Forum Index > Trip Reports > Black Canyon Loop  4/19/08 Central WA
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More Cowbell
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More Cowbell
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PostSat Apr 19, 2008 10:28 pm 
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Wow, almost 1 year to the day later and I got to finish the loop.

Our party of four consisted of our fine chauffeur Putz-n-Boots, JimK (the token male) and the Quarkinater.

The drive over was a winter wonderland with sunbreaks, slush and light snow until we hit E-burg for another visit to the Bi-Mart.  We were prepared for the worst of weather and were able to use all of our clothing options at some point in the day.  Umptanum/Wenas road was in respectable condition with the exception of a few mud holes and bumpy spots.

Putz cruised the Subaru up the final nasty 1.3 miles of the road to the TH without a hitch.  I have new respect for this mobile as it was packed full of 4 loaded hikers and never bottomed out.

We parked next to one other car and the occupants returned just as we were setting out.  Well actually they returned just as I was pulling my pants down to pee but I managed to spot them before an embarrassing moment happened.  embarassedlaugh.gif

The sun was out and after 10 minutes we had to take off the coats.  Flowers are starting to bloom but things are definitely behind last spring.  By the time we reached the cabin, strange white things were falling from the sky and they kept falling in varying amounts for the rest of the day.  At the road junction we chose to go counter clockwise and headed on up, passing many flowers, treacherous snow fields (see pics and videos), mud  holes and balloon depositories.  We heard a riotous frog chorus and followed the sound until they saw us and ended the concert by the pond.

By this time it was well past lunchtime and we parked ourselves on some ponderosa stumps and ate in the snow.  3 ORV dudes rode by and were very polite and driving at a nice quiet speed.  They were our last human sightings of our hike.  So basically we saw two hikers at the trailhead and 3 ORV dudes all day.

We continued on up to the view point where the wind was blowing and the snowflakes fluttering down on all the yellow bells, violets, buttercups, parsley and rock rose starts.  Scat was everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE.  Our plan was to do the extra loop up the ridge heading west and then back down to meet up with the cabin road but the wind was so fierce that we shrub stepped our way down to the road a bit early to avoid any more serious wind burn and burning hot/cold ear syndrome (ask Quark).

By this time my heel/achilles issues were really flaring up and I was a cranky wench.  We finished our loop as quickly as possible (which wasn't all that quick for a gimp like me) and were pelted by hail just before reaching the car.  So for seeing REALLY INTENSE rain/snow squalls all over the place we got very lucky and only experienced some snow , hail and hide chapping wind.  We all want to come back when the weather is a little nicer and the flowers are in prime bloom.

Great company, great views, lots of laughs, I give this day a  up.gif
Quark Shambling
Quark Shambling
Blue eyed Mary
Blue eyed Mary
The state of the lupin
The state of the lupin
More Shambling for Flowers
More Shambling for Flowers
Oh No!  We're losing Quark
Oh No!  We're losing Quark
Leaping to safety
Leaping to safety
Early Shooting Stars
Early Shooting Stars
Yellow stuff
Yellow stuff
Looking North from the Ridge Top
Looking North from the Ridge Top
Stormy weather
Stormy weather
Heed the sign
Heed the sign
Heeding the sign
Heeding the sign
Quark reviews the day
Quark reviews the day

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“If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes.” - Unknown
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Hiker Mama
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 5:18 am 
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Sounds like you guys had a neat trip.  Too bad the flowers weren't what you were hoping for, but at least you'll have a great excuse to go again!
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bobbi
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bobbi
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 7:29 am 
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i believe any hike with the 4 of you is fantastic!  great job fighting the elements.  MC-your photos are always delightful.  i love the shooting star photo!  i best get on the trail where i know there are several gathered waiting to have their picture taken by me!

oh, glad you finished your loop!

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bobbi ૐ

"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!" - Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss
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More Cowbell
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More Cowbell
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 8:00 am 
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Hiker Mama wrote:
Too bad the flowers weren't what you were hoping for, but at least you'll have a great excuse to go again!

