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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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PostSun Jan 03, 2021 4:53 pm 
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I have only seen bighorn sheep once in my life and that was years ago, without Cookie. We rarely go to the desert of Eastern Washington, but I always wanted to finally show some sheep to Cookie. Given stormy weather we finally bit the bullet and made the insanely long drive all the way to Oak Creek Wildlife area near Naches. It was on my backburner for years.

Sadly I didn't check the news beforehand. Whiskey creek trailhead had a sign that pneumonia was discovered in Cleman Mountain bighorn herd, and that sheep pneumonia is lethal and uncurable. It is likely that millions of bighorn sheep roamed the west in ancient times and hundreds of thousands still were present about 200 years ago. Unfortunately hunting, grazing and most devastatingly introducing into the wild bighorn sheep habitat of domestic sheep and goats who carry the bacteria that causes pneumonia (but do not themselves get sick from it) decimated their numbers. But 1920s they were locally extinct in the state of Washington. Thankfully now bighorn sheep are recognized as species in need of protection and small numbers exist again due to re-introduction efforts, but pneumonia still ravages the herds. Back in 2013 pneumonia was discovered in the Tieton herd, also near Naches. At that time state officials euthonized all of the Tieton herd in an effort of stopping the disease spread to the nearby Cleman mountain herd. But in October 2020 hunter hunting sheep from the Cleman herd found a lamb dying from pneumonia anyway. It is possible that Cleman herd is now also doomed frown.gif((

So sadly we didn't see any sheep this time, or any wildlife except a few crows. But the hills of Oak creek wildlife area do still provide home for lots of wildlife. Cleman mountain is definitely the most poop-covered mountain I have ever seen. Deer and elk poop piles happen every couple of feet. In the end, I drove 2.5 hours to hike in some poop. Oh well.


The are is beautiful and some canyon walls have almost alpine, rocky, feel. There are also lots of deer and elk footprints in the snow. And here is another thing I don't see often - on the ridge there was a whole hiking trail left by birds. It was pretty long too, like a few hundred feet.


This area is also great for physical distancing. You can hike in pretty much any direction. It is open. And while the trailhead was quite full, I didn't see any single human (though I did find a few beer and red bull bottles and took them out).

Finally, on the ridge the northern part of the ridge is closed for the elk, so we didn't go there. A burned forest of red pines in the snow looked eerie too.


The summit of Cleman is underwhelming since it is hard to tell what is even the highest point. It is flat and home to some microwave towers.


It was super windy and blowing snow/rain mix most of the time we were on the ridge, but some crows still managed to fly around. According to GPS the total hike was 15.52 mi with 6,171 ft gain, but it felt easy, since the terrain is not hard, just lots of ups and downs.

P.S. Driving back we got another surprise - I-90 was closed. So we exited and got a room in Stewart Lodge in Cle Elum. Not a fancy hotel, but decent and very reasonably priced. Thankfully they had vaccancy and allow dogs, so we didn't have to sleep in the car. The hotel is right next to Cle Elum safeway and I-90, so it is very convenient. Not sure I want to go to the Cle Elum safeway at night anymore, it is busy and half of the customers think masks have to be warn as chin guards only.

In the morning the weather was better, and we enjoyed some views of the local mountains over the Safeway right out from the hotel. We also walked the town with Cookie a little and found a kids playground full of discarded beer bottles and deer footprints. I can only assume some Cle Elum deer have a drinking problem.

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RichP
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PostSun Jan 03, 2021 5:10 pm 
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Most of the wildlife hang around the feeding station below this time of year. You can literally see hundreds of bighorns and elk just waiting for feeding time.

Oak Creek feeding Station.
Oak Creek feeding Station.

Cleman is nice in early spring when the flowers start. Just watch out for rattlers.
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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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Fortune Cookie
PostSun Jan 03, 2021 5:23 pm 
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RichP wrote:
Most of the wildlife hang around the feeding station below this time of year. You can literally see hundreds of bighorns and elk just waiting for feeding time.

Thanks. I didn't know about the feeding station and I was not aware they allow visitors. But deer and elk definitely walk on Cleman this time of year too. The poop is fresh and footprints are fresh too and they are everywhere. Me and Cookie were just not lucky enough to see the animals. Maybe they didn't like the wind or the snow. The wind was crazy strong and it was raining/snowing a bit.
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Mountainfisherman
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PostSun Jan 03, 2021 6:10 pm 
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The Bighorn feeding station is North of Hwy 12 if you turn right instead of left at the junction of 12/410, then down that road about a mile. They were occasionally at the major feed station up Hwy 12, but since that herd was euthanized they are no longer there. Not unusual to see bighorns up 410 all the way up to around the Rock Creek Rd-have to watch out for them on the road, they like to lick the salt used on the highway.  Shoot, you had a heck of hike.
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kitya
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PostSun Jan 03, 2021 8:29 pm 
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Mountainfisherman wrote:
The Bighorn feeding station is North of Hwy 12 if you turn right instead of left at the junction of 12/410, then down that road about a mile.

