This area seems to get very little overnight visitation. Barriers like the need to carry in all water, difficult and variable road conditions, and conflicting reports/signage about access through private property, promote a tendency to just go elsewhere.
Furthermore, any commute from Puget shores makes even a dayhike unappealing; it took 7 hours (driving 60) from Bellingham. But the dunes, my god, Wilderness dunes! I had to check it out.
After lots of research about private property permissions, vehicle-access possibilities to trailhead, and an overnight permit mailed to the BLM, I was ready to go. A folding shovel and tire pump were thrown into the truck as an extra precaution against getting stuck.
My TH directions were complicated by misinformation and missing signage; here is an improved version:
From Pasco drive east on US12 to Kahlotus exit, Turn north onto Pasco-Kahlotus highway and drive 5.8 miles to Peterson Rd. (watch for grain silos and oversized yellow mailbox). Turn left on unmarked gravel road and continue 4 miles NE; it turns to rough dirt as it transitions to BLM land.
At 4 miles there is a large ATV riding area and parking for RVs, go right on a track that transitions to sand. One can park here and walk 3.5 miles to wilderness gate. Those with 4wd, good clearance, and a short wheelbase may continue into loose sand and deep dips (the biggest washboard I’ve ever seen).
At around mile 3 look for an unassuming sandy double-track curving under power lines to right. If you cross the pipeline road you’ve gone too far. The narrow double–track delivers one to the wilderness gate.
Access issues were reportedly resolved with the privately owned Peterson Rd. access, but a big sign warning of NO TRESPASS was still posted just off the public road. Despite this I anxiously ventured onward past fields actively being crop-dusted until being reassured by herds of RVs, ATVs, and their helmeted jockeys. Missing the unsigned turn at 3 miles caused me to nervously churn about on the sketchy pipeline road for 30 minutes- not recommended. Tire floatation on the sand was fine at regular pressure.
Anyway, after WAY too much truck time, man & dog gratefully tumbled out of the buggy at the fenced wilderness boundary (fenced- as in ensuring it does not escape and cause trouble in town) This minimized my water re-supply trek the following day. Under mid-day sun I lifted a 74lb pack with 2 gallons of water, passed through the gate, and into the trackless grass/sagelands. I took a compass bearing NE and rambled over grassy hill and tumbleweed dale. (the reverse of this bearing was to help me to easily find the gate again). Namesake junipers provided periodic precious shade for Bodhran loaded with his own food and .5 gallon of water.
The destination was some theorized large dunes on the far side of the wilderness area determined from satellite photo. Three miles later we made a home underneath a shady juniper on a high ridge.
The dunes were made possible by sand, wind, and scant water; individual grains leap-frogging one another higher and further. I resisted putting up the tent, but that same wind kept treating our down bags like tumbleweeds. At least it ensured they would not end up downslope snagged by something prickly.
The days were warm and breezy with meadowlark birdsong; nights were cold-serenaded by owls and coyotes, with the lights of Pasco/Richland below. The temperature varied 30+ degrees between day and night. Pre-coffee mornings were spent chasing photos in slippers and early light. Evenings were the same, except for sandaled feet in warm sand
Day 2 required a hike out for water resupply. Despite the compass bearing, I lost my nerve and veered off toward the west too soon and ended up ˝ mile north of the truck This was easily corrected and I was once again under way with 2.5 more gallons. The rest of the day was spent exploring an additional 7 miles of terrain in the northern region. I never located the north entrance but enjoyed good views from dunes toward The Palouse. I only saw 3 dayhikers for the whole trip.
Bodhran, bless his little heart, quickly learned that the dunes were a “no-go” without permission. After I was done with photos he was allowed to rowdy-about as he pleased. Really, he is such a good dog
Dune buggies were audible to the west Saturday, but Friday and Sunday were quietest. I saw lots of ungulate tracks but no beasts. Several varieties of flowers were blooming, punctuating the landscape with vivid color. Morning dunes revealed the tracks of nocturnal activity: beetles, kangaroo rat, lizards, grasshopper mice, ant lions. Jerusalem crickets leapt in waves as we walked the grass. I saw one Whimbrel. No ticks or buzzworms.
Juniper Dunes, in all of its contained majesty, was well worth the journey and uncertainty. Those 7000 acres feel big and lonesome for a pocket Wilderness; big enough to contain the most energetic dayhike, and still fall short. Two nights seemed just about right.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum You cannot attach files in this forum You can download files in this forum