Just wait until my slumbering companions get their flower photos up.  They pressured me to get the TR up and running last night and have any of them added their posts yet?   vent.gif

wink.gif

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“If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes.” - Unknown
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostSun Apr 20, 2008 8:32 am 
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More Cowbell wrote:
I have new respect for this mobile as it was packed full of 4 loaded hikers and never bottomed out.

We weren't really loaded, we just acted that way. suuure.gif

Black Canyon has soared to among the top of spring central Washington destinations for me.  The Bauer/Nelson book, "Best Desert Hikes" pronounces it "stunning."  I agree.  Wow, what a place.  Very diverse.  First is the road walk among beautiful sagebrush, willows, basalt talus slope and the flora that comes along with such topography, and the gigantic birches.  I was astounded by the size of these things.  If I hadn't lagged behind the group, I would have got more photos using A. Hiker for scale, but did catch up with everyone at the obligatory stop at the cabin site and captured one photo to share:  Check out the size of this thing (I mean the tree, not A. Hiker):   
Tree hugger_huge birch
Tree hugger_huge birch

The birch showed a lot of evidence of porcupine activity, though we never saw one:   
Porcupine old and new scars on three trees
Porcupine old and new scars on three trees
Porcupine old and new scars
Porcupine old and new scars

Gorgeous stroll: 
Birch or alien
Birch or alien
Birch and colorful holly
Birch and colorful holly
Sage, osier, willow, slope
Sage, osier, willow, slope
Willows and slope
Willows and slope
birch and willows in background
birch and willows in background
critterprints in the snow
critterprints in the snow
Drops on fuzzy leaf
Drops on fuzzy leaf

Varied conditions included hail, graupel, sunshine and windy-as-hell on the ridge.  It was butt-cold up there, too (more on that later).  Desert road walk, then into a beautiful ponderosa forest, then up to the ridge.  Lots of variety to keep one interested.  More Cowbell said that last year they didn't finish the loop.  THey must have been crazy.  This place draws you in from the parking lot, and you want to just keep going.

There's even glissading to be done.

Loaded Jim, glissading:
Jim acting like a wierdo. Black Canyon
Jim acting like a wierdo. Black Canyon
critterprints in the snow
critterprints in the snow

Flowers are not out en force, unless you count acres blanketed with grass widow and buttercup. 
Yellow bell2jpg
Yellow bell2jpg
Grass widow trio
Grass widow trio

I got bogged down by a bog:  Donned my raingear and got down in the drink.  humpy.gif
Bubbles, moss and stems2
Bubbles, moss and stems2
Bubbles, moss and stems1
Bubbles, moss and stems1
Intrepid flower in ice
Intrepid flower in ice

Had to have a cigarette & straighten my clothes out after that photo shoot.

The cloudscapes in Central Washington always add so much to an already saturated-with-beauty scene.
Hikers on ridge, storm rolling in2
Hikers on ridge, storm rolling in2
Looking east_slope, clouds
Looking east_slope, clouds
Storm rolling in, valley
Storm rolling in, valley
Sweeping rain and slope
Sweeping rain and slope

I was also impressed with the size of the ponderosas here.  Huge
Tree hugger_huge ponderosa
1 label
Tree hugger_huge ponderosa

We topped the ridge, ran it a bit, then dropped down because of the high winds and biting cold.  God it was cold.

Once down on the secondary roadwalk, we had the memorable quotes of the day:

PiB:  "My butt is cold and it itches."  Thank you for that, PiB. rolleyes.gif

Quark:  "My left ear is hot like it's on fire.  Is it red?  Why would my ear be so hot!"
More Cowbell:  "is it hot because it's so cold?"  Hmmmm....

