I always begin my hiking season in the eastern Columbia River Gorge. The weather is warmer and the wildflowers bloom earlier. And - most important of all - when you travel east of the Cascades, there's usually less rain.
|You can see why this road was closed|
One mid-April Saturday, I chose to revisit a favorite trail on the Washington side of the Gorge, Coyote Wall. A tall rocky cliff band that extended upwards from the Columbia River, it offered views and wildflowers.
|Desert parsley brightens the roadside|
In the spring, my hubby usually spends his weekends salmon fishing. But so far this year's salmon run had been non-existent. Due to the lack of fish migrating up the Columbia, wildlife officials closed the river to salmon fishing. So I asked hubby if he wanted to come hiking with me instead. And - surprise - he said yes!
|Official trail start|
Although this trail was in the Cascades rain shadow, on my chosen hiking day the forecast called for rain everywhere starting at 11 am. Hoping to beat the wet stuff (and get a parking spot) my hubby and I left home at an early hour. We arrived to a nearly empty lot, with only a few mountain bikers unloading nearby. (The Coyote Wall area trails are shared with mountain bikers)
The first part of the trail followed an abandoned road. Littered with boulders fallen from the adjacent cliffs, it wasn't hard to see why this road got re-routed. Huge clumps of yellow desert parsley poking up between the rocks brightened the roadside.
|Small creek crossing|
After a half mile, we came upon the trailhead proper. Several dirt paths branched out from here, climbing the hillside. From my last visit, I remembered the Little Maui Trail had been a favorite, so directed my hubby to head that way.
Plentiful spring rains had turned the hillsides into a vivid shade of green. We climbed past a clump of oak trees, crossed a tiny creek, and continued to wind our way towards the top. Desert parsley was going strong, adding lots of yellow to the ultra green scene.
|Green and yellow make for a colorful scene|
As hubby and I ascended, the Columbia River came into view. Briefly interrupted by a couple of polite mountain bikers, we continued our climb up the plush hillside, dodging rocks and peeping at the wildflowers dotting the slopes (well, I was looking at the wildflowers. My fleet-footed hubby continued trekking up the hill!)
|Little Maui Trail|
The Little Maui trail features a creek flowing through the meadows, with two lovely waterfalls. Although not very tall, framed by the green vegetation and yellow flowers, I thought they were most lovely - a welcome surprise in this arid portion of the Gorge.
My hubby is a fast walker and hikes with a purpose. I'm a meanderer, taking my time, and stopping to photograph whatever catches my eye. Sometimes our hiking styles clash. But today, hubby was patient, stopping to wait several times.
|Wet trail crossing|
We crossed a wide gushing creek near the top of the first hills. The trail then contoured across the slope before coming to our first major junction with the Old Ranch Road. Taking one final look at the Columbia River winding eastward, I put my head down and began the steep climb up the side of Coyote Wall.
|Lone oak and Gorge views|
I'd been hoping to see some balsamroot flowers in bloom. But so far, no luck. Then, in the middle of my steep climb, I spotted some large yellow flowers ahead. Could it be? Yes, yes it was!
|First balsamroot of the year!|
The balsamroot was just beginning to bloom. Happily, I pulled out my camera for an extended photo break.
|Balsamroot lines the cliff edge|
Our trail now followed an old road that paralleled the edge of Coyote Wall's steep, rocky canyon. As I climbed, views opened up to the west. I could see the Oregon side of the Gorge, and even spotted Mt Hood's white tip.
|Heading down along the Little Moab trail|
Although the trail climbed all the way along the cliff's perimeter, about halfway up, it dived into some thick, oak woods. Knowing this oak forest had a reputation for ticks in the spring, my hubby and I decided to make the grove our day's turn-around point.
|Fantastic views along the ridge|
For our return, I directed hubby to follow the Little Moab trail, that followed the very edge of Coyote Wall's rugged, rocky cliffs. Oh, were the views amazing!
Not only did we have a front-row view of Coyote Wall itself, we also had in-your-face views of the Columbia River, spread out before us. As we ascended, I noticed the clouds thickening. Uh-oh, the predicted rain was on it's way.
|Barge on the Columbia River|
At one viewpoint, I spotted a barge motoring down the Columbia. Looking over the cliff edge, I also got a glimpse of the parking area, now overflowing with vehicles. The cars were so tiny - we still had a long ways to descend.
|Well signed trails|
By now it was late morning, and the rest of the world had finally awoke. In addition to mountain bikers, hubby and I encountered a steady stream of hikers, a few in large groups. Except for a handful of mountain bikers and three hiking parties, we'd had the trails nearly to ourselves all morning. Starting early has it's benefits!
|Freight train passing by|
We ended the day's loop back at the old road. As hubby and I followed the road back to our car, a freight train thundered down the adjacent tracks, providing me another subject. Although cloudy skies gave a blah background, it was still a cool photo op.
A lovely (dry) spring morning in the Gorge with my hubby. Five miles, 1500 feet elevation gain, and hike number 10 of my 52 hike challenge!