze. Artistically striped wind patterns and eerily translucent grasshoppers abundantly adorned the dunes. Up them we athletically flexed our calves, and down them we sashayed as we lightly inscribed our freely chosen paths. Three hours and three point three miles, though at the end we jokingly insisted there must be a multiplying factor for all the ups and downs and countless grains of sands we had fleetingly indented. But the Columbia River breeze will soon sweep them smooth with elegant lines to welcome us next spring.–Clark Colahan
Spring Cr & Blacksnake Ridge Rd. June 10, 2023. Our 4 mi hike up Blacksnake Ridge Rd today was a thrilling experience from start to finish. With the sun shining brightly overhead, puffy clouds scattered across the sky, and a gentle breeze brushing against our faces, the stage was set for a perfect adventure.
There were eight of us, a group of enthusiastic hikers and a bicyclist, ready to conquer the challenging terrain that lay ahead. As we embarked on our journey, we were greeted by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. The magnificent mountain views stretched out before us, inviting us to explore their grandeur.
We viewed deep valleys, marveling at the sheer depth and vastness surrounding us. The world seemed to unfold in all directions, and we couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of nature. Along the way, glimpses of Walla Walla added a touch of familiarity, reminding us of the interconnectedness of our journey with the world we knew. The panorama stretched out like a masterpiece, with rolling hills and endless greenery painting the landscape. We soaked in the moment, grateful for the opportunity to witness such natural splendor.
The climb was not without its difficulties, as steep inclines tested our endurance and determination. The reward for our perseverance was twofold – the breathtaking vistas that greeted us at every turn and the satisfying exhaustion that followed, a testament to the great workout we had achieved.
The 4 mi descent was just as rewarding as the ascent, as we reveled in the satisfaction of a hike well done. The day had been everything we had hoped for and more – a perfect blend of physical challenge and natural beauty. We were happy tired, our bodies and minds filled with a sense of fulfillment. With memories of the stunning views and the joy of overcoming obstacles together, we left Blacksnake Ridge Rd behind, grateful for the camaraderie and the bond we had formed during our hike. We walked away with a renewed appreciation for the great outdoors and the adventures that awaited us in the future.–Karen Yager
Tiger Creek. June 21, 2023. Tiger Creek trail (east) is one of the closest Umatilla Forest trails to Walla Walla. (Not to be confused with the signed Tiger Creek West Trail just prior). A mere 17 miles from our carpool site, the trailhead is easy to get to, however hidden and without signage. 14 adults and 4 kids enjoyed this hike, with the kids finding fun everywhere. The trail, although just short of 2 miles (one way), wound through the dense undergrowth along Tiger Creek. The trail was rocky with some ups and downs but did not include significant elevation changes overall. Bubbling water and noisy waterfalls made for a pleasant change from urban noises. The forest towered above and frequent snags were noted to have beautiful shelf fungus and wildlife holes.
After several creek crossings (mostly on rocks), we reached the trail junction which marked the end of our day’s trek. After gathering briefly for our patch kids candy and water, we began our return along the same trail. On the return, we noted a variety of butterflies along with many briefly flowering plants. Maybe we’ll come back for some thimbleberries later in the season. Overall, it was a great 4 mile hike on a beautiful June day.–Sue Wickham and Nancy Wood
Bennington Lake. June 24, 2023. The hike started alongside Mill Creek where we were greeted by a fleet of pelicans skimming along the water’s surface, their keen eyes scanning for an early morning feast. We continued further along and encountered another squadron of pelicans, all swimming in unison, their synchronicity a dance displaying their unity. Crossing the bridge, we found the creek side teaming with life. Goats of all ages happily grazed on the grasses and weeds.
Motivated by the lively start, we carried along Mill Creek and across the bridge at the top, to the outer loop trail. The rolling green hills with the Blues in the background provided a picturesque view along the way. Rows of Christmas trees provide shelter for myriad birds and wildlife. A horse and rider trotted by in the distance. Looping back, we tallied a total of 5.5 miles, starting and finishing the hike along the rippling stream accompanied by a cool breeze.
Sometimes the greatest adventures can be found in the simplest of moments reminding us to cherish and protect the natural world around us.–Amanda Mount
South Fork Coppei Road. July 4, 2023. On our 8-mile walk up and down the road, we 3 hikers were greeted by beautiful wildflowers. The clear blue skies above added a touch of serenity to our journey, enhancing the natural beauty of the lush greenery of the evergreen trees.
