Wenaha-Tucannon Diamond Peak Hike
I took four days to explore the fringes of the 177,412-acre Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. It has been said that this area is not the best place for technical climbing, mountaineering, or boating. However, it is the closest wilderness area to the Moscow/ Pullman area, and I have been curious about its character. I was pleasantly surprised to find some amazing hiking. I was able to cover many, many miles of hiking in three short days with almost noone around.
I camped near Teal Springs on Monday night, 15 June 2009. Since I had my two hyperactive dogs with me, I chose to "dispersed-camp" about a quarter mile from Teal Springs campground. I could easily walk to the pit toilet (clean and well-stocked) but could avoid bothering other campers with my dogs. Therefore, my impact was reduced a little. I kept close to camp, not hiking more than a mile or so to the Clearwater Lookout, that afternoon, since storms looked like they were gathering. No storms hit my location, but there were persistent rain storms in the vicinity. No thunder, though. That evening, after dinner, I walked the mile or so to a rocky point near the Hunter Spring/ Bear Creek Trail Head to study my topo map and the terrain I would be hiking the next day. The lighting and wildflowers were amazing, and I was able to see for miles, even if the air was a little hazy.
The following day, I hiked a 20-mile loop from Hunter Spring, across the Tucannon River canyon to the region't high point, Diamond Peak (6379 feet in elevation. From there, I completed the loop via the Diamond Peak Road, closed by snow still, and then along the main ridge road, USFS Rd. 40. It took me about ten hours, including numerous stops to take photos and to rest. I found no people and much solitude. It is a rugged and beautiful country, good for long-distance hiking but no real climbing. I left camp at 0615 on Tuesday morning, arriving at the Tucannon River (mile ~4) by 0730. It was 0750 before I had walked the short additional distance to the river crossing, completed a very cold barefoot crossing of the river, ate a snack, and got back hiking again.
The trail to this point had been very, very recently maintained, but from this point on there were numerous blow-downs and deadfalls across the trail. While it was not continuous, it made for periods of tough scrambling. The next mile gains about 1000 feet in elevation, switching back up a concave forested face of the canyon. I attained the ridge near Jelly Springs by 0900. This place has good camping, and the spring is located down a short side trail. I ate a snack and topped off with water before continuing on by around 0910.
For the next two hours, the trail continues to climb on the more flat table-top country. Some of it is forested, and other areas are large open grassy. alpine meadow areas. Views to the N and NNW are generally really great up here. I took the side trail to Diamond Peak and found the summit (mile 8) by 1110. From here the views toward the S are incredible. One can look down into the steep and rugged Crooked creek and other drainages that flow aouth into the Wenaha River. The Grand Ronde Basin is beyond the Wenaha, and the Eagle Cap Wilderness/ Wallowa Mountains are visible on the Southern horizon. To the west, the high country continues on each side of the Tucannon River, the NW ridge eventually leading to the Bluewood Ski Area and the SW ridge continuing on, in broken fashion, all the way to the N Fork John Day area, 100 miles away.
I took my time up there, checking out the Sno-Tel site, eating lunch, giving the dogs a snack, and taking in the view. I left and made my way down to the Diamond Peak Trail Head by noon. This is normally accessible by car, but snow blocked the road several miles out. I didn't have a shuttle anyway, and had planned to hike the road all the way back to camp. So, I took the Diamond Peak/ Mount Misery Road five miles north to the main USFS Road 40 (the main ridge top road/mile 13/ arrived at 1400 hrs), and then that road an additional seven miles back to my camp near Teal Springs art 1610 hrs. I saw exactly two cars (containing the only people I encountered) during the entire hike. The first car was a Forest Service work truck, and the second an older 4-runner with a couple of people going camping.
The next day, I drove around to the Tucannon River area and camped at Lady Bug Campground. I hiked 4.5 miles (one way) up the Tucannon River to the point where, 29 hours before, I had hiked down to the river from Hunter Spring. This area is closed to fishing and camping close to the river to protect the high quality Salmon habitat. Therefoere, the hoardes of anglers kept to the lower stretches of the Tucannon within the Wooten Wildlife Area. I had the entire road and campsite and trail completely to myself.
My final partial day took me to the Meadow Creek Trailhead and a short distance up the Meadow Creek Trail. This area seems to be more highly impacted by motorized vehicles and horses, but is really, really beautiful, and I had the trail to myself. Since I needed to get home with enough time to get a few things done, I had to leave earlier, but I was also just about hiked-out. I intended to hike a 13-mile loop described as an option in one of the hikes in "100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest" book, but just didn't feel like I had the energy to do that after about 30 miles of hiking in two days. Well, I probably could have, but I'd have gotten home much later!
I will continue to add to this description over time.