Saturday, June 22, 2013

Northrup Canyon

Northrup Canyon

I just can't think of anything funny to say about Northrup Canyon, located in Washington's hilariously named Channeled Scablands. It's just too beautiful. This little treasure of a hike is located in Steamboat Rock State Park (some websites refer to Northrup Canyon State Park but the official Washington parks website does not have such a park listed) and while most visitors climb the rock or frolic in Banks Lake's waters, one is not likely to encounter a lot of fellow hikers in this isolated canyon. And Northrup Canyon provided a good excuse to escape from family in Spokane and get a hike in.
Green-banded mariposa lily, as big as Cleveland

The hits started virtually at the trailhead as the canyon was eminently visible as I laced up my boots, slapping at the mosquitoes as I did so. The red-brown canyon walls evoked memories of the canyonlands of southern Utah. Large, or I daresay huge, green-banded mariposa lilies flanked the trail. Obviously, I was out of my normal Cascade Range milieu and this hike, for me, tended towards the exotic.

Basalt formation on the canyon wall
Following a jeep road on the canyon floor, the route dropped down into a surprisingly lush aspen forest flanking the small trickle that was Northrup Creek. Flowers bloomed everywhere and camera addicted hikers make slow progress up the canyon. The jeep road passed through a series of lush meadows where rabbits scampered in panic at my arrival. The canyon walls and rock formations loomed overhead while nesting birds squawked at me from caves above.

Needs a little fixing up
At the last of several pastures, there are the ruins of several abandoned cabins marking the site of an old homestead belonging to the Northrup family that settled this canyon. A passing hiker told me park rangers used to live there years ago. However, the cabins are dilapidated and falling apart and well beyond being habitable, even for park rangers. A large pile of rusting tin cans showed where the garbage pit used to be.

Skyrockets in flight
The jeep road ended at the homestead site and from here on in, it was happy hiking on a real trail, a rocky footpath that headed up the canyon. The trail was an up and down affair with more ups than downs. The vegetation changed from green pastures to dry high desert sagebrush. Bright red skyrocket nodded over the trail while yellow was well represented by groundsel and golden yarrow.  Bugs crawled all over the flowers and it was slow going as I attempted to take a picture of every bug and every flower.

Northrup Lake
As the trail climbed, brief side trips took me to overlooks of the impressive canyon. Eventually, I ran out of canyon at Northrup Lake, a small pond at the canyon head. Not much to do but turn around and head back, completing a short but spectacular 6 mile round tripper while the sunlight faded.

Golf, anyone?

This is a classic hike in eastern Wasington, and I'll have to come back, maybe make Dollie come with me. I took a ton of pictures on this hike, you can see the chosen few (ha!) in my Flickr album.

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