This weekend was the most beautiful weekend in the history of Februaries.
And while I’m completely jealous of all the snow my old Kentucky home is getting this week, I’m trying to accept 60-something degree temperatures and abundant sunshine in this winter-that-wasn’t here in Portland.
We started this weekend’s adventure as we start many Ringer adventures: with a plan that quickly fell apart. Originally, we hoped to hike the Eagle Creek Trail on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. I’d heard about it while volunteering last week, and after reading about it, it sounded pretty cool (waterfalls, trails along the edge of a cliff, etc.). I read that it was a pretty popular hike, but “pretty popular” might be the biggest understatement you could make on a 60-degree Valentine’s Day Saturday afternoon. We drove all the way there, couldn’t find a parking spot in any of the 3 parking areas, and could barely drive down the road because of all the hikers parking far away and walking to the trailhead.
And since Eric and I are the world’s biggest crowd haters, we knew we didn’t want to do this particular hike on this particular day. So we turned to the Google and searched for less popular hikes in the area. And then we got the brilliant idea that we could hike on the Washington side of the river! I often forget that we live approximately 10 minutes from Washington, having only ventured to that state twice since moving to Portland last fall. And that’s how we stumbled upon The Coyote Wall trail, just a bit further east in the Gorge, and across the river in Washington. And that’s also how I made the classic Ringer mistake of not thoroughly reading the trail description and just assuming we could figure it out when we got there. Classic Ringer.
Finding the trailhead was really easy, particularly because the parking area was pretty packed with cars, which made me a little nervous about how crowded it would be. Luckily, the trail was confusing enough that we didn’t encounter many people on our hike.
So, I mentioned that this hike was confusing. That’s because there are a ton of trail splits. From what we could tell, most of the splits eventually meet up again, but we weren’t really sure which path would take us where we were supposed to go. And since I didn’t thoroughly read the trail description, we didn’t know what we were looking for, other than nice views of the Gorge. So we just took whichever path seemed to lead up the hill and to the edge of the cliff, which mostly meant taking lefts at every trail split and trying to stick with the biggest trail.
The views on this hike were spectacular. And we couldn’t have picked a better day. The weather was just warm enough for short sleeves, and there was enough of a breeze to keep us cool in the sun on the completely exposed trail. And guys, there were wildflowers in bloom. In February. Like, we live in some sort of tropical paradise. That’s what this winter has been.
When we started at the bottom of the trail, we had great views of the Columbia River, but as we hiked a little higher, Mount Hood started to peek over the other mountains.
I loved this hike because it reminded me so much of Bend, which is one of my favorite places in Oregon. It had that high desert feel, with sunny skies, dirt trails, and open spaces. And I suppose it makes sense because we had crossed to the east side of the mountains, which completely changes the landscape from the fertile Willamette Valley to the dry, arid desert.
It turns out that the trails at Coyote Wall are pretty popular with mountain bikers, and we actually encountered more bikers than hikers on our trip. But even with a packed parking lot and lots of folks on bikes, we still didn’t encounter very many people because there are so many trail options.
Supposedly, the whole trail makes a loop somewhere between 7 and 8 miles long, but we didn’t complete the whole loop since we somehow lost the trail (I blame the views) and just walked in the direction of the river for a while.
We did, eventually, find our way back to the trail (it would be hard to get truly lost since you know you need to go back downhill toward the river). We ended up hiking for around 3 hours, so I think we must have knocked out most of the trail system.
After the hike, we took a big Valentine’s Day risk and headed to a restaurant (this may be the first time we’ve eaten out on Valentine’s Day in our 8 1/2 years together) in White Salmon, Washington. And guys, it was warm enough to eat outside on February 14 at Everybody’s Brewing. I had the chicken burrito, and Eric had the steak sandwich. Both were delish. It’s definitely worth a trip (it’s only about 8 minutes away from the Coyote Wall trailhead) after a long hike. Plus, you can see Mount Hood from the patio, and if that doesn’t feed your soul, I don’t know what will.
And if a great hike and delicious food aren’t enough for you, we also got to see a spectacular sunset on our drive back to the city. It made me want to get a boat and float down the Columbia River for some incredible sunset views.
To get to the Coyote Wall Trailhead, take I-84 east of Portland to Exit 64: Hood River. Turn left to cross the Columbia River on the Hood River Bridge (you’ll have to pay a $1 toll to cross each time). After crossing the bridge, turn right on WA-14 (Lewis and Clark Hwy), and follow it 4.5 miles. Turn left onto Courtney Road. The trailhead has a a few parking lots, along with parking along the road. No Forest Pass required. Bathroom at the trailhead. For some pretty confusing, but possibly helpful trail directions, check here. From what I’ve read, ticks and rattlesnakes are common on this trail in the summer.