The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

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kepPNW
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The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by kepPNW » January 15th, 2014, 12:26 am

Having escaped the rain already last Friday by heading (ironically?) to a rainforest, and then staying dry with the Seahawks and Blazers on Saturday, the challenge was finding another opportunity on Sunday. Peder pointed his Subaru east, and we just kept driving until the windshield wipers started squeaking! Through the gorge, the ceiling was very low, with nearly all the peaks perpetually obscured, even little Wind Mountain. And it was pouring buckets. Yikes! But as we neared Lyle, the rain slackened up, so we pulled over to the Catherine Creek trailhead and, being the only ones there, decided this would be a fine place to explore.

We started out following Catherine Creek northward, then crossed the creek and continued on a bit for a fine view of a pretty darn nice rock arch. After enjoying that area a bit, we kept moving up Tracy Hill, nearly to the top of it. The trail was often a creek, but no matter. The "rain" at this point was just sideways blowing mist of hardly any consequence. A persistent rainbow kept us company from atop the hill.

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Rainbow over Tracy Hill. We had escaped the rain by going east just far enough!


After we'd gone as far as we cared to up that way, it was time to decide how to proceed west. The Catherine Creek drainage was pretty deep and rather steep. Ah well. We plunged down game trails to the creek, whereupon we found the other side was probably twice as steep and rather unconsolidated mud. Fun stuff, this. Using six, or more, points on the ground, we worked our way up that, before veering off into the woods to find the road towards Coyote Wall.

By now, the rather pedestrian "official" trails weren't all that interesting. We found some more game trails and followed those, eventually ending up somewhere near the Labyrinth. Then wound across and/or above some cliffs, along some crazy (to me) steep slopes, before finding ourselves on a nice little plateau above Rowland lake. One we'd just scared a herd of deer off, from a half-mile away!

It was then up and into that giant blocky boulder field, which is just littered with ancient stoneworks. All manor of vision quest pits and other assorted structures. Fascinating! Finally, we just sort of ambled back to the trailhead across the meadows. We sorta followed the trails again, here, but they were flowing pretty deep so it was more of a parallel effort, I suppose.

Enough words...

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The first crossing is always the easiest. Catherine Creek, not too far from trailhead.


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Massive stone arch! It's sorta fenced off, as if they want you to stay away from it.


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Looking back at a stream flowing down the trail as we head up Tracy Hill. (photo: Peder)


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There's a guy having way too much fun to notice the raindrops on the lens! (photo: Peder)


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Catherine Creek seems to be the dividing line between scrub oak-ponderosa pines and our more familiar doug fir forests! (photo: Peder)


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Plunging down a game trail towards a creek we can hear down deep in the drainage.


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And crawling back up. Those "stairs" tended to slide right away when stepped on.


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Like a kid, playing in the mud! (photo: Peder)


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The deer didn't seem to mind the slope much, though. We had some good tracks to follow. (photo: Peder)


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Kinda nice, this massive handrail right where things were getting slippery again. (photo: Peder)


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As we wandered west towards Coyote Wall, we encountered a number of (apparently new?) closures!


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After wandering cross country for awhile, we found a nice trail that brought us down towards the Labyrinth area.


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The rainbow persisted! Fading in and out and in and out... (photo: Peder)


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Like a 70s vacation slideshow, "And here's Peder taking the last picture!"


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I think we were on a "real" trail for a few hundred yards before deciding to go cross country again.


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I so rarely go off-trail, I gotta admit, this was just a ball. (photo: Peder)


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The important point, we kept remembering, was that it wasn't raining here!!!


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Just keeping the center of gravity low, really! Heh... (photo: Peder)


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Do you see the "trail" on the other side of that creek? Yeah, me either.


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While it seems we're wholly focused on our footing, we never really lost sight of the (sunny!) beauty all around us!


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We finally found a level spot where we could drop packs, stowaway a layer, and enjoy a snack!


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Then it was off to the rubble field where all the ancient stonework may be found.


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Just amazing. We rambled around here for some time, zigging and zagging. (photo: Peder)


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Wow...


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And friends, they may think it's a movement!


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The mother of this massive boulder field!


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The Hollow Peace Log


And, well, that was that! In no time at all, it seemed, we were back at the trailhead. And, well, there was still lots of daylight left! However, there were also darker clouds blowing in through the western gorge. Luckily, Peder knew exactly what to do about that. Head East!


Part II
So we drive into Lyle, and as we slow down to pass through, I spot the perfect opportunity to support a local business! PUT ON THE BRAKES!!!


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All the major food groups! Right next to the highway! O.M.G... Like we had a choice here. (photo: Peder)


After some fortification and fine conversation with the friendly proprietor, we drove a bit farther east before Peder found another trailhead. I think there were two other cars here. We got out, and decided to take our packs along rather than leave them as bait-and-smash, then started exploring the old "convict road" at the Lyle Cherry Orchard.

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First, though, you have to sign a liability waiver. Fair tradeoff, eh?


