Shenzi and the Labyrinth

Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, Washington
~7.7 miles, 1200 feet elevation gain

going eastside

When it’s raining in Portland, the solution is often to head east. In search of some sun, or at least semi-dry weather, J.B. and I headed out past Hood River with her new friend, a tiny Cattle Dog/Shiba Inu mix named Shenzi.

Shenzi nose meets camera

The Coyote Wall area is one of my go-to winter hiking areas. It’s situated in that transition zone of the Gorge where East meets West and prairie meadow grasses and oak trees dominant the basalt cliffs. It’s open and windswept, all gold and orange compared to the wintery green and stormy west side closer to Portland. Entertainingly enough, every time I head to the CoyoteWall area in Hood River, I get lost. This time was no exception. Generally, however, the landscape is open enough and with enough pertinent landmarks that “lost” is relative. And it’s always that beautiful kind of lost: never too isolated and with enough bail-out plans to make it a comfortable experience. 

All gold and orange
Conveniently, it’s also been long enough since I’ve visited the Coyote Wall that I forgot that the Washington Trails Association has done an amazing amount of work recently in the area, rerouting and decommissioning trails. So while J.B. and I weren’t precisely lost, nothing looked perfectly familiar either. It made for entertaining trail talk. 

And it was a beautiful day. The sky threatened rain that never came, and the remaining fall color along the hillsides was frequently punctuated by gorgeous late afternoon light. The most entertaining part of the day, however, was watching J.B.’s new little gal, Shenzi, a rescue from FamilyDogs New Life, come out of her shell on the trail.

checking out the view together
sealing the deal as trail buddies

Shenzi digging the Labyrinth

J.B. frolicking on the Labyrinth trail

I have a soft spot in my heart for rescue animals, and it’s always rewarding to watch those with a trampled past suddenly realize that they are safe, they are loved, and the whole world is before them. Both of Andy and I's old dogs were rescues with tremendous personality quirks, but they always loved us and the trail. Shenzi with J.B. on this day was no exception, and it was like watching a light bulb go on when the little gal suddenly got a case of the zoomies in the tall, windswept grasses. 

aw, the luv

Yup. She’s a keeper. 

And now I have major dog envy. {Sigh}

Home Sweet Gorge

With cooler temps, perma-gray skies and the falling of leaves, my go-to spot for hiking becomes the gorge. As previously stated, I abandon the Gorge with glee come the summer months: too many people, too much heat, and too much humidity combined with the lure of the high alpine opening up is far too potent a cocktail to resist.  Every year, though, come fall and winter, the gorge calls me home. It’s blustery, cold, wild and abandoned. 

lonely trail

Andy and I recently took some time to revisit the Historic Highway, driving up the long, winding old road to Multnomah Falls (always a pleasure), then biking the Mark O. Hatfield West trail near Hood River. After biking the Hood River portion of the biker/hiker only trail, we (originally) intended to check out the newly completed portions of the trail from Cascade Locks to John Yeon State Park. Then Andy took an unexpected header-over-the-handlebars early on that portion of trail, so, like before, it will have to wait another day.  

Andy spoiler pic

Mark O. Hatfield Trail

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
~9.8 miles, ~620 feet elevation gain

Continuing in the theme of previously thwarted attempts: later that week I went back to explore a segment of the Columbia Gorge 400 trail from John Yeon State Park to Wahclella Falls trumped by construction last year. Like before, Upper McCord and Elowah Falls didn’t disappoint, and my only company for the day was the remaining vestiges of vine maple color and electric green mosses. It’s a long and lonely, lovely section of trail and exactly what I needed that particular day. 

Upper McCord Falls

Elowah Falls