R Solo: Catherine Creek Wildflower BONANZA

Another post that will be mostly pictures. This Saturday I took a nice loop hike with my dad from the Catherine Creek Trailhead on the Washington side of the eastern Gorge up Tracy Hill, off trail and on an old road across an upper portion of Catherine Creek, on the Atwood Road over to Coyote Wall, and back lower down, on a sort of improvised series of roads, trails, and non-trails. Note that ticks seem to be a bigger problem this year than they have been before. I found one on my shoulder the next day, and was thoroughly grossed out. Since then, I’ve been making Krista do nightly tick checks, even though it’s been several days.

1.

We head up the eastern most trail out of Catherine Creek past the old arched rock, and the flowers start immediately. Big-Headed Clover:

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Bi-Colored Cluster Lily:

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Old ranch remains:

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Common Camas:

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Meadow Death Camas (basically the best flower name ever), looking like mini-beargrasses.

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Great Hound’s Tongue (I think this was my dad’s favorite):

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Ball-Head Waterleaf:

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Big Root (Wild Cucumber):

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2.

From the trail’s high point on Tracy Hill, we follow a path west down toward the Catherine Creek drainage, then take a hard right and contour north on some braiding deer trails into the upper canyon. Note that the side-hilling here is pretty steep, and requires a little scrambling. Also: ticks. Maybe better to stay on trail here…

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After following game trails maybe a half mile up the canyon, we find a good way down to the creek, cross, and bushwhack maybe fifty feet up the western side to an old, slightly overgrown road grade – “Old Stove Road,” for reasons that will become clear in a moment – running parallel to the creek.

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Broad-Leaf Lupine and Western Trillium en route:

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Along the old road, there are several spots of burned wood that don’t exactly look like camp fires. A few years ago, the Forest Service cut and collected trees and brush up here to make a sort of fire line. Makes for a good trail, too.

Anyway, here’s the view of some balsamroot across the canyon, on the side of Tracy Hill:

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3.

Where our track hits the more-traveled Atwood Road, there are a bunch of old homey ruins. I guess there was once a homestead here, too.

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Get the Old Stove thing? Shall I cook us some lunch?

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There are also a bunch of these gorgeous circular growths around the trees. I guess they’re fungus or parasites or something, but they’re gorgeous.

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And log decorations:

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4.

Once we hit the old Atwood Road, it’s pretty much smooth sailing to Coyote Wall. I’m surprised at how few people we see – maybe a dozen total, even though the Coyote Wall parking lot was overflowing when we drove by a few hours earlier.

More flowers. Chickweed Monkey Flower:

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And Small-Flowered Prairie Star:

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And Red Flowering Currant:

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And this guy, who I’m pretty sure isn’t a flower at all:

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5.

The best balsamroot displays we see all day are along the upper stretches of Coyote Wall. I take maybe fifty pictures, but I still can’t quite do it justice.

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6.

We stop most of the way up the wall for a late lunch and some views. As before, there are very few people around. Nice to have a place like this to ourselves.

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On the way back, we go down to the lower trail system, and pick our way east. Here’s that awesome mesa (I think that’s the right word?) near the Labyrinth.

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Another:

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Some of my favorite views of the day are from the trail that runs just above Rowland Lake. I’ll never get sick of the Columbia round here;

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More lupine, wishing us a safe trip home:

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