Taking advantage of the family being unavailable, Paul and I took back-to-back hiking days. I didn’t quite want to do the big monster dayhikes I’d been planning on and I wanted to look for some stuff that neither one of us had done. So delving a little deeper into “the book”, I came across two whose names have always interested me but I had never been able to decide if they sounded interesting or not.
First off, for Monday, we went to Washington to hike Coyote Wall. Though it was farther afield than our usual grounds, It was an easy one to get to. And though it starts off by walking past a neat old (and long abandoned) “cattle chute” this first half of the hike was rather nondescript. First you walk a couple of miles along the base of a steep wall (the coyote wall) and then, where the ground and the top of the wall meet, you turn and walk back along the top of the cliff. The lower potion was a scrubby woods with not much to recommend it, though we did feel lost a couple of times. Then you walk up a road which has the occasional house on it and a turn where you have a fantastic view of Mount Hood, Hood River and the river (does that sound a bit redundant?). Then through another woods and you come out at the top. The whole cliff you have just walked beneath is a rolling western-style meadow on top, and you come out at the top with the meadow stretching out for a few miles below you. It is quite a sight and the journey (romp) down the meadow was quite fun, and was like stepping into the wild west. A steep downward sloping meadow of high winds, heat, sun and dry tan grass. Replete with old log and barbed wire cattle fences here and there. It seems like Coyote Wall is the dividing line between the steep and green cliffs of the western gorge and the hills and brown meadows (or deserts, in my parlance) of the eastern gorge. A notion that is backed-up by fantastic vistas of Mount Hood in front and the gorge stretching out to either side. You can look miles down the gorge each direction and really witness the transition between the lush western side of the Cascades and the dry eastern slopes. The wind, as one might expect, is quite strong (very quite strong at some points) and the cliff side does drop rather suddenly (though not as dreadfully as at Table Mountain), coupled with the image of the grasses undulating in the winds it lends a very surreal feel to the place. When you finally make it all the way down, where the meadow gets broken up by rather picturesque rock formations, you encounter “old paved road” which is just what it sounds like. An old two lane paved road with weeds breaking through and rocks here and there. I found even the “old paved road” to be rather picturesque and then, the most perilous part of the journey, where the road rounds the front end of the Coyote Wall, it is a bit unnerving. All along the road are hundreds of stones and boulders that have fallen from the cliffs, and looking up at the cliff rising hundreds of feet above you, you certainly feel that it would be no rare experience for a few thousand pound rocks to come down at any moment.
Anyway, it was a nice hot summery hike, and while it was quite spectacular to step out of the woods at the top of the meadow, were I to try it again, I would skip the first half and just park and walk down the “old paved road” and ascend the meadow from the bottom.
For a completely different experience, Tuesday we went over towards the mountains and hiked up Wildcat Mountain. The trip there was interesting, driving through the ugly suburban Portland sprawl and then take a left and drive through miles of wooded hills dotted with farms, and then miles of tree-farms. It was nice and foggy out and the drive was quite pleasant. Then the road became one lane and then gravel and then we found ourselves driving into a creepy, fog-cloaked gravel pit. It was a bit unnerving, driving around in the foggy gravel pit in the middle of nowhere with spent shotgun shells and rifle casings littering the ground, but once we found the trail head it became very nice. Here I must digress to comment on the weather. Last month it actually rained about 5 times. Now rain doesn’t really happen much in the summer around here, so the coolness of the month (though there were a few days that it got hot) and the rain really made July stand out as one of the nicest July’s I can recall. And now, here we were in August? It was wonderful to be outside in August in a 50 degree, foggy, drizzly day. And totally unexpected. Yes, we were up in the mountains (the trailhead is at 3500 feet), but even when we got back to the city it was overcast and breezy and maybe 70 degrees. All in all, crazy pleasant for August.
Anyway, this hike was seemingly laden with great views of Mount Hood, but since we couldn’t see anything, we have to take the book’s word for it (and last year we hiked just a few miles north [Hunchback Mountain and Devil's Peak] where we could certainly see the mountain quite well). What was here is a beautiful, lush rainforest filled with Rhododendron’s (we may have to return when the Rhodies are in bloom, I can’t imagine what that might be like). It was a short hike, about 4.5 miles up and back and then another mile on an ill-fated side quest to find a bench and a meadow. There also isn’t much elevation gain, so it was very pleasant and relaxing. Sadly, on the side quest, the narrow path was edged with grasses that were quite wet and overhanging the path, so after about a half mile, my shoes and feet were so drenched that we went back, without finding the bench on which to lunch. But the trail and the woods were very nice, especially the one part where the trail opens out to a rocky and mossy cliff top, where you just know there is a spectacular view out there, hidden in the fog. This is one that would most certainly be nice to return to, when warmer and drier and the flowers are in bloom, it would be a nice hike for the family.
Of course, on neither of these did we see a single other person.