One of the highlights of our hike was the absence of traffic, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the tranquility of the wilderness. As we hiked along the gravel road, we encountered three stream crossings which were easy to walk across this time of year. The overhanging trees provided a refreshing respite from the summer heat. As we visited with an owner along the way, a deer approached us cautiously. With the beauty of the day, we were reminded of the ever-changing nature of the landscape we were fortunate to explore today.–Karen Yager
Rim of N Fork Umatilla Wilderness. July 26, 2023. There are times in the Blues, when lushly overgrown Forest Service Roads, unmarked by any signs on the dirt road to what we have decided to call the trailhead, offer extraordinary views, flourishing trees and brilliant flowers, but all without the crowds from a megalopolis fleeing urban sprawl . The hike leader has had to do some off-the- beaten track-searching and scouting in advance, but the results for the hikers can include big smiles and unabashed rejoicing . That’s the story of this week’s Wednesday hike on a long abandoned logging road that overlooks the North Fork of the Umatilla River Wilderness. Conditions were superb: midsummer sun but not too hot, along with a brisk and energizing early morning meeting time that was fine with the sixteen highly active and enthusiastic seniors and one younger novice hiker who was between jobs.
At a little over four thousand feet elevation, and brimming over with conversation as we walked for about four miles, we enjoyed intensely blue skies, and, as advertised, some seemingly unbounded patches of huckleberry bushes sparkling with ripe fruit, en su punto as Spaniards say, so big you couldn’t help thinking they were toros, the biggest variety of blueberries found on an organic farm. And speaking of bulls, toros in Spanish, after about an hour and a quarter, we began to hear some distant animal sound in the woods. Guesses about them ranged from owls to howling dogs to bellowing cattle. What did our band of bully boys and girls encounter three quarters of the way through the trip plan, right there on the side of the road? Yes, unfenced and untethered, an extraordinarily large bull. He never charged, but the leaders, called for turning around; nearly everyone immediately complied, and, after a consolation huckleberry picking and gobbling frenzy near the end of the walk, we strolled back to the cars right on schedule and one more time savored the expansive vista over the wilderness canyon.–Clark Colahan
Ganguet Hill. August 30, 2023. On the enchanting night of the blue full Super Moon, a group of 18 enthusiastic hikers embarked on a memorable adventure. With eager anticipation, we hiked to the top of Ganguet hill and waited ½ hour until 8:12 pm to witness the moon’s slow rise minute by minute. Amidst the tranquil night, we sang moon songs, including Moon River, and some ate Moon pies while one brave soul even did a moonwalk in homage to the celestial body above. Laughter, and an owl’s cry, resonated through the air as we regaled each other with stories.
As the night grew darker, the descent was illuminated by the gentle glow of flashlights as we navigated our way down, laughter still lingering in the crisp night air. The symphony of crickets accompanied our journey, serenading our path with nature’s song. Three loyal canine companions and a spirited 4-year-old child added their own touches to the night. This shared experience under the blue moon’s magical glow united the hikers in a shared sense of wonder and adventure, creating an unforgettable chapter. This gathering etched moments of camaraderie and delight, leaving behind a tapestry of great memories.–Karen Yager
Umatilla Rim Trail. Sept. 23, 2023. On National Public Lands Day, sixteen happy hikers met up in Milton-Freewater. With a pleasantly warming turn in the weather in the first week of Fall, it seemed that the whole Walla Walla Valley was out on the roads, and the line for Dutch Brothers Coffee broke new records, at least in Clark’s memory. It was suggested that the next hike assembling in Muddy Frogwater, now rechristened “The Rocks” by the burgeoning gang of winegrape farmers there, should launch into the Blues at the Fresenius Medical treatment center at the south end of town. Its parking lot is empty on weekends, and located just a few blocks before the highway to Pendleton climbs south out of town. We drove forty minutes on State Route 204 to Andies Prairie sno-park, where we found we were not at all alone. A collection of sports cars were revving up during a mountain-high stop on a high performance tour of the area, and at the other end of the parking lot, a large contingent of volunteer trail repairers were helmeted and ready for action around a Blues Crew truck. Three happy hikers were confused about how to rendezvous there, so we waited for two of them, like air traffic controllers talking them on the phone to a safe landing. The other, Larry, whose phone was turned off, parked at the beginning of the Rim Trail, then wandered in the wilderness for forty-five minutes, showing impressive hiking speed and stamina by catching up to the rest of us via a much more roundabout route.
We formed a more compact squadron by further carpooling for the five-minute drive on a potholed Forest Service road, then found parking along the sides, since the planned spot was filled with invisible weekend campers in large RV’s. It seems likely they were bowhunters. The Blues Crew also reassembled at the same spot, but a quick consultation between their leader and Clark yielded the good news that their work would be farther down the dirt road that begins there. Thanks to Ian’s exceptional knowledge of the area, we were able to avoid bushwacking by taking a new connecting trail from the FS road to the Rim Trail where there is a viewpoint over the deep Umatilla Canyon.
