Archive for the ‘What to Do’ Category


A century later, Sockeye return to Lake Cle Elum

By Hannah Mink, American Rivers

Sockeye Celebration - Photo by Hannah Mink.

Sockeye Celebration – Photo by Hannah Mink.

July 10th was a historic celebration! With the sun high and temperatures too, hundreds gathered on the shores of Lake Cle Elum, dressed in everything from colorful native attire to business suits to chacos to rejoice in the release of sockeye salmon into the lake. Hosted by the Yakama Nation Fisheries and open to the public, the Salmon Celebration Ceremony honored and praised the successful return of Sockeye to the lake, as they make their way to the Cle Elum River. This wasn’t any ordinary salmon release. These salmon are the progeny of the first 1,000 fish initially used to restock the Cle Elum River in 2009. These fish were hatched here in the Yakima Basin, travelled to the ocean, and made the journey back up the Columbia and Yakima rivers to the Roza Dam, located about 40 miles downstream of the lake. They were then loaded into trucks, hauled up beyond Roza and Cle Elum dams, and released today where a crowd applauded and Elders of the Yakama Indian Nation sang prayers in honor of the long journey of these fish that until the recent reintroduction were locally extinct.

Yakama Nation Elder, Gerald Lewis - Photo by Hannah Mink

Yakama Nation Elder, Gerald Lewis – Photo by Hannah Mink

Following the sockeye release were speeches from Tribal Elders, a representative from the Bureau of Reclamation, the state legislature, and others, and more prayers and songs were dedicated. Everyone was then invited to gather around tables and share a feast of fry bread and smoked salmon and elk caught and hunted nearby. Today was a moving celebration of the progress made thus far by the Yakima Nation in bringing back the sockeye. It was also significant in its celebration and recognition of the collaboration which went into and continues to go into efforts to protect and restore habitat in the Yakima River basin. Gathered on the shores and then feasting around tables were local and neighboring tribes, community members, local residents, ecologists, biologists, Public Utility Districts, farmers, environmental groups, and legislators who all came together to celebrate. Many speeches mentioned the importance of blending new science and knowledge with the cultural and historical wisdom of those native to these lands. Today was remarkable and tangible evidence of the shared interest that exists in protecting and revitalizing the species and habitat of the region, as well as the collaboration needed in doing so. The Yakima Nation touched on the spiritual, emotional, and very humbling tones of their success of the returning sockeye to a place where they once spawned in the tens of thousands. Now that this progress has been made, we’ll be looking forward to when the fish will be able to make that same journey without the truck ride from Roza Dam and will travel freely through Cle Elum Lake, downstream to the Yakima River, and out to sea before their return to their home waters. A new fish passage system, as proposed in the Yakima River Basin Integrated Plan, will be the next momentous step for the restoration of Cle Elum sockeye. With the recent funding approval by Washington State Legislature for the Yakima Integrated Plan, this is an exciting time for the region as efforts for protecting this incredible Washington state habitat gain serious momentum!


Teanaway Turkey Time

Turkey hunting in the Teanaway has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s an amazing way to end a long Washington winter, get out into the backcountry, and bag some birds along the way.

Photo by Gregg Bafundo

Boots on the Ground | Photo by Gregg Bafundo

Every spring I head up to the North and Middle forks of the Teanaway river with my longbow or my shotgun for a few days of spectacular scenery, wily birds, and solitude.

My day begins early, actually the night before, when I walk the roads and trails blowing owl calls, which tell me where the turkeys are settling in for the night. Then it’s a good sleep, up in the dark with coffee, and off to the blind with my decoys to wait for the birds. Half the time I find myself looking for morels; I’ve had coyote, bear and even a cougar come near my blind. Sometimes I get a turkey, sometimes I don’t, but I always love being out in the spring, enjoying things warming up and my thoughts of coming summer fishing trips.

Today the private American Forest Land Company (AFLC) lands along these spectacular rivers are open for hunting and fishing, and I’m looking forward to the day – hopefully later this summer – when we know the whole valley will be protected for good under public ownership. One of the best things about the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan is its promise to provide for the public acquisition of the Teanaway, a beauty of a valley that Washington conservationists have been working to protect for a very long time. And the fact is, everyone who hunts, fishes and hikes the Teanaway knows that if we don’t protect this landscape soon, we’ll lose access forever. That’s something the turkeys and I can both agree on.


Ellensburg Daily Record: Take a Hike: Preserving the Yakima Canyon

by Dick Ambrose, contributing columnist

November 30, 2012

Not long ago we drove through Yakima Canyon and I couldn’t help thinking about why we enjoy living here.

The beautiful valley with its rich soil, surrounded by rolling hills and mountains with views of Mount Stuart and friends. And nearby is arguably the most scenic and uniquely spectacular canyon in the universe as we know it.

So it makes sense to preserve it to the best of our ability for our continued enjoyment and for the enjoyment of our grandchildren and future generations.

As we drove through the canyon the colors were startling. The reds and oranges of the shrubs riverside, the golden leaves of cottonwoods and aspens, the black basalt cliffs, and the tan grasses, with the liquid light of the river running through it — a more beautiful scene we could not imagine.


We spotted some bighorn sheep as we drove along and some deer on the hillside. A bald eagle was perched on a branch of a large ponderosa pine. “Wishermen” wading and floating the river were casting flies to where they were sure lie a fat, hungry rainbow trout.

We passed Umtanum Creek where a bridge crosses the river. From there a trail heads into the Umtanum Canyon. It is broad at the entrance and narrows as you go deeper.

A mile from the river you can see remnants of an old homestead, where apple, pear and walnut trees still produce their fruit. In the spring look for lilacs and flowering quince that still bloom at the site. Beavers on the job are always attempting to reroute the creek. Sometimes in the process they drown the trail in places.

We then passed the other major trailhead which goes straight up the hill to the east from the highway, presenting would-be hikers with good exercise and great views of the Kittitas Valley and the canyon below.

There are many other excellent hiking opportunities in the canyon. It is no wonder that Ellensburg residents take out-of-town guests to marvel at the beauty in our own backyard.

Continue reading the story.


I blame it on the neighbors! Snowmobiling in the Teanaway Valley

By Tracy Rooney

Hiking, biking, lift assisted and backcountry skiing are very familiar recreation activities for me. But snowmobiles? I kept saying I wasn’t a motorhead. I thought they were somewhat noisy and stinky. Not so much now — but certainly ten years ago before the riders’ desires for less intrusive snow machines made their wishes known. Hey, the snowmobile manufactures knew what was good for business, so they figured it out too. Less stink, less noise. It was no longer just about the adrenaline of horsepower but a broader form of winter recreation that could be shared by young and old alike.

Anyway, being a weekender in a valley that seemed like ground zero for snowmobiling and with my desire to get to know my neighbors better, I bought some used snowmobiles. It’s a ten year old decision that makes me grin every time I think about it.

As a newbie, I knew that I needed to get some “ride time” in before adventuring out with my then seven- and nine-year-old kids and somewhat skeptical wife. The neighbors were only happy to oblige and off I went. I had covered a lot of the local territory by foot and bike, but knew that winter conditions would be more challenging and unforgiving. What I hadn’t thought about was the distances that could be covered in a relatively short amount of time with snow blanketing the ground. It soon became clear to me that my list of favorite valley viewpoints was about to expand! I also quickly found out that snowmobiling wasn’t a sit down, passive sport. Just like in skiing, new skills would be required to get from point a to b. If you got your snowmobile stuck, it wasn’t as easy as just flopping over and pointing down the hill like you do when downhill skiing. But it was all good fun!

The extensive network of groomed logging roads in the valley is impressive. These well-defined trails made “doubling up” on each sled with a kid a great way to explore and build up confidence to check out new trails and vistas. Soon my garage seemed to have shrunk as we each had our own snowmobile and an expanded winter play area. While the colors of fall are hard to beat, the stark winter landscapes are even better.

At first reluctant to get involved in snowmobiling, I’m now one of the valley’s biggest enthusiasts. My initial concern regarding snowmobile interference with wildlife has been replaced with awe as I check out the tracks of the many animals that move around the valley in the winter via the groomed trail system. Having seen the combination of deer, elk, coyote, rabbit and now even wolf tracks on a trail is truly an amazing sight!

I’m also more relaxed with the knowledge that snowmobiling does not have to be in conflict with skiing and snowshoeing. It’s an awfully big valley. In our North Fork neighborhood the snowmobilers are often called upon to “break trail” for others who prefer the non-mechanized form of winter transport. And we gladly do so!

As a family, we all look forward to those annual sunny Teanaway holiday snow outings and the view of the Stuarts from Teanaway Butte, Red Top and other local landmarks. And as a neighborhood activity, I’ve been rewarded with a common bond that has led to a lifetime of close Teanaway friendships.

Snowmobiling has become a shared neighborhood activity. In the fall we gather to “brush out” trails. Once snow has fallen, and the risk of errant vehicles on the closed logging roads has passed, we get the gates unlocked and opened for winter fun. It’s truly an activity that spans generations. While he’s an anomaly, one of my riding buddies is in his late eighties!

The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan presents a rare opportunity for elected officials, recreational enthusiasts and conservationists to seek out common ground. Yes, as a snowmobiler and mountain biker, I’m reluctant to see thousands of acres of riding area closed by an expanded wilderness area. But as a realist, I’m very enthused with the prospect of also having what is currently more than 46 thousand acres of private timberlands removed from the prospect of residential development and forever protected for recreational use, expanded habit areas and continued use as a “community forest” with sound logging and grazing practices. It sounds like a fair trade off for “no access, private property” signs being something that my children and their children will not have to encounter in our extensive Teanaway backyard!

It’s all about finding common ground, tradeoffs that make sense and working towards goals that will benefit many for generations to come! The Integrated Plan has a lot in it for many. I’m in. I hope you are!

Tracy Rooney is a Teanaway Valley resident and active member of the Teanaway Snowmobile Club. You can view a map of groomed snowmobile trails in the area. Email for more information about the Teanaway Snowmobile Club.


Rejuvenation in Teanaway country

By Andrea Imler, The Wilderness SocietyOpen ridge on Yellow Hill hike

Until last Saturday, I hadn’t been out on a hike in months. Typing those words is foreign to me, a hiking addict, but they are true. I spent the winter and spring training for road bike racing season, for once determined to focus on a single athletic activity. The hustle and bustle of living in Seattle – loud sirens, constant connection to technology and the concrete jungle were getting to me. I needed to mix things up. I needed a hike. Teanaway Country was calling my name.

The alarm went off and I sprang out of bed. The sun was shining, birds were singing and I was going hiking. What better way to kick off the weekend? My boyfriend and I ate breakfast quickly, grabbed our pre-packed backpacks and headed out the door.

Less than two hours later we parked at the Yellow Hill trailhead in the Teanaway. Ahh, the Teanaway. The Teanaway is one of my favorite places in the North Cascades. I’m not sure what it is about the Teanaway, but I love it. Perhaps it’s the unofficial motto: “It’s always sunny in the Teanaway!” Or maybe it’s the pine trees or the fact that its home to some amazing rocks, rare flowers and one of Washington state’s rare wolf packs. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s Teanaway Country – it draws you in.

The Teanaway has certainly drawn me in. I’ve hiked up sixteen peaks, some formally named like Navaho Peak, while others not officially labeled on a map. My feet have walked well over a hundred miles in the Teanaway, to sparkling blue alpine lakes and through snowmelt-swollen creeks. And I’ve slept under the stars there countless times.

View from Yellow Hill

A few hours later we reached our destination, the top of Yellow Hill. Well, not exactly the top. The summit of Yellow Hill is covered in trees. We made our way down the adjoining ridge and were treated with an expansive view of the surrounding Teanaway peaks. We sat down on a rock outcropping, ate our lunches and enjoyed the feeling that we were the only people around for miles. I felt rejuvenated.

Interested in doing this hike? Check out Washington Trails Association’s Hiking Guide entry about Yellow Hill and Elbow Peak. Note: as of posting this blog, consistent snow began at 4800′ on the trail, which is about a mile from the top of Yellow Hill.

Fish. Families. Farms.
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