Date of Hike: April 4, 2023
March and April made for a miserable Spring weather-wise in the Willamette Valley: rain – and not our usual misty rain – almost everyday with temperatures well below normal. Jonah and Linda texted us suggesting we get out of the gloom by going on a hike on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge between Hood River and The Dalles where the Cascade Mountains start to give way to the drier Eastern Oregon.
This Google Maps snap shows the dramatic difference with the beginning of the Cascade rain shadow.
Dramatic change from green to brown out in the Columbia Gorge. Google Maps
Out of the rain and into the sun? Count us in. This is one of Jonah’s favorite hikes; and we were delighted to be asked along to visit one of his happy places. Back in 2014 Carla and I hiked with Jay, Mary Ann, John and Karen on the Rowena Trail near Mosier almost straight across on the Oregon side. We drove most of the way up and the hike was more of a walk than a true hike. So, that’s what was in my head until a few days before we were to leave when Jonah told us to bring our hiking boots. I asked: “Boots?, are sturdy shoes okay?”. He replied “Boots, man; definitely boots.” While I walk a lot neither Carla nor I are in the kind of shape Linda and Jonah are in. How hard can it be? We’d find out; spoiler alert, pretty dang hard but amazingly beautiful. The promise of better skies kept us in the game.
Here is an overview of the hiking area. The trailhead is off old Highway 8 which is just north of Washington State Highway 14. We started at the trailhead down in the bottom right of the Google Maps screen snap and headed left (west) up the hill to the at the top of the map.
As we looked up at the mountain
Howard: “Um, how far up we were going?”
Jonah: “See those power lines up there?”
Me: “[Gulp] The power lines we can barely see?”
Jonah: “Well the top of the trail is just beyond them.”
We definitely were in boot territory in the early going, hiking along areas of rocks ranging in size from baseballs to softballs. Early on we stopped to take a picture of a barge pushing its load up the Columbia River behind us. Okay; maybe it will be worth it.
A little farther on we hiked along a ridge that provided a view of Rowland Lake below us. Okay, definitely worth it.
It’s very hard to see from these pictures but there are little dugouts in the rocky ground just this side of the lake. As I understand it, Native American boys would sleep out there during their adulthood rites of passage.
Turning our eyes upward, the clouds were dramatic!
Hiking with Linda is a combination of exhilaration, awe, and humbleness. Carla and I would need to stop and catch our breath every hundred or so yards and we’d look up the trail and Linda is just trucking along another hundred yards ahead taking in the view and just GOING. She, Carla, and Starr are the epitome of Glenn – their dad – forces to be reckoned with. Back in fall of 2019 Starr joined her two older sisters and me on a trip to the South. As usual, I’d find myself way behind Linda and Carla; this time I had a partner in crime with Starr. The older two sisters would be out at least a block or two ahead marching with their mission pants on. Starr and I would duck in a doorway or behind a wall to see when they’d notice we weren’t behind them. Ah, good times.
We finally made it under those power lines and “just beyond” reached the top. Jonah and Linda have a picnic spot up there: a log overlooking the Columbia Gorge.
Notice the power line tower down the hill on the center-right of the photo above. We sat on the log and enjoyed our well-earned lunch. I decided a panorama would give a better idea of the view.
I did enjoy this hike; well, maybe not in the moment. I’m not proud of my non-smile in this group picture taken by another hiker on the trail. I can be a complainer; I had a moment where I was sick of the gusty wind – which takes me back to my childhood in Palmdale, California – I do NOT like wind at all. I hope I wasn’t too big of a pain in the ass.
We took a different way back along a Forest Service road. One of the high points along the trail is Natural Arch forming in the basalt wall.
How strenuous was the hike? When I am in good walking form I can walk the 1¼ walk up Weir Road near my house in about 25 minutes. That road has a 16% grade which gains about 440 feet. Looking at the maps I can’t determine the elevation of the trail head but the top of our hike was 1,310 feet.
Bingen, down at the Columbia River edge, has an elevation of 131 feet – less than 150 foot drop of the river from there to the ocean some 80 miles away! The trail head is well above that though; let’s figure 300 feet. That’s still a 1,000 foot rise in 2 miles. Way, way steeper than my usual challenging walk. But I did it! You can be sure I’ll use this as a benchmark when we hike with Linda and Jonah again: “Is [whatever] hike harder than the Catherine’s Creek hike”?
As I said, Linda and Jonah took this in stride. They are working up to hiking in the Dolomites of Italy later this summer.
We rewarded ourselves with beer and appetizers at pFriem in Hood River on the way home
Have you done the hike? Let me know what you think about it.