Beautiful place.  For the ole Quarkster, I'd take this place anytime.  But if you want the flower show give it another 3 weeks or so.  The balsamroot leaves are are barely poking up.  There will be tons of rock rose blooming at the ridge, too. up.gif

Wonderful BBQ dinner at Rodeo City.  I like that place.  Lookout Sue and Lookout Bob took me there years ago after a Whiskey Dick trip.

Thanks to MC for the trip, thanks to PiB for the drive.

Finally got to see Squaw Tit (we went home via Wenas Valley to Manastash highway).

*Note:  all photos were shot on location

--------------
"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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More Cowbell
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More Cowbell
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 9:04 am 
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Do not try this at home!  JimK took a huge risk with this glissade to save Quark who had slid to the bottom of the trail.  Take note of his unusual techniques that were learned only with months of certification training for adventuring in the Ellensburg Alps.



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“If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes.” - Unknown
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GeoTom
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 10:25 am 
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That glissade from Jim is just practice for Iron Peak  agree.gif

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Grizzy
Yellow Cedar Hugger



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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 11:06 am 
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Nice report! I was up there last week. It is about the only snow free place for hiking right now...That cabin is cool, I wonder how old it is and what the story is behind it.

Two springs ago I went early spring backpacking on the other side of that valley, Clemen Mountain, it was an excellent choice! All the elk hunters had left these elaborate camps and we just walked up to them...custom seats, loads of cut firewood, custom outhouses.....it was hysterical.

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All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
We never tire of looking at each other -
Only the mountain and I. ~Li Po~
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostSun Apr 20, 2008 11:36 am 
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Hey, Grizz, I missed that TR.

So you were out on a cloudless, warm day....I'm sorry - better luck next time (truly, the clouds add so much to Central Washington views).

I found a pit toilet near the cabin that didn't look too old.  I don't know if it belonged to the cabineer or if it was installed later to accommodeate hunters (heh, get it?).  The trees inside the cabin aren't too old, but then again maybe they grow slower there than west of the crest, or perhaps the growth of 'em had been delayed by hunter use quite awhile before they gave it up and the trees took over...?  I thought it was pretty well-built, considering it was likely built mostly by hand (and it's still standing).  Too bad it's so easily accessible - idiots have carved into the wood and not satisfied with that, they also carved onto nearby trees.

Dunno when the area  became public lands, but perhaps knowing that would be a start in determining the age of the cabin.  It was elaborate enough to have had a woodburning stove in it at one time - you can see the stovepipe hole in the roof.

Rich Baldwin and I went to Cleman Mtn last year, via Hwy 12 to 17 (or 71...?).  Wonderful summit. up.gif , but we didn't explore the canyons around there.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Grizzy
Yellow Cedar Hugger



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Grizzy
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 11:57 am 
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Cleman Mt. is a great place to get an early start on overnights, it's closed right now for the Elk, but it opens again May 1st. If you time it right, the four-wheelers can't get in there yet because of snow, and you have the whole area to yourselves...We went up Big Burn Canyon.

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All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
We never tire of looking at each other -
Only the mountain and I. ~Li Po~
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Hiker Mama
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 1:23 pm 
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Quark and PIB, very nice photos.  I just love all those grass widows.  wub.gif Those yellow-bells make me all happy inside, too.
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JimK
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PostSun Apr 20, 2008 3:04 pm 
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[i]A fun day indeed. I'll include a little more detail on the trip.i]


I did not have any plans for Saturday. Kim mentioned she and Janet and Kirsten were heading east to Black Canyon. I had not been there and tagged along on their trip. It's a long drive so we met at the SE 8th Park and Ride at 7:15 AM. It had snowed the day before all over the Seattle area. I had enough to cover my cars and Janet, farther north, had enough to build a snowman. Very strange weather for past mid April. We had some snow and slush on the road over Snoqualmie Pass but little traffic. Beyond Easton we could see some blue sky to the east.

