Whiskey Dick Unit (day hike), LT Murray Wildlife Area
My goal for this day hike was to see bloom wildflowers and specifically the Simpson's Hedgehog Cactus. We tried to follow the directions for Whiskey Dick trail according to the Washington Trail Association website. But comments and trip reports were confusing, some people starting at the wildlife area parking lot and some people starting on the wind farm. Funny enough, we ended up not following either directions by parking at the west entrance (the one with the corral) and not the east entrance (the one with the cattle guard). However, it turns out there's plenty of jeep trails traversing the terrain, so it's sort of hard to go wrong.
We parked at the corral and hiked up the jeep road, which was pretty rough unless you have a 4x4 high clearance vehicle or an off road vehicle. By the time we got there in the morning, the Brewer's, Vesper's, and Sagebrush Sparrows were still singing. A Mountain Bluebird was tenderizing a large caterpillar. And the Western Meadowlarks were just getting warmed up for their continuous singing throughout the day. We followed the jeep road up to an old closed off road that dropped down into Rocky Coulee. Following the overgrown road down the coulee we passed the many colorful blooms of lupines, sharpleaf penstemons, yellow desert fleabanes. After a couple of miles of following the overgrown jeep trail, we hiked a steep old jeep trail up to Whiskey Dick Ridge. An old mine left piles of petrified wood next to the road. Many hedgehog cactus grew in the rocky hillside, but none of them were in bloom, at least not anymore.
At the top of the ridge, we climbed up the highest peak for lunch. The Columbia Basin rolling hills and ridges of sagebrush and basalt stretched before us. The turbines of Wild Horse Wind Farm turned slowly in the gentle breeze that passed over us. A Horned Lark sang its twinkling song from the low brush. After lunch I searched the northern slopes, hoping the cooler side would have delayed the blooming cactus. I lucked out and found one cactus still in bloom with one bloom not fully open yet. This diminutive cactus puts on a good bloom and it was a treat to find our native hedgehog still in bloom.
To hike back down, we followed the jeep trail on ridge back toward the wind farm. It looped back down to where we split off onto the old jeep trail. So it was actually a nice loop trail of about 8 miles that overed sagebrush, coulee, basalt, and a ridge. Perhaps one year, we will attempt to do the offical WTA described trail from the correct trailhead, but for now we were very satisfied with our somewhat accidental hiking loop through the Quilomene Wildlife Area.
Pictures (click on thumbnail to enlarge)
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