Tuesday, February 24, 2015

hikes with kids: catherine creek

On a grey and cold day last month, we decided to head north and east in the hopes of catching a little sun. We did not really catch much sun, but we did have some lovely views and got to go on a new hike. We headed out to Catherine Creek, in southern Washington, near the town of Bingen. The trail is known for having lovely displays of wildflowers in the spring months, and for its universal access trail, which is paved and accessible for wheelchairs. We didn't walk much of the paved trail but instead headed on a trail on the other side of the road to head up to the Natural Arch and up to the bluffs.

The hike was short, and really great for kids, but also interesting enough for adults. Certainly not my favorite hike as it is pretty short, but a nice little jaunt through some landscapes that are not super common in our part of the country. The lower part of the hike is filled with an oak forest and the creek was the most beautiful icy blue color. It looked really stunning amongst the dry grasses and old oaks. We missed even the earliest wildflowers when we hiked in January, so we will have to visit again. I really love the winter landscape though. 

As for hike directions, it might be helpful if I give you some. Park in the parking lot on the north side of the road. You will see a little sign/trailhead there and two different paths to take. Take the path on the right until you come to the rushing creek. There is a small wooden plank to cross the river, it's a little hard to see at first but it's there. Basically for this hike, anytime you see a fork on the path, stick to the right. A little bit past the creek is a gigantic natural stone arc. It was blocked off a bit, but you can still get a good look at it (see the photo above). Head on the path to the right up the hill. The trail forks again a little bit after the hill, and again, turn right. Then you will come to a beautiful overlook of the Columbia River. Then you basically head down the hill and to the road. We walked the last little bit back to our car on the road (it's not busy), but there might a less direct way that doesn't necessitate walking on the road. I thought the portion of the hike on the car with it's soft bright green grasses and mosses to be surprisingly pretty and it made me feel like I was in a different country (Ireland, perhaps?). Anyways, it's only a few hundred feet on the road before you are back to the paved access trail and the parking area. 

One of the reasons I find this hike so great and easy for little kids is because the only real drop-offs on this hike are fenced off (with a beautiful fence in my opinion). I feel totally comfortable with my two year old hiker hiking without help or hand holding during the whole hike. She happened to be abnormally tired, so she was in the baby carrier for most of the hike this time. One word of caution is that everything I read said there is lots of poison oak near the trail. I am guessing it is mostly on the lower part of the hike where all the oaks are. When we hiked there was none to be found, as it was January. But if you are going anytime in the spring or summer, its probably best to wear long pants (there were also some tick warnings) and familiarize yourself with what poison oak looks like ("leaves of three, let them be" was my California girl scout mantra). All in all, it was a lovely little hike somewhere new! 

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