The Columbia Hills

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

Well we’re off and running again. This time down to Columbia Hills State park, Horsethief Butte, and the Dalles Mountain Ranch. In the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, it is the windsurfing capital of the Pacific Northwest, so we knew there would be plenty of wind… but it is the windflowers and migrating songbirds that have captured our attention today. Oh, and the BEAR!

Digi-cam thru my binoculars

Digi-cam thru my binoculars

Yep, I spotted a bear near the summit of Satus Pass, just at the edge of theYakima Indian Reservation. I’m not exaggerating when I say the tiny speck of chocolate brown fuzziness was meandering along a hillside at least a half mile across a canyon when I noticed him. We were going 65 MPH at the time. It was his rounded shape, and his slow movement that captured my eye. Just like it says in the US Army Ranger handbook, “movement will always defeat camouflage”.

After following some pretty sketchy directions we somehow managed to find a little hiking trail just off Hwy. 14 and followed the foot path up to a beautiful waterfall and some stunning views of the Columbia River. Blue jays and ospreys soared overhead as we scrambled along the creek and out onto rocky outcroppings decorated with clumps yellow of wildflowers. Arrowleaf Balsamroot, to be exact!

Hwy 14

Hwy 14

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot


Following our hike we continued west on Hwy. 14 to the campground at Horsethief Lake. Our camp for the night was the centuries old village of the Wishram tribe, and a camping place used by the Lewis and Clark expedition in October of 1805 when headed west, and again in April of 1806 by Clark when headed back east. Their journals reflect that they were very pleased with the location and spent two days here resting up after a rather grueling portage of the Long and Short rapids, on the mighty Columbia River. Susan and I did not have anywhere near such a difficult journey as Lewis and Clark…but we were just as pleased with the campsite.

Horsethief Lake

Horsethief Lake

Night Ops

Night Ops

We had a nice evening listening to western meadowlarks, red-winged and Brewers blackbirds, and me playing the ukulele. Certainly more fun for me than for Suzie. As the evening wore on and the birds settled down, a chorus of coyotes started up and filled the night skies with yips, yaps, howls, and squeaks…Oh, wait a minute. The squeaks were made by me with my dying rabbit predator call. I’ve had this little plastic device for 35 or 40 years it never fails to get the desert neighborhood buzzing. Every time the little band of barkers started to simmer down I’d give them some squeals and a new pack of coyotes would start up.

As predicted by the weatherman we had some rain during the night and woke to cloudy skies. Assignment #1 for the day was to explore and photograph the Native American pictographs and petroglyphs located along the banks of the Columbia River.

She Who Watches

She Who Watches

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

Or re-located to be more exact. The stone paintings (pictographs) and carvings (petroglyphs) were originally much further down in the canyon, but were removed in the 1950’s as the Dalles Dam was being built. The dam flooded the original site. The ancient artifacts were just stored at the pump house for many years, but eventually in 2004 they were placed on display at Horsethief Lake.

Speaking of Horsethief Lake (and Horsethief Butte) I always thought they were named by Lewis and Clark, and were some reference to the Chinook Tribe that the expedition encountered a little further downstream. Their journals don’t reflect very favorably toward the Chinooks I’m afraid. The team had been saved from certain death their first winter by the Mandans, and had received food, guidance and assistance from numerous different native bands all along their journey. But when they purchased horses, at what they felt was a very inflated price from the Chinooks, those horses seemed to get “untied” and disappeared during the night. Capt. Clark sent two men out to search for the missing stock the next day but, not finding them, they were forced to buy more horses from the Chinooks…The tribe sold the expedition the very same horses again at three times the cost of the first transaction…claiming that horses were in short supply. Lewis and Clark were happy to put some distance between them and the Chinooks…But that has nothing to do with the name!

Horsethief Butte

Horsethief Butte

Horsethief Lake was created in the 1950’s when the dam was built. Workers from the Army Corp of Engineers felt the area now known as Horsethief Butte looked like the kind of place where bad guys in the Hollywood westerns popular at the time might have hidden stolen horses…they named the butte and the new lake, and the names stuck!

We got packed up and headed up to the Dalles Mountain Ranch to have a look at the old homestead and take a little wildflower hike. The weathered barns, old corral fences, and rusted farm machinery were all part of the Columbia Hills State Park. Originally settled in 1866 by a man named Murphy, then later know as the Crawford Ranch it was sold to the state in 1993. Even with a little rain and some cloudy skies the views were beautiful. Have a look for yourself…

Dalles Ranch Wagon

Dalles Ranch Wagon

Gate

Gate

Old Fence

Old Fence

Barns

Barns

Door Latch

Door Latch

Spring Waterfall

Spring Waterfall

Mockorange

Mockorange

Marmot

Marmot

We investigated Horsethief Butte, and then it was on to the bustling metropolis of Bickleton. The bluebird capital of the world. OK, the only thing bustling in Bickleton were the bluebirds. We saw 100’s of mountain bluebirds. The tiny little hamlet sets in the middle of nowhere and for 30 miles on each side of town it’s nothing but bluebirds. The town boast it has the oldest continually operating tavern in the state. The saloon, the Bluebird Inn (of course) opened in 1882.

Bluebird Inn

Bluebird Inn

Cafe

Cafe

Susan and I dropped into the general store/cafe and had a bit of lunch. I immediately liked the place. Old creaky wooden floors, walls lined with canned goods, knickknacks everywhere, and at least 50 various birdhouses for sale. I immediately liked our waitress too. When I asked her a couple of touristy questions she just dropped everything and pointed out the museum and the oldest tavern.

Bluebird Map

Bluebird Map

I popped out to take a couple of photos and when I got back to our table, our waitress had left a local history book featuring dozens of fabulous old images (circa 1910) for me to pursue. The book was a treasure trove for sure, and if I didn’t know better I’d have thought the lady was one of my blog subscribers…because she seemed to know I was a sucker for old B&W photos.


Susan with Mt. Hood in the Distance

Susan with Mt. Hood in the Distance

Regrettably the tavern was not opening until 1500 hours so Susan was going to have to wait on that draft. Perhaps we’ll return on a nice sunny day aboard the FJR. But for now, an icy cold wind chased us out of town and followed us home.

Kat

But Wait! That’s not all. Here is a little bonus video:

Thanks for watching, Kat

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About Jeff Katzer

Welcome friends. I'm a cyclist, hiker, motorbike rider, kayaker, photographer, videographer, ukulele player, snowshoer, XC skier, and BEST of all - a grandpa. Somewhere in that list above you'll find the theme of the Adventure Journal.
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4 Responses to The Columbia Hills

  1. The Pal Guy says:

    Wow this is a great post. It has a combination of great photos, words and video. Keep up the great work. I like what i see so far.

  2. Malou says:

    Great post and pictures! My husband would love exploring those rock formations. 😉

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