Coyote Wall Loop

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Note: Watch for ticks and poison oak if you hike here.

Greg and I headed out to Coyote Wall to do a loop hike there. We hit the trail at 9:15 under chilly overcast skies. If you hike here, please note that dogs must be on-leash:

Coyote Wall Hike

We saw this group at the beginning of the hike and later on as well. The dog was never on a leash:

Coyote Wall Hike

We trekked down old Highway 14:

Coyote Wall Hike

The desert parsley was going gangbusters. We saw lots of it.

Coyote Wall Hike

Coyote Wall Hike

At 0.4mi we passed the trail where we would come out later:

Coyote Wall Hike

Further along at 0.7mi we picked up our trail and started climbing up.

Coyote Wall Hike

Coyote Wall Hike

Coyote Wall Hike

Columbia Desert Parsley:

Coyote Wall Hike

Despite the clouds we managed to get a view of Mt. Hood:

Coyote Wall Hike

The river was glassy calm:

Coyote Wall Hike

There was popcorn flower EVERYWHERE:

Coyote Wall Hike

Coyote Wall Hike

Coyote Wall Hike

Avalanche Lilies:

Coyote Wall Hike

Yellow bells:

Coyote Wall Hike

Coyote Wall Hike

First balsamroot sighting of the season!

Coyote Wall Hike

The sun started to break through a bit as we hiked down:

Coyote Wall Hike

By this time we were encountering huge numbers of people. And we were witnessing plenty of bad hiker behavior: picked wildflowers left on the trail, off-leash dogs, dog poop bags left behind, and adults, kids, and dogs wandering through the meadows, trampling the wildflowers. It was discouraging, and we were glad to get back to the trailhead. Still, despite all that, it was a great hike. Here are all the wildflowers Greg noted seeing on this loop. 6 miles, 1100′ elevation gain.

Coyote Wall Track

First Catherine Creek Visit of 2018

March 17, 2018

Note: Watch for ticks and poison oak if you hike here.

Greg and I made our first Catherine Creek trek of the year today. It didn’t rain, but it was partly cloudy and pretty windy! I didn’t take a ton of photos, but I have a video at the end of this post.

Catherine Creek Hike

We started off behind these two women who walked right past the “dogs must be on leash” sign with their dog off-leash. We saw them later in the hike and the dog was still off-leash.

Catherine Creek Hike

Things are starting to green up!

Catherine Creek Hike

Catherine Creek Hike

Once we got up on top with the big sloping meadow we were pummeled by the wind:

Catherine Creek Hike

Catherine Creek Hike

We started getting a little bit more blue sky:

Catherine Creek Hike

It was a relief when we picked up the old road and started descending. We were out of the open and now protected from the relentless wind:

Catherine Creek Hike

We crossed Catherine Creek then picked up another old road going up past the old corral:

Catherine Creek Hike

We looped around over the top near the arch where we were back in the wind:

Catherine Creek Hike

We dropped down to the road and walked back to the car. Great loop today! Could have done without the wind, but that’s the Gorge for you. 5 miles, 1400′ elevation gain.

CatCreek

Tracy Hill

Saturday, March 11, 2018

What a gorgeous day! Greg was out of town so I did a solo hike at Tracy Hill, which is in the Catherine Creek area in the Columbia River Gorge. My start point was just a short distance east down the road from the main Catherine Creek trailhead.

The trail starts out on an old jeep track. On this crystal clear day I started getting views of Mt. Hood right away:

Tracy Hill Hike

There were still a few grass widows around:

Tracy Hill Hike

I also saw plenty of gold stars:

Tracy Hill Hike

I love the ponderosa pines here:

Tracy Hill Hike

Tracy Hill Hike

At 0.8 mile there is a junction where I went straight. The jeep track from the left would bring me back here at the end of the hike. I continued hiking uphill, then the track turned into a trail and emerged into a huge sloping meadow:

Tracy Hill Hike

As I got higher, the views got better. The snowy bump at center is Lookout Mountain:

Tracy Hill Hike

And Mt. Hood was glorious!

Tracy Hill Hike

1.9 miles into the hike I reached the top of the meadow where someone has made a makeshift bench. It’s a great spot to stop and enjoy the views, which is exactly what I did.

Tracy Hill Hike

Tracy Hill Hike

I loved the gnarled branches on this old oak tree:

Tracy Hill Hike

I spotted a lizard in this hole. See him?

Tracy Hill Hike

How about now?

