The second Saturday of February found your intrepid hiker about 60 miles east of home in the Columbia River Gorge. To my relief the sun was shining, but there was a cold, gusty northwesterly causing whitecaps on the river.
On the north side of the Gorge I parked near a small back-water lake only 50 feet above sea level. The day’s objective was to reach the top of Coyote Wall, a tilted basalt formation extending three miles north of the Gorge with sheer cliffs reaching over a 1,000 feet on its west side. The Wall is a very visible landmark across the River from Mosier.
The clockwise loop began by gaining elevation through an open Ponderosa pine and oak forest. After several miles and about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the forest became denser, turning to second-growth Douglas fir trees with thinning in process in places. I continued hiking uphill, seeing many fresh deer tracks, until reaching a dirt road. Before reaching a nice viewpoint 2,000 feet above the Columbia River, I spotted four deer moving through the forest. Heading to the east and gradually losing elevation, I dropped through an oak forest to another grand viewpoint, looking down 1,600 feet from the top of the cliffs. But, the wind was gusting so heavily that the vistas lost their allure quickly.
The return from the viewpoint to the southern terminus of the Wall provided open views up and down the Gorge. I did some exploring to the east toward Catherine Creek, mainly to stay out of the wind. Towards the bottom of the cliffs, quite a few wildflowers in bloom were spotted. As mentioned in a previous blog posting, they were my first wildflowers of the year.
All in all the hike was nine miles in length with 2,300 feet of elevation gain.