March 29, 1998

Special Season Before Withering Heat Of Summer Sets In, Wildflowers, Rugged Beauty And Tranquility Beckon In The Scablands

Rich Landers Outdoors Editor
 

The off-season is prime time for campers who’d sooner chance the odds of nippy weather than face the certainty of summer crowds.

The weeks between now and the end of the school year are the peak season for hiking and enjoying wildflowers and migratory waterfowl in certain places.

Desert-like areas in the Columbia Basin and Hells Canyon, for example, are about to explode with blooming balsamroot and other showy flowers.

By summer, when most people have the time, these areas are hot, brown and uninviting. Cheatgrass spears get in your socks. Mosquitoes get under your skin.

Driving two hours west or south from Spokane can put you into sunnier weather and temperatures several degrees warmer.

Spring in the desert isn’t free of vermin. The recent mild winter increases the odds that ticks will be active and profuse.

Tuck shirt-tails in your pants and pant legs in your socks and avoid sprawling in the grass or sagebrush. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks searching for an opening to your skin.

Discomfort ticks might cause can be prevented with frequent checks to pluck them off your body. Usually they’ll cruise your scalp or body parts for hours before attaching.

Rattlesnakes also are active during the day in the cooler weather of spring, although they pose little hazard to sensible people who avoid playing with them.

Vermin are minor inconveniences to the opportunity to camp and hear the hundreds of sandhill cranes passing through the Columbia Basin or watch the bitterroots burst from the gravel on Steamboat Rock.

Getting a campsite at state parks rarely is a problem this time of year. Fishing at most dryland lakes and reservoirs can be sensational before water temperatures get too warm from summer heat.

Using a guidebook, such as the new hiking guide to Hells Canyon published by The Mountaineers of Seattle, can put you on backcountry routes that are virtually deserted.

Successful spring camping requires attention to details before you leave home. Weather changes are more dramatic this time of year than during the summer. Weather suitable for shorts can deteriorate in hours.

Pack the raingear, winter hats, sweaters and mittens even though friends or family might snicker at you.

If you make a habit of pushing the season, the over-prepared camper in your group will eventually get the last laugh.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo; Map of Spring hikes

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

SPRING HIKES

Months before the snow melts off high mountain trails, excellent walks and wildflower displays can be found in the river bottoms and desert areas of the Inland Northwest. Here’s a sampling of the best areas to camp and hike.

1. Yakima Skyline: Dayhike or camp along 18 miles of trail overlooking the scenic Yakima River Canyon.

2. Chelan Lakeshore: Dayhike or camp along 18 miles of the 55-mile-long fjord in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.

3. Ancient Lakes: Dayhike or camp along 8 miles of trails past three desert lakes and basalt columns southeast of Wenatchee.

4. Steamboat Rock: Base camp at the state park and dayhike 5 miles around the top of Steamboat Rock and 3.5 miles of trail into Northrup Canyon.

5. Wenaha River: Dayhike or camp on up to 19 miles of trail along this river into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

6. Hells Canyon: Dayhike or camp along up to 48 miles of the Snake River Trail in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

Guides for the season

Three regional hiking guidebooks by The Mountaineers of Seattle detail dozens of early season hikes in the lowlands and desert throughout the Inland Northwest.

“55 Hikes in Central Washington,” by Ira Spring and Harvey Manning, revised last year.

“50 Hikes in Hells Canyon and Oregon’s Wallowas,” by Rhonda Ostertag and George Ostertag, released last year.

“100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest,” by Rich Landers and Ida Rowe Dolphin, updated in 1996.

This sidebar appeared with the story: SPRING HIKES Months before the snow melts off high mountain trails, excellent walks and wildflower displays can be found in the river bottoms and desert areas of the Inland Northwest. Here’s a sampling of the best areas to camp and hike.

1. Yakima Skyline: Dayhike or camp along 18 miles of trail overlooking the scenic Yakima River Canyon. 2. Chelan Lakeshore: Dayhike or camp along 18 miles of the 55-mile-long fjord in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. 3. Ancient Lakes: Dayhike or camp along 8 miles of trails past three desert lakes and basalt columns southeast of Wenatchee. 4. Steamboat Rock: Base camp at the state park and dayhike 5 miles around the top of Steamboat Rock and 3.5 miles of trail into Northrup Canyon. 5. Wenaha River: Dayhike or camp on up to 19 miles of trail along this river into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. 6. Hells Canyon: Dayhike or camp along up to 48 miles of the Snake River Trail in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

Guides for the season Three regional hiking guidebooks by The Mountaineers of Seattle detail dozens of early season hikes in the lowlands and desert throughout the Inland Northwest. “55 Hikes in Central Washington,” by Ira Spring and Harvey Manning, revised last year. “50 Hikes in Hells Canyon and Oregon’s Wallowas,” by Rhonda Ostertag and George Ostertag, released last year. “100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest,” by Rich Landers and Ida Rowe Dolphin, updated in 1996.


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