The second Monday of the New Year I headed to the east side of the Columbia River Gorge to see if some mule deer could be spotted. My goal was to explore the country on the east side of Catherine Creek in Washington about 65 miles from home. Like Coyote Wall, the area is a tilted basalt formation extending a few miles north of the Gorge, rising to around 2,300 feet above sea level. It was a spectacular day – – – sunshine, no wind and temperatures in the mid to high-30’s.
I began hiking northeast from the parking area, following a rough trail through the grasslands. After walking a few hundred feet, I began hearing meadowlarks, jays and other small birds. They always make my hikes much more enjoyable. Many times I am unable to spot them, but their chatter and pretty songs provide plenty of company. Within one-third mile of the Trailhead, I found a footbridge over Catherine Creek. After crossing it, I continued to an old coral below a natural arch carved out of the basalt cliffs.
To the north, Catherine Creek cut a north-south deep canyon through the basalt. After reaching the top of the rimrock cliffs, I turned back and hiked to the top of the natural arch, marvelling at the snow-covered majesty of Mt. Hood to the southwest. After enjoying the views of the canyon below, I headed northeast. After ascending to 2,000 feet above the trailhead, the Oak-Savannah grasslands had turned to a mixed white oak and Doug fir forest. At this point I headed west, dropping into the Catherine Creek Canyon. There was much recent sign of mule deer, but none were spotted. After returning to the coral, it was a pleasant return to the Trailhead. The trek made for a nice six-hour outing. All in all the hike was 8 1/2 miles in length with 2,200 feet of elevation gain.
By the way, for those who enjoy spotting and listening to small birds, here’s the web address of an Oregonian article I wrote last year:
Trek Tip 2: My main camera is a Nikon D7000 DSLR with a Nikon 70-300mm VR lens and a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens. The great majority of photos are taken with the telephoto lens. The Nikon D7000 is a great choice for the Pacific Northwest due to its good weather seals, fast focusing, long battery life, high noise sensitivity and 16 MP sensor.