Tracy Hill Hike

The trail passes through an oak forest:

Tracy Hill Hike

And emerges into another meadow with yet another view of Mt. Hood:

Tracy Hill Hike

I passed an old cattle pond that is fed by a spring:

Tracy Hill Hike

I wanted to get further up the hill and pick up another old jeep track so I left the trail and cut up through the meadow, although it turns out if I had stayed on the trail a bit further I would have intersected a path that headed uphill. I found said path as I got higher:

Tracy Hill Hike

The trail connected with another old jeep track:

Tracy Hill Hike

Which entered a very pleasant forest:

Tracy Hill Hike

At the three-mile mark I came to a more developed-looking road:

Tracy Hill Hike

This spot was also the site of some logging:

Tracy Hill Hike

I made this my turnaround point. Back out in the open meadows I put down my sit pad on the trail and sat down to enjoy the view for awhile:

Tracy Hill Hike

Tracy Hill Hike

I had a good view of the Columbia Hills to the east. Great place to see balsamroot in about six weeks!

Tracy Hill Hike

After soaking up the sunshine for awhile I continued on. The trail descended down into the canyon of Catherine Creek:

Tracy Hill Hike

Tracy Hill Hike

A peek at the Columbia River as the trail descends:

Tracy Hill Hike

I picked up another jeep track:

Tracy Hill Hike

Which connected me back to the original trail where I returned to my car. It was a 6.5 mile loop with 1,700′ elevation gain. Great hike!

Here is my track:

TracyHillTrack

And here is the video:

Wahclella Winter Wonderland

Greg and I hiked to Wahclella Falls today. All the snow had come off the trees, which was too bad. But it was still quite pretty back in there. The creek looked quite lovely.

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The ice daggers hanging off all the cliffs were incredible!

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The slide falls at the bridge was super icy and looked really cool.

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Everything around Wahclella Falls had ice on it.

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It was a lovely outing and cool to see this place after a snowfall. We were glad we had yak trax and microspikes because part of the trail would have been hard to navigate without that extra traction.

Cook Hill

On Sunday Greg and I were supposed to meet up with geocaching friends to do the Cook Hill hike. They got a bit of a head-start on us and we got delayed, so we ended up about an hour behind them on the “trail.”

We started hiking up the old logging road and came to the famous chair.

Road hiking.

More road hiking.

That road is surprisingly steep and I was really struggling. Greg had on sandals (hiking boots sitting outside the front door, whoops!) and he was barely winded.

Saw some coralroot which was growing right up through some ferns.

One patch of lupine alongside the old road.

We reached the junction where the Russ Jolley “trail” branches off and found a note from our friends. We had caught up a bit and were now only 30 minutes behind them.

We had to battle this tall vegetation, which would have been a lot worse if our friends hadn’t bushwhacked through here 30 minutes earlier.

Then we broke out into the meadow where some balsamroot were in bloom. They were past peak but still nice.

The wind was AWFUL. I thought we were going to get blown off the mountain! Photographing the wildflowers was difficult. All my photos are full of blurry bits of yellow.

Views to the west.

And the Hood River Valley to the east.

We still had a lot more climbing to do before reaching the summit. There wasn’t really a trail, just flagging. The underbrush was low, but even then it’s surprising how slow the going is when there is no established trail.

Almost there. We finally caught up with our friends a few minutes after I took this picture.

We finally reached the summit and I was disappointed to see that the meadows there were not wildflower meadows like on Dog Mountain. There were a few flowers here and there, but it was mostly just grass. This was the largest concentration of flowers in the whole meadow:

It was hard to stay upright with the wind blowing so hard. Here’s Greg being blown backward.

View down to the Columbia and the Oregon side of the Gorge.

The clouds parted just enough to give us a peek at Mt. Hood.

And there’s Dog Mountain next door.

We had a GPS track that showed you can continue along the summit and connect up with the road system to loop back down, but going further along the summit would have required some serious bushwhacking and our friends had also heard that the upper part of the road had a lot more blowdown than the lower part. So we returned the way we came.

For all the accolades this hike gets online, I was expecting some spectacular results. Unfortunately this hike turned out to be more work than Dog Mountain with less reward than Dog Mountain. That one balsamroot meadow was nice, but the summit was not worth the work it took to get there. So the final verdict is that it’s good to check this one off the list, but I don’t plan to hike it again.

Hood River Mountain

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had never heard of this hike up Hood River Mountain until just this week. So I decided to hike up there today and see what’s what. It was worth it!

There were just a few cars parked at the trailhead when I arrived. I squeezed my car in amongst them (there’s not a whole lot of parking) and headed off up the trail. It starts off in the trees, climbing steadily. Then it evens out as it reaches the top. For some ways along this flat section there is a lot of tall brush crowding the trail, but there was one opening that allowed a sweeping view to the north and west which included Hood River, the Columbia River, and Mt. Adams. Beautiful!

