Thursday, April 27, 2017

Starving for Lower Starvation Ridge

The weather was meh this weekend, so instead of hunting down some wildflowers that are still somewhat behind schedule, we did a loop we haven't done for 3 years: the Lower Starvation Loop.

It's a really great little hike. It gives you a great little bit of everything you need in a Gorge hike. You get a great workout from the first mile. You get multiple great waterfalls. You get sections of solitude. You get wildflowers. You get great views. You get fun creek crossings and interesting diversions. You even get power lines and everything that offers (views). It's really underrated.

At the parking lot a quick diversion to the left gives you a view of the gigantic (and somewhat obscured) Starvation Creek Falls. Walk back on the newly paved bike trail a bit and you hit the Starvation cutoff shortcut, which is about 1/4th of a mile long and up with the toughest climbs step for step anywhere. Thankfully it's not long. The hike gains roughly 1300 feet of elevation, and most of it comes in this backbreaking section.

Starvation Creek Falls

Luckily, it's short! Then you hit the Starvation Ridge junction (you can walk left 50 yards for a quick view, but a better one is coming). You cross Cabin Creek, climb up some more to a power line clearing, where a nice bare rock ledge offers a spectacular view. Dog Mountain dominates the view directly north.

Central Viewpoint on the lower Starvation Ridge

Pano from the central viewpoint

From here the hike descends on a bare grassy meadow under the power lines. Little wildflowers speckle the hill. Large raptors fly around overhead. This section feels mildly perilous with a steep drop into some witch trees far below.

The meadow section

Once back into the woods, you have to get creative to cross a wide, deep creek. Then you quickly reach the Mt. Defiance junction. A quick walk along the Defiance trail gives you a view of lower Lancaster Falls.

Lower Lancaster Falls

A short walk back down to the bottom of the cliff takes you to the very cool Hole in the Wall falls. In 1938 construction crews cut out a hole in the rock to divert the creek so now the waterfall tumbles out a tunnel.

Hole in the wall falls

Dave for scale

Caption included in photo!

A quick walk back along the paved bike trail drops you next to Cabin Creek Falls, and then the parking lot. Because we are now much cooler, sexier hikers than we used to be, we decided to walk along the bike trail to Viento State Park to add a couple easy miles to our total and bring us close to 6 on the day.

Cabin Creek Falls

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Jesus did a zombie thing once and now we call it Easter so we celebrated the day of bunnies laying eggs against the laws of nature by going on a hike to a cool new spot called Coyote Wall.

Coyote Wall is a massive cliff in the eastern gorge (past Hood River) on the Washington side. Some sort of geological thing happened here once. I don't really know what, I just know there is a big ass cliff there now, stretching from the river all the way up the hill.

There is a large labyrinth of trails here (One area is even called "The Labyrinth"). The area is a mountain biker's haven, so there are tons of cuts, loops, curves and weaves. It was clearly designed and made by mountain bikers before the hiking community really found it, because the trails are far more bike friendly than hiking friendly. On the plus side, that means no true backbreaker steepness since that would murder bikers. There are also old jeep roads and power lines. It's a very different area than most of the gorge, because it's in the dry desert area past the cascade line.

The trailhead is right below the base of the mega wall and it's pretty imposing and awe inspiring. A quick walk up the old, closed highway 8 takes you around the backside of the cliff and to the trail access. Since this was my first foray into the area and I don't have a map, I decided to keep it simple and hug the left, since that trail (The "little moab" trail), hugged the cliff. It's steeper, it's very rocky, but the views are great. Sadly, because it was a grey, colorless day, my pictures turned out kind of crap. I bet sunrise/sunset here on a clear day is spectacular.

The base of the wall from the trailhead parking lot

Walking the wall to start

Keeley looking west, Snowy Mt. Defiance far in the distance

The parking lot from on the wall

The Coyote Wall

We climbed up through the desert dirt and shrubs. It's a fun climb. You basically just weave back and forth on the trail (or be boring and take the jeep road straight up), periodically hitting the edge of the wall for a view. The views get better with each step. Mt. Hood comes into view, Mt. Defiance comes into view, and Rowena Crest and the eastern gorge come into view. About 2/3rds of the way up, right past a large notch in the wall, you get the best overall view at about 270 degrees. Past that, up one final hill, the creepy tree line arrives and the views basically vanish. A small loop on a dangerous narrow trail goes into the woods, meets up at a dirt road, and loops back to the upper viewpoint. There used to be a trail that descended to the base of the wall for a true loop, but it was closed due to private land stuff.

Mosier Oregon from Coyote Wall

Coyote Wall from the best viewpoint

I called it "suicidal rock"

That cliff 5 feet away from the biker is certain death, by the way

From here we took the long way down, taking a more easterly path that weaved around Burns Farm slowly downhill. Lesser views, more peaceful, some wildflowers. Eventually we met back up at the wall and got back to the car. We admired our feat from below and then ate burgers and beer in Hood River.

An even 6.66 miles (on a day about Jesus lol) and around 1500 elevation gain.
Keeley's garmin data: