Ellensburg, WA to Yakima, WA, the hard way

Explored a bit more of South Cle Elum Ridge, FR-3350 to FR-111. FR-111 is in bad shape after the recent forest fires; lots of fire fighting big rigs moving through out this area over the past few months of fire season. Not really a fun drive these days.

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Decided to go with my back up plan: to explore the area south of Ellensburg, WA. After a steep ascension on Umptanum Rd to get to Old Durr Rd., which appears on the left, the surroundings turned to desert. Old Durr Rd. is part of the Washington Backroad Discovery Route.  This whole area of Mantash/Naches is known for it’s rocky roads. If you like that sort of thing then this area is your cup o’ tea.

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Durr Rd. is mostly a slow going ride that is rutted with dozens of areas of baby head sized stones. Surprisingly, I was tailed on this road by a little red civic coupe with a couple inside. I have no idea how they made it to the antennae towers,(46°51’0.34″N 120°34’38.66″W), but that they did. Not that the civic will ever be riding the same again, but they made it. Good for them!

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During a short break at the antennae towers, I noticed that this viewpoint can see both Ellensburg as well as Yakima. That’s about 18 miles to Yakima and 9 to Ellensburg. Also visible was Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker. Quite a nice view.

Heading south again on Old Durr Rd one slowly makes the way down the hill. Rocks. Lots of rocks. I thought my suspension was broken; a few times I stopped to check.

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Once it levels out it becomes a gently rolling pleasurable country road interspersed with dust bowls and thick gravel which gives superb drifting opportunities.

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The deserts of Washington are very hot and dry. If you venture off into this territory, be sure to bring waaay more water then you need. Plus some food, cold weather clothing…and so on. Plan on bringing enough of everything for an overnight camping trip. If one breaks down out there it might be a while before you find help. It’s not that far from the highways and the surrounding populous areas but it’s still far enough away that help isn’t immediately forthcoming. Time to practice some self-reliance.

After making my way to Selah and then Yakima I headed West, up highway 12, which turns into 410. The sun was setting as I made my up the pass. Stunningly clear view of the surrounding mountains, the moon and the constant rockfall to my immediate right kept my simultaneous attention.  Capping the day: The sun setting behind a 14,476 tall volcano is an awesome site.

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