Thanks. So it is on 410, about a mile west from the 12/410 intersection, is this correct?
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Nancyann
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PostSun Jan 03, 2021 9:17 pm 
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Thatís a really beautiful area, Kitya, too bad about the bighorn sheep. It looks like Cookie really enjoyed herself though!
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lookout bob
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WTA proponent.....
PostMon Jan 04, 2021 7:56 am 
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Nice report and fine pics!  I am a bit saddened though when folks discuss Cleman Mountain.   It had a great fire lookout on it that sadly was allowed to fall down and was destroyed.  It is still a great place to, as you pointed out, socially distance.   cool.gif

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"Altitude is its own reward"
John Jerome ( from "On Mountains")
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Brushbuffalo
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PostMon Jan 04, 2021 8:09 am 
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kitya wrote:
I can only assume some Cle Elum deer have a drinking problem.

souse.gif

The Cleman fire lookout was right where those towers are today.

Here is a comment from RichP's Cleman TR in 2016:

Brushbuffalo wrote:
Did you know that Sanford Pasture on the south slope of Cleman comprises one of the largest landslides in the state?  On this image the "lumpy bumpy" area below is all part of it, including the far left middle of the image. It was 6 miles wide and smothered the Naches River Valley.  The rocky part in the foreground marks  the upper brink of the gigantic, complex slump block. More information including cool LiDar images is available online if you Google Sanford Pasture landslide.

Recent slides including one the buried the highway are small potatoes  compared to this prehistoric monster.

RIch responded: Thanks. I had heard of the recent slide in 2009 but not about the ancient one. I wondered how such a flat area was formed nearly 1500' from the top of the ridge like that. The most recent one was indeed small potatoes in comparison.

https://slidingthought.wordpress.com/tag/sanford-pasture/

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Kascadia
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PostMon Jan 04, 2021 12:08 pm 
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https://www.pbs.org/video/running-with-the-herd-a-nature-short-film-rjp8nh/

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It is as though I had read a divine text, written into the world itself, not with letters but rather with essential objects, saying:
Man, stretch thy reason hither, so thou mayest comprehend these things. Johannes Kepler
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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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Fortune Cookie
PostMon Jan 04, 2021 3:29 pm 
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Kascadia wrote:
https://www.pbs.org/video/running-with-the-herd-a-nature-short-film-rjp8nh/

This is so heartbreaking to watch frown.gif
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Mountainfisherman
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PostMon Jan 04, 2021 6:25 pm 
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The highway 12/410 junction is locally known as the "Y" but it is more of a +.  If you're coming from Yakima on 12, instead of making a left turn and continuing on 12 to White Pass, turn right.  I've lived here since 4th grade and still don't know the name of many of the roads.  The sheep feeding station is down that road about a mile to the left.  Can't miss it.
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Mountainfisherman
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PostMon Jan 04, 2021 6:28 pm 
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Another interesting thing about that slide, is that not unlike the Union Gap slide, it moved verrrrrry slowly-there's no evidence of a lake being created behind it and it's massive.  But as slowly slid into the river, the river kept carving it's way through.  Lidar is cool.
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kitya
Fortune Cookie



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Fortune Cookie
PostTue Jan 05, 2021 6:34 pm 
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Mountainfisherman wrote:
The highway 12/410 junction is locally known as the "Y" but it is more of a +.  If you're coming from Yakima on 12, instead of making a left turn and continuing on 12 to White Pass, turn right.  I've lived here since 4th grade and still don't know the name of many of the roads.  The sheep feeding station is down that road about a mile to the left.  Can't miss it.

Thanks, from the map it looks like you talk about "Old Naches Hwy". Maybe I will check it out someday, if I'm again ever in the area. Most importantly I really hope/wish that bighorn sheep survive this ordeal somehow and there will be some left there. Hopefully many.
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Mountainfisherman
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PostWed Jan 06, 2021 6:59 pm 
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Yeah, I think thatís the name. Iíll more than likely get out somewhere in the Wenas in weekend and Iíll check on the sheep. I havenít heard about them being killed yet, if fact I hadnít heard theyíd been infected-pretty sad if thatís the case.
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Mountainfisherman
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PostSun Jan 10, 2021 3:51 pm 
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Checked out the sheep after spending much of the day out in the Wenas.  Saw several groups of sheep, all ewes and lambs, none to close to the road-didnít look like they were being fed.
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