Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Finally, A 2013 Day of Solitude Roaming the Juniper Dunes

 Addendum (June 18, 2013): Nora had two weeks of vomiting, beginning six days ago. She had several visits to the Walla Walla Animal Clinic. Today an endoscopy discovered that she had stomach worms that can be caused by eating bugs, including crickets. Dr. Smith said she can now be easily treated. We visited the dunes on May 22.

Posted June 6, 2013

Busy, busy, busy?
Lazy, lazy, lazy?
How do I explain hours on end spent watching recorded and oft pre-watched episodes of NCIS, Closer, Law and Order, Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War...?
Well, I won't exaggerate the issue. 
I've spent way too many mornings lying about.
Nora the Schnauzer motivates my only efforts to become an object in motion rather than an object at rest.

She covets her daily walks and becomes pushy to get them.

Once off the couch, however, I'm eager.  I enjoy the walks. The longer the better, which helps explain our 2013 foray into the Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area, a few miles north of Pasco.
With access to the limited to March, April and May, and with time flying by, I nearly broke my two-decade long string of visits this year.
I put off going in March and April because a cool days and cooler nights suggested that spring flowers would be late bloomers. I did want to see the copious blankets of red-orange sand dock that sometimes spread over the dunes. I missed them in 2012 by making trips in mid-march and early April.
This April then arrived with several 90-degree days that would cause Nora to battle a sunshine-induced stress, leading to huffing and puffing and tongue hanging as she hurried ahead, from one scanty sage's shady spot to another, and flopped down to wait.
I never thought to go without her.

Finally, in May we had more cool and cloudy days. It rained early on May 22, which dawned with heavy dark clouds. TV and internet weather reports suggested the day would continue to be a cool, cloudy one.
So, anticipating blooming plants, I loaded the day pack with water, snacks and jackets. I shouldered two cameras and we went.

It's an 80-mile drive from Walla Walla Joy Road's north entrance to the dunes, and we left the truck at 8:34 a.m. beneath heavy clouds but with no rain
After a short walk, led by the high-stepping Nora, I checked the ledger at the gate. A three-day-old entry by the Walla Walla Hiking Club listed 17 in the party.
I once hiked there with a group of five-or-six women, which was a pleasant social experience.
For me, however, the priceless solitude of the JD wilderness may be best enjoyed with Nora and one human friend.
Or with Nora lone.

My GPS, attached to the day pack, registered that we trekked 3.40 miles to the south-southwest, turned east to summit two of the highest dunes we could see (one at more than 1,200 feet elevation).

We paused often on the way to ogle the wild flowers, including red-orange sand dock, pale blue wild flax and wild yellow salsify (goatsbeard salsify).

We stopped once for treats. I gave Nora water several  times, and, of course, I took regular pulls on my 100-ounce hydration system that I filled with ice cubes before leaving home.
I enjoy the scenery and grit my teeth at the trail-bike tracks dug half-a-foot deep up some of the steeper, more picturesque sand slopes. The area has been a wilderness area since 1984, and it's surrounded by a fence to protect it from scofflaws.
Some people don't care.
One rider wrote me years ago and justified riding across those dunes because they (off-road bikers) have so few places to ride legally.
Alas, that's a donkey's bray.
We saw no mammals but several birds. A western king bird fluttered above a nest with two eggs, and several horned larks zipped among the sage. Often ravens called and raptors circled.
We did see animal tracks (Nora sniffed them), especially deer, coyote and porcupine.
And the grasses (blue-bunch wheat grass, cheat grass, bottle-brush squirrel tail, Indian rice grass, needle-and-thread grass and Sandberg's bluegrass)  swarmed with Mormon crickets that Nora chased, mouthed and perhaps ate.

She did spit out some, at least. I suspected the crickets would be a feast for coyotes and skunks.
Back at the truck in a little under eight hours, the GPS had recorded 7.24 miles. We arrived home after 7:30 p.m., and Darlene fed us another fine dinner.
As usual.

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