Welcome to the Washington Desert, it’s Hot AF: Coyote Wall

Hiked: July 21, 2019

Distance: 8 miles, felt like more

Midwest summers are humid, steamy affairs. Maybe not “Lousiana swamp” humid, but they’re close. My hair is in a constant state of panic; vinyl car seats stick your thighs. Your thighs stick to your thighs. That’s why when anyone complains about it being hot somewhere else, like the desert, we say “Yeah, but it’s not humid!” and then we high five and spike an ear of corn into the ground because we WIN.

Well guess what. I been to the desert, as in Mojave. It might not be humid, but it’s still HOT. Like a dry relentless hot drinking all the liquid from your body, baking your skin like a preheated oven.

Here in Western Washington, people have a different definition of hot. HOT is anything over 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wow, driving into Eastern Washington is a study in contrasts. When I first crossed the border out of Idaho four years ago, I was greeted by a tumbleweed. Hardly the verdant, rainy, Seattle-centric media depictions of Washington. I quickly learned to distinguish between the two worlds bracketing the Cascades.

We set out early and headed down to one of my favorite places, the Columbia River Gorge. The river carves out the border between Washington and Oregon before emptying out into the Pacific, and every mile is a scenic wonder.

We ventured further east than I had ever been on Highway 14, past Dog Mountain and the Bridge of the Gods, past the Bonneville Dam and through some cool tunnels to Coyote Wall, a 300 foot cliff that casts a shadow over the old road at the start of the trail.

 

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Nature makes its own geometry

Exciting things about this trail: Scenery is amazing, elevation gain is gradual and easy, except for a side scramble to the top of the wall. Wildflowers are probably pretty nice if I had gone in Spring, like a sane person.

Less Exciting things about this trail: Rattlesnakes? Poison Oak? Trembling in terror with each step because of these possibilities. HOT in summer.

Don’t worry, we brought enough water for the dogs (Charlotte opted for the easy hike at Rainbow Falls.)

Coyote Wall is a study in contrasts. Sun-scorched cliffs tower above the lush Columbia River valley, all that water and greenery mocking us below as dust layers accumulated on our skin. A borderland where worlds intermix, the tumbleweed and the farmland.

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Looking out over the wall, hills of evergreens sloped away while up on the plateau we sought brief solace in scrubby stands of oak where we dared not linger due to the poison oak.

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Mount Hood peeking at us and laughing. 

In Spring, there are falls and creeks and grass. In high summer, there is dirt and one pretty content looking salamander.

The hike was a lesson learned; beautiful, but not kind to dog paws. It concluded with me carrying Gambit, the 50 pound Heeler on my shoulders down the zig-zagging path while several hawks circled overhead, their shadows ominously crossing the ground ahead. But this isn’t the first time Gambit has been stalked by carrion birds, and he has some kind of lucky charm, because we made it down, and Gambit was only mad at us for 6-8 weeks.

 

 

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