Canyon Wilderness in Washington
Southeastern Washington’s Blue Mountains are much more a canyon-dissected plateau than a standard mountain range, carved by erosion from the giant stack of Grande Ronde basalt flows. (Indeed, this whole region makes much more geographic sense once you realize that it’s a canyonlands peppered with mountain ranges rather than vice versa.) In late spring, my son and I found three days of wonderful solitude in the far southeastern corner of Washington. It’s great country for wandering, and I hope to wander here a lot more.
Eli hiking in:
From the canyon rim where we started, we had some views of the still snowbound Wallowas:
Pausing for a water break, we realized we were not alone:
Some had tracking collars:
The area was cool and green with spring, but is obviously a very fire influenced landscape. The Grizzly Bear Fire in 2015 was a big one and caused a lot of issues for trails in this wilderness, though we were only skirting the edge of its footprint.
Looking south into Oregon and the main Wenaha River canyon, the fire impacts were clearly evident.
We camped near a somewhat labyrinthine confluence area of several major creeks. We spent a very pleasant day ambling a little ways up a couple of these forks, and could easily have gone much farther into this maze of forested canyons.
Arrowleaf balsamroot was blooming vigorously, along with many other flowers:
Though their banks were jungly and often hard to reach, the big creeks were stars of the show, clear and swift.
These low canyon, open-forested, stream-laced wildernesses of the Inland Northwest can really feel like paradise! I’ll definitely be returning to explore more waterways and some of the higher ridges.