We then hiked west through Mountain Ash trees loaded with brilliant (but inedible) orange fruit and huckleberry bushes harboring a few remaining berries, which we enjoyed sampling. After 2.2 miles we reached our goal, a large meadow on the edge of a spacious mountain terrace, where we luxuriated in a broad view reaching all the way to the flat wheat fields miles below. On the return walk, the club’s founder and genial spirit of adventure, Karen, took a bad fall on the trail when passing on a downhill slope. Her head and a hand hit the ground hard, and it seemed that a finger had broken. This painful mishap aroused a universal and heartwarming rush of sympathy, and people doing everything to make her feel better, including taping two fingers together and feeding her M and M’s. She showed regained strength, turned down offers to find horse or other transportation out for her, and before long announced triumphantly “I am recovered.” Not long thereafter she pronounced what appears to be her personal credo, “Happy Hikers never stop and are always happy.” Then excellent news was proclaimed; the finger was not broken, but had been only dislocated and was now back where it belonged. Awed and cheered by her fortitude and good spirits, we parted with the resolution to return next year, though about three weeks earlier to feast on more abundant huckleberries.-–Clark Colahan
Fort Walla Walla. October 12, 2023. Ten hikers enjoyed perfect Indian Summer weather, exploring the leafy trails and bright fall colors in the Rempel Nature Area near the Fort Walla Walla Museum. The Blue Mountain Audubon Society, in cooperation with the City of Walla Walla, keeps the paths neatly cleared. Recently they have added helpful signs showing the names of the trails, each of which is designated with a wild animal typical of the region. The walk began at five pm, and everyone was eager to spot birds and some of the reported four foxes who now live in the thickly wooded and low-lying wetland. The land is still in much the same condition as when the adjacent Fort Walla Walla was an active military post in the nineteenth century. The fauna we saw were a few magpies, a robin and a rabbit, but autumn blackberries, choke cherries, dragon berries, and soaring apple trees loaded with ripe fruit were abundant. Still, what made the biggest impression were the ancient trees, doubtless dating back to the early period of the fort. Large, gnarled limbs spreading over leafy nooks beside the stream gave the impression of being in a medieval forest. When we finally climbed the rustic stairs up to the parking lot, the sense of having been in the setting of a folktale like Robin Hood was shared by the members of the group, and a softly beautiful orange sunset welcomed us back to the everyday world.–Clark Colahan
Rim of the Palouse River Canyon, Palouse Falls State Park. October 21, 2023. Eight hikers and one deaf dog carpooled in two cars to Palouse Falls State Park. One driver had a Discover Pass, and the other split the ten-dollar parking fee with a rider. The drive, leaving WW on 13th St. and then taking a left turn on Harvey Shaw Road a little after passing the Penitentiary, takes slightly over 60 minutes on good pavement through rolling wheat fields; every time I have done it there has been almost no traffic.
We hiked four miles in pleasantly warm weather along an unmarked dirt road that runs downstream from the park headquarters. About fifteen minutes into the hike, we turned off to the left at a spot nearer to the edge of the cliffs than most other places; the view there of the canyon and river below is spectacular both up and downstream reminiscent of national parks in Utah and northern Arizona. We continued for a little over an hour, then went out on another bluff that also provides a good look over the water in both directions. Turning back, we reached the parking area at the headquarters after two hours. The outstanding feature there was the presence of a knowledgeable volunteer with a three-dimensional map. He enthusiastically explained the geologic history of the canyon. The disappointing aspect of the return was that the ranger and volunteer both told us that the planned hike to a place upstream from the falls, always a highlight of any trip there, has been closed due to problems with visitors slipping and taking minor to more major falls on the loose rock trail that goes down to the rapids slightly above the falls themselves. And there is a growing issue of people writing graffiti on the canyon walls as the park becomes more popular.
This hike is better done in the spring when the water is more spectacular and faster moving. Another advantage of that season is that the vegetation is green and offers abundant flowers, while in the fall the general appearance of the landscape, while sculpturesque, is somewhat drab, in spite of the many dramatic bare-rock volcanic outcroppings associated with the cliffs. The two big advantages on this outing were that we had the trail – or rather the overgrown dirt road with no vehicles at all to contend with – entirely to ourselves. And of course, as we were in a state park, there were no hunters, even at the height of the deer hunting season. When we looked back upstream after two hours, we felt entirely alone in the wilderness. That, plus the radiant blue sky, and the excitement of being at the top of the high cliffs, all contributed to a lively feeling of camaraderie.–Clark Colahan