Top of the Gap

Spectacular views are found on a geocaching hike to the summit of the Wallula Gap.

A fisheye view of the Wallula Gap.

A fisheye view of the Wallula Gap.

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If you go

From Kennewick take SR 397 through Finley. Turn south onto Piert Road and then left at Meals Road. Continue 4.5 miles before turning onto Ayers Road. Follow Ayers Road to the end and park above the railroad and the Columbia River. The coordinates for the cache are: N46 01.981/W 118 57.739.

The www.geocaching.com website presents Bjornstad’s extensive description of the Missoula Floods and how they created an impact at and around Wallula Gap.

Or Google: Wallula Gap Overlook Bjornstad.

More information about Bjornstad’s geocaches may be found at www.BruceBjornsta...>

According to the www.geocaching.com site, In 1980 The National Park Service designated Wallula Gap as a National Natural Landmark. Only Drumheller Channels in the Mid-Columbia Basin shares this distinction.”

Nevertheless it’s on private land, so visitors must be considerate.

I vastly enjoyed last week’s pursuit of a geocache atop the west side of Wallula Gap with Bret Rankin and Nora the Schnauzer.

Great companions, a good walk and we had a perfect day for it.

Yes, a grey haze clouded the horizons to the south and west, and a chilly breeze rippled across the Columbia River.

Warm sunshine sifted from azure swatches, however, and spring flowers fluttered in the breeze: phlox, balsamroot, asters, shooting stars and larkspur.

And inspiring scenery abounded.

The cache, according to an entry at www.geocaching.com (registration is free), “…is located at (the) west side of Wallula Gap, at an incredible 850-ft drop off into the Columbia River below. Even at this height the largest Ice-Age floods still rose another 80 ft above the cache site.”

The site lists the overlook at a 1,100-foot altitude. It registered as 1,122 feet on my GPS.

Noted author and geologist Bruce Bjornstad placed the cache in 2004. I first visited it in August of 2005 with Sadie the Dalmatian. We approached from below, near the railroad, and scaled the canyon walls.

Not a smart move, but en route we found two wrecked cars that apparently were pushed from the plateau. The cars remain visible from the top.

Anyway, Bjornstad appropriately titled his cache “Wallula Gap Overlook.”

To find it, we left Walla Walla after Bret put in a shift at the Union-Bulletin.

I drove across the Cable Bridge at Pasco to Finley. Alas, absorbed with amazing tales about earlier trips, I missed a turnoff and drove happily to Interstate 82.

Red-faced, I backtracked. We found the correct route and eventually parked at a dead end on Ayers Road.

I had two cameras, a fanny pack with energy bars, Nora’s water saucer and treats along with a daypack containing the 100-ounce water bag (sold as a “hydration system”), a sweater and a rain parka.

Bret, who traveled light, volunteered to carry the fanny pack with one camera bag attached.

Being the old hand, I suggested we climb north for 600 feet, more or less, straight to the top of the plateau and amble a few miles west for another 250 feet gain to the overlook.

So, taking turns holding up the bottom strand of a barbed-wire fence, Bret and I bellied under it to reach a sandy two-track. Nora followed without ducking.

A lumbering black cow approached, but it passed nonchalantly a few feet away. We, including Nora, ignored it.

During the trek, we passed several bunches of cows, often just a few yards away. We ignored them. And vice-versa.

We reached the top in half-an-hour or so.

Sweating and sucking in air, we stuffed jackets into my pack, gave Nora a drink and headed across the plateau.

As usual, views of the flood-scathed landscape left me more than a bit awed.

I piddled along the edge of steep cliffs to take pictures. Nora trotted back and forth between Bret and me, sometimes pausing to peek over a cliff’s edge.

Mostly, we meandered along the gentle incline. Well, gentle with the exception of the up-and-down slippery-rock slopes of ravines.

In addition to the panoramic views, we ogled rough-hewen and towering rock formations, as well as smoother light-colored boulders (called ice-rafted erratics) deposited on the plateau by chunks of ice carried by the massive floods.

Finally, at the overlook we found a tumble of the erratic boulders, with a line of them lying across the point where we found the cache in a plastic container.

My GPS said we had walked 3.89 miles in 2 hours, 16 minutes moving time. We had lollygagged for more than another hour, averaging 1.7 mph.

We had a high speed of 5 mph down into a rocky ravine.

Then we spent almost an hour exploring at the cache site.

Bret examined the cache treasure and signed the journal. We added a shiny quarter and headed back on cow trails. One of them led down between cliffs and along a hillside.

Near the bottom we came upon a new-born calf balled-up and still. No mother cow lurked in view, so Bret and I stepped close to the still body.

The calf jerked its head. We all three gasped and levitated a foot, at least. Nora scurried on down the trail. Bret and I followed. The calf looked strong, and the mother would probably return.

Probably?

We slithered under the fence again at a few minutes before 7 p.m.

One geocacher wrote on an internet post that it’s an 8 1/4-mile round trip with an 1,800-foot elevation gain.

That made sense to me as Bret and I grimaced over sore thighs and toes while sipping ice cold barley-based picker-uppers before heading home.

Then Nora slept all the way, of course.

It clearly had been a perfect way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

Contact Don Davis at dardon99362@yahoo.com. More of Don’s photos can be found here.

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