It’s WILDFLOWER SEASON! It’s a glorious time of year, full of balsamroot, blue lupine, red paintbrush, trilliums and bluebells and penstemon and…
Last weekend we decided to take a relatively easy hike up to Coyote Wall, located in… you’ll never guess… the Columbia River Gorge. Coyote Wall is a 200′ outcrop of basalt rock, with an expansive flat top perfect for wildflowers. The peak season on this particular hike is in April, so we hit it at just the right time (if not a little early). This hike is located on the Washington side of the Gorge, a little further east than most hikes we’ve done. It is amazing what being on just the other side of the Cascades will do; rather than the lush, mossy green terrain we’re used to, this was more like high desert with short grass, dusty trails, low bushy vegetation and knotty, twisting trees. Everything is still bright green, just in a different way. It was an awesome change of scenery.
Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
Top of the meadow at 1,640 feet
Total hike distance: 8.85 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,021 feet (due to lots of up and down on the trail)
Click the image for full GPS data
Pretty standard start to the trail on this one (but the vegetation is noticeably different right away… note the very pale green moss). This is a relatively new network of trails in this area, and most of them on Coyote Wall are shared with mountain bikers. I would highly recommend having a detailed map/directions, a GPS or a guide on this one. There are a lot of criss-crossing trails, old abandoned roads and forks in the trail that can be really confusing. Without decent directions you’d be lost in no time. About halfway up we came across another couple walking toward us. I figured they had already been up to the top and were on their way down, so I asked if they knew if we were on the correct trail to the top. The guy had a handgun strapped to his leg and a SEARCH AND RESCUE t-shirt on, and they were both geared up, so I figured they’d know something. They confirmed that yes, the trail we were on should take us right up. Great! Strangely enough, at the next cluster of forks in the road, we came across this couple again. Huh? Yeah, turns out they were also on their way up but were more clueless than we were. We ended up guiding them to the correct trail. If that guy was really search and rescue, I fear for my safety.
Blue Lupine lined the trail.
It was a short 4 miles or so to the top of Coyote Wall, where you are met with a vast, flat (although sloped) meadow peppered with bunches of balsamroot and lupine.
On this hike, it is a good idea to frequently look back/up… there could be a mountain biker barreling down at any moment.
We had a beautiful sunny day to boot, so we hung out on top of the wall for a while and Paul cooked up some lunch. This time we tried a pre-made freeze-dried meal we got at REI, Mountain House Chili Mac w/Beef. Wow, for a freeze-dried meal this was satisfying and tasty. The nice thing about these is that they come in a pouch, are extremely lightweight and only require water, so all we had to do was boil some up and pour it in. You can eat it directly out of the pouch, so no bowls to clean up. Highly recommend, and we will be stocking up on this brand for sure.
Buckley hangin’ out on our cliffside lunch spot.
This either says “Aaah, I love basking in the sun” or “No pictures, please…” I can’t tell.
My hair was getting in my face, but luckily I had my stylist with me. Bandana styling by Paul.
Once more with shades.
Another product we decided to give a try is Starbucks new instant coffee, Via. I was skeptical… I mean, it’s instant coffee… but we had heard good things so gave it a shot. We were pleasantly surprised. This stuff is good! I might even say it almost matches a fresh cup (of S-bux that is… it can’t hold a candle to french-pressed Stumptown of course). And being able to enjoy it on the trail makes it one thousand times better.
Not a bad way to enjoy a cup of coffee.
And now, a series of gratuitous wildflower and Buckley shots.
Romping down the trail.
Balsamroot and Blue Lupine spring up everywhere.
We took a different route back down through some more mountain bike trails on the east side of the wall, after a biker we met on the trail recommended it. This trail was definitely not what we were used to… no huge trees, forest floors carpeted in fern or moss. This was more like a desert with low brush and crazy trees. I loved it.
One of the crazy crooked trees on the trail.
Making our way down.
We didn’t know it at the time, but this appears to be wild fennel… and it was everywhere. Wish we would have known that! The plants smell amazing too.
Although it was relatively easy, this is one of my favorites that we’ve done this year. It was really nice to experience a little different terrain and vegetation but still be so close to home. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: if you ever want to truly understand how many shades of green really exist, you have to come to Oregon and do some hiking. We’ve hiked probably close to two hundred miles over the last couple years, and it never ceases to awe and inspire (ask Paul… every single hike I gush about how green and pretty everything is and how it’s so amazing that we live here). I’m sure you all know by now, but all our family and friends have a standing open invitation to visit! We are fabulous hosts and tour guides, I promise! Just get a plane ticket here and we’ll take care of the rest…