I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, applying sunscreen to every bit of my skin that I though might possibly be exposed while hiking, even though it would be hours before I would be on a trail. I was heading to Wenatchee for the start of two days of Shrub-Steppe Desert hiking, leading a group of Mountaineer hikers.
We met at the Coffee Cabin on 5th and Miller Streets near downtown Wenatchee and headed south on Miller to the trailhead, just 2 miles away. The area is owned and maintained by the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and towers over the town. I had seen a photo of Saddle Rock, the main geologic feature, in the Hiking the Central Cascades book and I immediately wanted to check out the unusual scenery. There was a mix of sand, rock, small trees, basalt cliffs, views of snowy peaks and wildflowers that made hiking there a unique experience.
Considering the heat in the low to mid 80s outside, there was quite a bit of food consumed at McGlinn's Pub after the hike, then later at El Abuelo for dinner, then at the picnic table at Confluence State Park the next morning where a few of us had camped. First on the agenda for the day was to visit the Beezely Hills Nature Preserve in Quincy to see Hedgehog Cactus in bloom. This is the one flower that has been very elusive to a certain party member and, this being her birthday, she wanted to see if a little birthday magic could be summoned to bring on some color in the rocky Steppe desert.
Just a few minutes walk from our cars, we spotted one, then two, then many Hedgehog Cacti in bloom. Success! Then, it was on to Vantage and many more hours of hiking in the hot sun. The goal of the hike was Whiskey Dick, more of a ridge of high points than a single mountain and adjacent to one of the many wind farms sprouting up in the area, a very windy region.
|some green at the spring|
On our hike we saw a bunch of small flowers, non-blooming cacti (which made me happy we had made our detour earlier in the day), one tree, two rattlesnakes (both with their rattles on high), a couple of troughs with no water in them (I checked, and would have dunked my head) and lots and lots of sagebrush. We arrived at a high point, called it good, ate lunch and steadied ourselves for the long slog back down to the canyon and up the other side. There is a point at which a hike becomes a slog and, although there was good company and interesting conversation, the trip began to drift into slog territory. Between the heat, the dusty road which is much longer than the guidebook suggests and the lack of shade and feeling of openness, we felt like we were on a survival mission. I was running low on water, although I started with 2.5 liters, and accepted another liter from a fellow hiker which seemed to revive me some. I was so happy to see my car when we arrived at the trailhead!
The following day, I found the antidote to all the brown of the hills and never-ending sunshine while riding my bike home from my volunteer gig in Madison Valley . I passed through the Arboretum and sat on a bench to eat my lunch with a view of multiple colors of azaleas, many deciduous trees and lots of green, lush grass. It felt so good to be back in Seattle on the lush, green side.