One week after the record setting rainfall that hit Kittitas County, I decided upon a short scouting trip into the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area to check on the road conditions.
The record rainfall along with the added snow melt raised havoc along the Manastash and Taneum Creek drainages to the point that the primary access roads have been completely washed out and are now closed until further notice. Not knowing the conditions of the L.T. Murray area, I drove up the the Robinson Canyon gate on Thursday. Even though water had ran (or was running) over the road, things looked good. That was enough information to plan a quick scouting trip for the following Saturday.
Because of time constraints and and the fact that I wanted to shoot some images at first light, I was at the Robinson Canyon gate at 5:15 A.M. Once through the gate, there were quite a few horse campers set up in the meadows just inside the gate. Driving past the camping area, I aired down my tires to 20 psi and drove up the Page Pasture Road as it climbed steeply out of the canyon. Once on top of the ridge, the road is like many of the other roads in the lower L.T. Murray area in that they follow a relatively flat ridge top with open meadows. Of course, the rocky road bed make for a very slow going. From the top of the ridge, there are extensive views of the Kittitas Valley, Ellensburg, the Naneum Ridge and the Stuart Range. As normal on my excursions, it was cloudy and rainy, limiting my photography on some subjects, but enhancing it on others.
As the elevation increased, I reached the beginning of the tree line (about 3100 feet). At this point, the road is typically dirt through the wooded areas, and then rocky through the meadows. As the road gradually climbs the ridgeline, it weaves in and out of forest and prairie, passing multiple primitive camp sites along the way.
Just after passing the Joe Watt Canyon Road, I can upon a small herd of elk. They starting on the run before I was even close to them. They all ran off into the brush before I could even consider getting a photograph of them.
Shortly after the turnoff to Joe Watt Canyon Road is the intersection with Tamarack Ridge Road and the Ainsley Canyon Road. I drove West on the Tamarack Ridge Road for a few miles before I had to turn around and make my way back to civilization. There was one campsite along the road with two Jeeps parked in front of the tents.
I was hoping to make it all the way to Tamarack Springs however I used up my allotted time making photographs of the many early wildflowers in bloom (many more to come in the next week or so). On one stop I made, I could here a gobbling in the distance.
I backtracked to the Joe Watt Canyon Road and started descending. The road out was primarily dirt and nicely maintained. It was obviously more traveled compared to the Page Pasture Road.
Joe Watt Canyon had it’s own lush ecosystem compared to the surrounding area. What a difference when you add a little water. Even though the area received a lot of rain, there was no damage to the road.
About halfway down, the canyon opens up to a large meadow and an old log cabin. I would be interested in finding the out history of the log cabin.
Eventually, I made my way down to the gate and the elk feeding station. Just inside the gate is a large parking area which is very popular with the horse folks. RVs and horse trailers everywhere.
Just outside the gate, the wildflowers were thick. I think I made my best images of the day right outside the gate.
With only a 20 minute drive home, I was able to make the day’s commitments. With only a little more (or a little less photography) I would have made it to Tamarack Springs. Now that I know the roads in that are passable, I think I’ll be heading up there very soon.
More Images to Follow.