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Apparently, this roadway was carved into the cliffs, for Sam Hill, by prison laborers? Incredible!

EDIT: Some really great history of the "Convict Road" along with numerous historical and present day photos (Hike #103) of this effort may be found in Scott Cook's most excellent Curious Gorge guidebook.


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The winds were screaming now, and looking the direction I am, our first trail was now a bit damper than before. (photo: Peder)


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I was completely taken by the gentle curves of the roadway and tracks through this awesome environment.


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The effort that had to go into building these crude retaining walls was breathtaking.


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But gravity had gotten the better of them in many places.


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Easy to see why a private landowner may fear lawsuits from folks allowed to wander here! (photo: Peder)


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We just couldn't help stopping often to enjoy the sweeping nearly-treeless vistas.


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Coal Train!


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See that storm down the gorge? That's the Catherine Creek/Coyote Wall area! HA!!


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Looking down on one of the tunnels through the cliffs. This one was shielded from falling rocks in 1933.


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As we wrapped-around the butte, the sinking sun just lit the cliffs on fire! The old prison camp was immediately to photographer's right.


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Time to climb again. We headed cross country up the butte, until we found an upper level bench to follow.


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Looking over Lyle, Catherine Creek is fully involved now. Heh, we really dodged that one!


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Totally soaking up the scenery, in full cruise mode, now.


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I'd still rather see Celilo Falls than Tidewater Barges, though.


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Gorge-ous!


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And that was that! Heading back down to the trailhead.


All in all, I think we hiked about 10.5 miles and somewhere around 3000' of EG. Dealt with a bit of wind, some stray mist besmirching the camera lenses, and a few creeks that'd lost their natural beds. Had a freakin' ball!

:D
Last edited by kepPNW on January 16th, 2014, 6:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Karl
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Waffle Stomper
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by Waffle Stomper » January 15th, 2014, 5:57 am

Love the photos. Whenever I think of Lyle Cherry Orchard I have flashbacks of swarms of ticks. LOL.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." - John Muir

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Peder
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by Peder » January 15th, 2014, 7:03 am

Another fun day outside! No rain, no ticks and no rattlesnakes... Driving east on a rainy day does wonders!
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

payslee

Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by payslee » January 15th, 2014, 9:22 am

Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures of one of my favorite places.

It may already be too late (or you may be immune) but if you went through any brush at all at Catherine Creek, it was poison oak. Wash your gear!

-payslee

(yes, I've gotten it there in January before. It's a really difficult place to confine yourself to a trail ;-)

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Grannyhiker
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by Grannyhiker » January 15th, 2014, 10:20 am

Yes, the irritant in poison oak (urushiol) is most definitely present on the bark! Even with no leaves, let it be! My eldest son got a horrible reaction after a cross-country bash (helping school friends set a trap line) during a Pennsylvania winter. He basically swelled up all over, had to get steroid shots and missed a week of school. Poison ivy and oak are very similar. He's still (at age 54) paranoid about the stuff!

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kepPNW
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by kepPNW » January 15th, 2014, 10:30 am

We certainly passed through numerous brushy areas, but no adverse reactions thankfully! :)

The clothes ('cept gaiters, hmmm) did go straight into the laundry, though, just because of all the mud. :D
Karl
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mandrake
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by mandrake » January 15th, 2014, 10:53 am

Great pics! Good job capturing the sun & dramatic views! Keep going east 'til the rain stops is a very good tactic this time of year. There's been a number of days when it's been bucketing down rain in town and I've headed out that way to find it sunny & beautiful out there. Lots of off-trail possibilities -- and winter is a good time for avoiding the usual objective hazards: poison oak, tickets, etc. The Burdoin Mountain area west of Coyote Wall is also highly worth some exploration.

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Crusak
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by Crusak » January 15th, 2014, 6:32 pm

Great pair of hikes, guys. I enjoyed seeing your pictures and the new stuff you got to explore. Winter seems to be a great time of year to explore out there. The ticks should be dormant, right? ;)

I was torn between my desire to join you guys on this hike, and the realization that I'm out of shape. The WRT hike I did Sunday was difficult, and left me gimpy for two days. I can't remember the last time a quick 12-miler on the WRT left me feeling that way.
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acorn woodpecker
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by acorn woodpecker » January 15th, 2014, 8:46 pm

Looks like you two had a blast! Karl, I'm glad you went off-trail. It's an addicting thing to do! What a great way to avoid the rain! Really enjoyed seeing a TR of Catherine Creek and Lyle Cherry Orchard in winter before the flowers arrive. There is an austere beauty the east Gorge has this time of year yet still being much different from the desert. I think it might be the proliferation of oak trees.

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dejmall
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Re: The Edge of Wetness, 12-Jan-2014

Post by dejmall » January 15th, 2014, 10:19 pm

Thanks for the photos of yourselves, as for a novice I can get some ideas what to wear and where to go :) The pics are really cool. Can't wait to get on trail.

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