41 – Douglas Creek Canyon

First introduced to Douglas Creek Canyon the year my son graduated from college, it was not long after volunteering to help build a portion of the trail on Make a Difference Day that he took me there for a hike. Returning many times since, it still remains one of my favorite areas.

Trail Building . . . on Make a Difference Day

There we were, visiting my son in the Wenatchee Valley; and when the kids started talking about an afternoon of fishing at one of their local lakes, we double checked the directions to the trailhead – then set off for Douglas Creek Canyon.

Kent and I . . . hiking Douglas Creek Canyon

Barely more than an hour’s drive from Wenatchee, the scenery around every corner was absolutelty breathtaking as Highway 2 gained in elevation before reaching miles and miles of farm fields along the high Waterville Plateau. Passing through the picturesque town of Waterville, then through the little town of Douglas, even over a portion of Douglas Creek, finally after driving past several more miles of farmlands, a rather lonesome looking sign for H Road marked our turn-off. Following the straight, heavily gravelled H Road through even more farm fields for well over six miles, it seemed that just about the time we thought we might have turned onto the wrong road, it began to curve and drop in elevation as it became Slack Canyon Road. A more primitive road and said to continue on for quite a distance, after less than a mile we reached the well-graveled parking lot for the trailhead into Douglas Creek Canyon.

Douglas Creek Canyon trailhead . . .

Douglas Creek itself trickles and meanders its way through the bottom of the canyon. Often over make-shift, rock bridges – and here, over a one-board bridge – the trail crosses the creek many times.

Crossing Douglas Creek . . . Douglas Creek Canyon

Checking for fish each time we crossed the creek, finally trout were spotted.

Looking for fish . . . Douglas Creek

An amazing landscape, the canyon walls are lined with giant basalt cliffs, formations that date back to a lava flood some 13 to 14-1/2 million years ago. Covered with colorful lichens, it felt absolutely amazing to reach out and touch pillars of rock that were that old.

Checking out basalt pillars . . . Douglas Creek Canyon

Once used to transport passangers, wheat and other crops from the farms on the high prairie down to the valley far below, now sage brush and other desert plants fill the old railroad grade that the trail follows.

(Pic by Kent) Me . . . hiking Douglas Creek Canyon

Seeming to go on indefinitely, we hiked in for nearly a mile past the three-mile marker before stopping for a picnic, and then heading back out. Sitting on top of a small cliff overlooking the creek as we ate, we looked out to the stunningly high canyon walls on the other side and were entertained by the call of golden eagles, red tailed hawks and falcons as they soared in the blue sky above, and the occassional pair of chuckars fluttering out of the bushes below.

Our picnic spot . . . at Douglas Creek Canyon

While Douglas Creek Canyon is featured in the book, Best Desert Hikes: Washington, by Dan Nelson and Alan Bauer, the trail has been extended and greatly improved since its last edition. More information about the hike, including trip reports, is also available on the Washington Trail Association website. Go here – Douglas Creek Canyon – North – to read that. Other information about Douglas Creek can also be found here – http://www.bentler.us/eastern-washington/recreation/douglas-creek.aspx, information about the lava flood is available here – http://www.handsontheland.org/classroom/2002serv_learn/docr/passage_time.htm, and information about the old railroad can be found here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansfield_Branch_(Great_Northern_Railway).

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