On top of Baldy Mountain

Mary Park, Scene Editor

If you want a panoramic view of the landscape around Ellensburg and the Yakima Valley, you can drive south on Canyon Road for 15 miles to Big Pines Campground next to the Yakima River. But to get that view, you’ll have to hike up more than 2,000 feet.

On Nov. 9, OPR hosted a day hike on Baldy Mountain.

Two OPR trip leaders Tonya Morrey and Alaina Thomas met the two participants at 9:45 a.m. at the OPR office.

The morning downpour was outside of the predicted weather forecast, but the five of us were ready to head out.

Mary Park

“Only thing you can’t control is the weather,” said Morrey, who is also a program manager at OPR. “I like to play by ear, I like to make sure that all of the participants are comfortable, so I’m not trying to put anyone in a situation that they really don’t want to be in.”

Wearing wool, dry fit layers and hiking shoes, the group got into OPR’s Chevy Suburban and left on a 30-minute drive to Baldy Mountain.

Morrey said while many people might prefer to go hiking in the Cascade mountains where there’s a lot of trees, she enjoys bringing people to places they wouldn’t expect to see a great view.

“I think there’s a lot of hidden beauty in Ellensburg and Central Washington that people may have to look a little extra hard for,” Morrey said. “We’re in the shrub steppe ecosystem and I really admire it and think it’s beautiful.”

Ren Miyazaki, an exchange student from Japan who participated on the trip, shared that back home, he has hiked various areas such as Mount Ryokami.

“I like hiking,” Miyazaki said. “[It’s] very exciting.”

Jessica Meier, a senior student in supply chain management who enjoys being out in nature, said she is excited to see the view from the top of Baldy Mountain.

At 10:30 a.m., with the Suburban parked close by, each person grabbed a pair of trekking poles and walked towards the gate that marks the starting point of T.P Jim trail.

According to the Washington Trails Association website, there is a more moderate trail than the steep climb of the T.P. Jim trail.

We hiked the less steep trail, taking breaks in between to catch our breath, tie shoelaces or drink water.

During each break, we looked back down at our starting point, where the Suburban looked smaller and smaller.

At a few spots on the mountain, there were weather-beaten wooden boxes filled with rocks, which, according to Morrey, were old fence posts that the first people who found grazing areas on the mountain had set up.

As we progressed higher up the mountain, the slope became steeper. Conversations were less frequent and our breaths grew harsher as hikers navigated through the sagebrush and tumbleweed, trying not to trip on the loose rock and soil.

Approximately 12:01 p.m., we arrived at the top of Baldy Mountain, where we ate our packed lunches. After finishing our clementine, dried mango and spicy Pringles, we made our way back down.

Morrey mentioned it’s important to be cautious of slipping on the loose gravel and instructed the group to take small side steps and use the trekking poles to keep balance.

The journey down the mountain took less time than the climb and we landed back on the ground at around 1:45 p.m.

On the ride back to the campus, Miyazaki and Meier talked about the rewarding experience of seeing the view.

“A big [reward] is just seeing how far you’ve actually gone,” Meier said. “Because it’s kind of crazy to think that I was up at the top of that.”

Thomas shared that the view from the middle of the trail was the most impactful for her.

“I liked how you can see the river, the view from not all the way at the top,” Thomas said.

Morrey said that although the hike itself might feel strenuous, the view from the top is worth it.

“I feel like every time I’m in the act of hiking, you’re just walking up a giant mountain and it’s not that enjoyable. It’s always like a workout,” Morrey said. “And I’m doing it and [thinking] ‘why do I like this?’ But then, you get to the top and it’s always so rewarding to see the view you achieved through your hard work.”