On a sunny Saturday in late winter we headed to the east side of the Columbia River Gorge to see if some colorful wildflowers and mule deer could be spotted. Our goal was to explore the Catherine Creek area 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, little wind and temperatures in the mid to high-50’s.
We began hiking northeast from the parking area, following a rough trail through the grasslands. Purple grass widows were in bloom and visible everywhere. A meadowlark was providing musical accompaniment.
We began were spotting prairie stars, desert parsley, gold stars and many other wildflowers. Within one-third mile of the Trailhead a footbridge crossed over Catherine Creek. Soon we reached 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, we enjoyed the views to the east of the desert-like scenery. Feeling ambitious we headed north and began ascending the open desert-steppe country for a mile or two, spotting a small bunch of mule deer along the way.
We marvelled at the fresh snow on Mt. Hood literally sparkling in the sunshine. Dropping into the top of the Catherine Creek Canyon, we enjoyed a leisurely hike back to the trailhead, spotting many wildflowers, a fence lizard and a ground squirrel along the way.
After crossing the road, we did a short loop on a paved path past a small waterfall on Catherine Creek.
The trek made for a beautiful “spring” outing in early March of roughly six miles with 1,400 feet of elevation gain.