Old Durr Rd & Umtanum Ridge
June 30th, 2012
This past saturday I took a group of beginners out on a Jeep run south of Ellensburg, WA (2 hrs east of Seattle). I had run part of it before but this was the first time we ran most of the ridge.
The route starts out on Old Durr Rd which was opened in 1880 as a wagon road between Ellensburg and Yakima to the south. It drops down into Umtanum Canyon and then climbs up to the top of the adjacent ridge. Once up on the ridge we ran the ridge trail west and then back east to an overlook into the Yakima river canyon.
Unlike western washington it was much drier on the eastern side of the cascades and for much of the ridge trail we were driving through spars grass and sagebrush. Appart from the occasional lonely stand of trees we didn't hit tree cover until the western end where we looped down and back up from Black Canyon and it's pine trees.
It was an easy run and we kept it mostly in 2WD the whole time but it was some beautiful scenery. We had good weather at the start and end of the day but about mid-afternoon we managed to stay right on the edge of a big storm cell. It was fascinating watching the storm cell swallow up the landscape as it came marching over one ridge line after the next.
Oh, and afterward I got to try out the new On-Board Air system. Oh hell yeah it works! Got all for rigs air up in no time. We actually started airing up one of the rigs with my old little red electric compressor but after airing up 1 1/2 tires with that compared to fully airing up two entire sets of tires on two other rigs we put the little red compressor away.
: If anyone decides to run this route, please stay out of any mud holes on the top of the Umtanum Ridge. The state land agency doesn't want any "mudding". If they see it they'll shut the area down. So enjoy the trail but don't wander off it into the mud holes. Please.
Our group of 4 rigs for the day. Two Wranglers, a Cherokee and F250.
Climbing up out of the canyon on our way up to the top of the ridge.
Stopping for lunch at the radio towers at the top of the ridge.
Leaving the pine trees of Black Canyon behind (behind the ridge on
the left) as we head back up to the top of Umtanum Ridge.
Crossing a broad draw on the top of the ridge.
A novice getting sideways on an off-camber obstacle.
Overlooking the Yakima river canyon on the east end of the ridge.
A panoramic image from the east end of the ridge looking
back. You can see the edge of the storm cell as well as
the four rigs (tiny colorful dots on left).
Splashing through Umtanum Creek as we head home.