By Katie Goodwin
I do love a good route planning challenge. Exploring the scantily mapped trails of the area between White Salmon, WA and Coyote Wall State Park has become a favorite pastime. You have to note geographic markers, ie. the Columbia River and Mt. Hood to the south, Mt Adams to the north. And you can usually turn around and go back to where you started if you get lost or simply tired of the relentless uphill climbs.
When Territory proposed the Point to Point Summer Run Rally contest, I was excited about the idea of planning a route where you can’t turn back. You have to commit! And I knew just the route I wanted to do.
I ran into my fellow wind-junkie and trail running friend, Derek, after kiteboarding in Hood River on a Thursday night and mentioned the idea - run from White Salmon to Coyote Wall. Most of the route is unmapped, but I thought we could piece it together. He immediately came up with a better plan - start at Coyote Wall and finish at the White Salmon Bakery.
If you’ve never been to this bakery, I hope you make it a priority to get there ASAP. I may or may not spend several mornings a week there, devouring pastries and drinking americanos. It’s the perfect post-run eatery. Derek’s route adjustment made perfect sense.
We roped in another friend Christopher, who conveniently has a bit of search and rescue experience, and carpooled to the start at 9 am. That’s when the adventure began. If you have been to Coyote Wall (known as Syncline to mountain bikers) in the summer, then you know the trail is very exposed, covered in poison oak , ticks, snakes and there is no water. We started the three-mile ascent up Hidden Valley trail (aka Labyrinth) and, other than breathing hard and high stepping over poison oak, things were going well. At the top of Hidden Valley, we traversed along a single track trail over to Coyote Wall - a massive columnar basalt cliff. In the spring, this hillside is covered with balsamroot and lupine. This time of year, it’s not quite as colorful. We scrambled to the top and admired the views of the eastern gorge. At the top of the cliff wall, we took a left along Triple Bypass , a tiny single track along a cliff with stunning views of Mt Hood. We then followed Atwood “road” through some shade to Courtney Road. Atwood was a nice, shady, mellow climb after what we just completed.
Eventually we came to Courtney Road, which is currently closed to cars due to construction. It was actually a little disorienting since the road looks completely different than it used to. Luckily we spotted our gate to turn onto the millennial trail on Kreps ranch land.
This trail is on private land that the owners generously open to local hikers/bikers/runners/ paragliders most of the year (they do close it to dogs when the cows are out in the spring/summer and to all users when the fire risk is high). This is one of the most stunning trails I have ever been on. Picture singletrack on an exposed cliff 3000 feet above the river, with views straight down the Columbia River Gorge and Mt Hood to the south. Thankfully the views were a great distraction from these evil invasive thorn plants that lined the trail and wreaked havoc on our shins. Imagine incessant painful cuts up and down your legs! I was reminded that we were on a point to point run, so there was no turning back.
The next several miles involved at least 20 switchbacks down a very narrow single track lined with burrs. The views down the gorge are breathtaking. Our socks and shorts were covered with burrs by the end. Derek actually managed to find burrs in his hair after a tumble! Gradually, we made our way along Jewett creek up to Tohomish street in White salmon, and had our glorious finish at the White Salmon Bakery! Luckily there were a few of the infamous cardamom buns left!!
I asked Derek and Christopher for ideas on what to name the run. Derek thought “ 12 mile run from Syncline to Cardamom Bun,” had a nice ring to it. Christopher thought a more appropriate name would be “Attacked by thorns, waded through poison oak, and blasted by burrs--and survived!"
If you don’t mind poison oak, thorny plants stabbing your shins, one million burrs to pull off your socks, ticks, snakes, and a bit of challenging navigation, and you also love pastries…this is the route for you!!
***Kreps ranch announced the week after our run they are closing the trails for fire season.