A little ways down the trail, about a mile from the trailhead, you suddenly pop out of the brush and you’re in the meadows, which stretch out for a long ways along the top of the mountain. Oh yeah, and there’s a view of Mt. Hood too!

There were lots of wildflowers blooming up there. The balsamroot has gotten a good start, but hasn’t peaked yet. It’ll start looking pretty awesome in a week or two.

There were some paintbrush as well.

These looked like yellow glacier lilies, although I’ve only ever seen white ones. Can anyone confirm?

Not sure what these were.

I also saw lots and lots of lupine leaves, but they look like they’re about two weeks from blooming. It should look pretty spectacular up there when they do!

There was fierce cold wind up here and judging by the tree branches all growing the same direction I’m guessing that it’s always like that up there. But I was hungry, so I sat on a warm rock and ate my lunch admiring the view and trying to ignore the wind.

A group of hikers appeared and started heading across the meadow. And suddenly a gentle old collie appeared next to me, staring politely but intently at my sandwich. I gave him a pat and tried to gently send him on his way, but he was totally ignoring his owner’s calls. Boy he really wanted that sandwich! The owner came over and guided the dog back to the trail. I ran across them later and learned he is 14 years old. His long hair blew in crazy ways in that wind and I was tempted to ask if I could take a picture, but I didn’t.

I hiked the trail through the meadows until it turned and headed down the backside of the mountain via a gravel road. This passed through more meadows. No balsamroot there, but there were thousands of buttercups blooming there and lots more lupine leaves soon to sprout that purple loveliness!

At the bottom of the gravel road I turned and followed Elder Road back to the trailhead. Hardly any cars and best of all no wind! It was three miles round-trip. Great hike! I’m glad I learned about this place.

Windy at Rowena

Got up at 5:30 this morning and was out of the house by 6:00 so I could photograph flowers in the eastern Gorge with nice morning light. Well, Mother Nature let me down and conditions were poor.

I went to Tom McCall Nature Preserve (i.e. Rowena Plateau) first. The wind was INSANE. It was the kind of wind that prevents you from standing still. My fingers went numb within 30 seconds of leaving the car. It was about 7:30 and I was the only one around, not surprisingly. Photography was pretty much impossible and I just got a few quick “for the record” shots before retreating to the car.

I took a quick video. You can hear the wind and you can see the camera shake from me not being able to hold it steady.

I tried taking a drive through the Hood River Valley to see the blooming orchards. The overcast day obscured both Hood and Adams. The orchards are blooming quite nicely, though. I expect this is the last weekend for them.

Dry Creek Falls

The muddiness and wetness of winter has kept me off the hiking trails for the last three months or so. I missed it, so I was determined to go hiking on Sunday. I was dismayed as I watched the forecast deteriorate from clear and dry to cloudy with a good chance of rain. I went anyway and fortunately I didn’t get rained on until the very end of the hike.

I had hoped to see more signs of spring out there, but maybe it’s just been too cold. This was about the only sign of spring I saw:

I ambled up the trail, huffing and puffing (so much for the last five months of working out at the gym!)

After all that rain on Saturday, Dry Creek Falls was anything by dry. It was gushing.

And let me tell you, it was COLD there. The waterfall spray was icy and quickly numbed my fingers as I tried to take pictures. Hiking back down to the junction with the trail, I scrambled down to creekside to try some shots down there.

On the way back to the car, the sun tried to make a few brief appearances, but then it vanished and the rain and hail began. I picked up the pace and made it back to the car without getting too wet. I am really looking forward to drier and more colorful (wildflowers!) hiking conditions!

Wildflowers still late at Dalles Mountain Ranch and Rowena

If you’re planning on going to Dalles Mountain Ranch or Rowena Plateau tomorrow to see wildflowers, don’t bother! Greg and I got up early again this morning and headed out to Dalles Mountain Ranch. A beautiful morning out there, but it’s hard to believe that it’s been two whole weeks since our last visit. The flowers have made very little progress in those two weeks. At the trailhead, the balsamroot are just barely starting, and there are no lupine blooming.

Still no flowers

I would guess it’ll be a good two weeks before it comes close to peak bloom.

Same at Rowena Plateau. Balsamroot blooms just getting started. Lots of lupine leaves but no lupine blooms. And to think that on April 30 last year it looked like this:

Wildflowers

One place we DID see lots of balsamroot – rather unexpectedly – was at Mosier Twin Tunnels. Lots of them in full beautiful bloom right before you get to the tunnels (coming from the east). No lupine yet, though.

Balsamroot everywhere