Our route was to take Exit 109 at Ellensburg and then go on Umptanum Road to to Wenas Road and the trailhead. Its a little under 25 miles from the start of Umptanum Road. First we had to get a Fish & Wildlife parking permit. That required a side trip to the Bi-Mart in Ellensburg. Uptanum Road was snow free over Ellensburg Pass and in pretty good shape. There were a few rocky patches but little mud.

We found the turnoff on the Wenas Road, drove to the gate and on to the parking spot. There is room at the end of the road for about 3 cars but we parked just before that at a larger grassy spot. The road was a little rough but no problem with Janet's Subaru Outback. There was one truck parked and the owners came back as we were getting ready to go. They only went up to the cabin and came right back. It was chilly but partly sunny as we got underway.

Black Canyon
Black Canyon
Sagebrush
Sagebrush
Getting Ready
Getting Ready

We had some light snow on the drive from Ellensburg. The good news is that I was hiking on dirt for a change. The route is all on an old road. The canyon starts right about where we parked. The road starts with a moderately steep grade which was good to help us warm up. A few small flowers were blooming almost immediately. Kim found interesting things to photograph where the rest of us didn't and fell behind. She managed to keep finding interesting things all the way up and down.

Wenas Valley Below
Wenas Valley Below
First Flowers
First Flowers
Prairie Star
Prairie Star
Canyon Wall
Canyon Wall
Bluebells
Bluebells
Fuzzy Leaves
Fuzzy Leaves
Ice
Ice

After a mile or so we came to the old cabin. The roof is partly missing but it doesn't look ready to collapse any time soon. There are some very large pine trees near the cabin. I didn't expect to find big trees this high on Umtanum Ridge. We parked at around 2500' and the cabin is around 3200'. Beyond the cabin the early flower show began to pick up. We found yellow bells, buttercups, and grass widow's in abundance. The first two I have seen often though the latter is not one I recognized.

Old Cabin
Old Cabin
Inside Cabin
Inside Cabin
Yellowbell
Yellowbell
More Bluebells
More Bluebells
Evergreens
Evergreens
Lingering Snow
Lingering Snow
Snow Angel
Snow Angel
Buttercups
Buttercups
Close Up Buttercup
Close Up Buttercup
More Buttercups
More Buttercups
Grass Widow
Grass Widow
Another Widow
Another Widow

Kirsten even spotted a lone shooting star along the road. The road has been bermed in a number of spots requiring some climbing up and down to get by. There was a snow bank along the road and I braved climbing all 10 feet or so to the top for a scintillating glissade down. After that we heard a loud concert of croaking from seemingly hundreds of frogs. A short detour took us to a large pond but as we neared the croaking came to an immediate stop.

It was a little overcast now and getting colder. We stopped for lunch off the road in a partly snow covered meadow. A group of ORVs went by. We saw those folks again on the ridge top. They were the only other folks we saw on the trail all day. Our liesurely pace meant that it took nearly 3 hours to make it about 2 1/2 miles. Still, it was fun to explore and photograph so much.

Janet & Camera
Janet & Camera
Tiny Flower
Tiny Flower
What's Going On?
What's Going On?

After lunch we hit the road and headed up to the ridge top. Kirsten had been up here one year earlier but they did not make it to the ridge. The road had a few snow patches but is nearly bare now. On the ridge top we could see down to Ellensburg. The mountains were most all in the clouds. Umtanum Ridge ungulated up and down in both directions. It looked like an easy climb to the higher point to our right.

Whlle it was clouder than when we started the views were still not that bad. We decided to do the loop along the ridge and back down to the road just above the cabin. I'm sure there would be great views out to the Stuart Range and maybe Mt. Raiinier on a clear day. Our high point was a little over 3900'. The ridge top had many more yellow bells, buttercups, and grass widows. We did see some desert bluebells at places on the route as well. There are lots of bitterroot plants though none are close to flowering yet. Should be lots of pink up there in a month or so.

Ridge Top View
Ridge Top View
Squalls
Squalls
Kirsten & Clouds
Kirsten & Clouds
More Clouds
More Clouds
Rolling Terrain
Rolling Terrain
Really Close Up
Really Close Up
Ridge Top Roaming
Ridge Top Roaming

As we hiked along the ridge the wind began to pick up. It wasn't gusting but was just steady and ice cold. We dropped a little then began a climb to another high point. The wind was now really cold. Even with my hood on my ears and face were going a little numb. A few small snow flurries fell off and on. The road continued farther along the ridge and I voted to head straight down. We went a short ways and the wind lightened considerably. After a short drop we could see a road below. That became our new destination.

The slope was not too steep and we worked our way though patches of sagebrush. There may have been ticks here but we were all covered from head to toe because of the cold. Once back on the road we had an easy descent back to the road we had come up. From there it was just a road walk out. We had more patches of sun followed by dark clouds, snow, and who knows what. Janet and I reached the car first and just after we had our gear packed away it started dumping big hail stones. Yep, we had just about every type of weather there is. For the day we traveled about 7.3 miles with 1600' of gain.

Cross Country Descent
Cross Country Descent
Yellowbells
Yellowbells
A Hail Of A Time
A Hail Of A Time

On our route home we chose to make a loop of it. We turned left on the Wenas Road and followed it back to Selah. From there we took Highway 82 back to I-90. We stopped at Rodeo City in Ellensburg for dinner. Not bad food. Finally we were heading west. By the time Janet dropped us off and I dropped off Kim and Kerstin it was 9:10 asd I walked through my door. That was nearly 15 hours after I left that morning. It was a long day but a fun one.

Any trip with Janet, Kim, and Kirsten will be fun. They are not a group that will be discussing serious matters all day. That was great with me. We had a good time on a trail that was new to three of us. It was a nice break from all the snow I've been on since last November. The flowers were far from their peak but still there was a nice early snow. I would love to come back when the bitterroot, balsamroot, and lupine are in full bloom.

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Hiking Northwest
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goats gone wild
Mr. Goat



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goats gone wild
Mr. Goat
PostSun Apr 20, 2008 7:37 pm 
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Quark, I really like those shots of the big trees on the eastside.  Wonder how many growth rings they have?  My guess is you were just flirting with those trees (nothing too serious, I hope) and that you're still lookin to marry a big spruce.

Pib, I like the pic of the phlox  (wider view--30, is my favorite).  What a pretty little flower.

MC, You did good getting this trip together.   up.gif  Sometime when the car is not "loaded"  I would love to join you all.  The way you four spent the day sounds like my cup of tea....except for maybe the cold itchy butt and hot ears.

JimK, I'm wondering why you did that glissade so many times, over and over?  Was your butt itchy too?   winksmile.gif

Thanks all, for sharing your day!  up.gif

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.....leaving me wanting to return over and over in what ever capacity that may be, even if one day my knees are too old and I can only see the mountains from my porch.

Jason Hummel
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostSun Apr 20, 2008 9:03 pm 
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GGW, I'm still in love with the sitka spruce.   I'm in the beginning stages of learning about old growth east side trees - larches and ponderosas in particular.  If undisturbed, ponderosas can live up to 600 years.  They're quite suseceptible to bugs and disease, aren't as tolerant of pollution as doug fir and hemlocks.  Fire supression also changes and endangers their habitat.  Pre fire suppression, uncontrolled fires raged, keeping the understory and competing vegetation in check.

Not long ago, someone was convicted of poaching several old growth ponderosas near Plain, Wa.  I can't help but wonder how anyone could miss a guy hauling out a huge ponderosa, but maybe he disguised it as his wife or something and put it in the passenger seat of his truck.  On the other hand, people do stuff like that in Seattle in order to drive the HOV lanes and get away with it.  This is no different.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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LizzyBob
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PostMon Apr 21, 2008 6:45 am 
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Holy Cowbell, that was you?! I was one of the two hikers leaving as you arrived. Yeah, great TRs. Beautiful hike. Did not have the time to finish it, so nice to see the pictures from your hike. up.gif
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