Coyote Wall

Kerstin Schulz

Coyote Wall: A Letter to Stella Recently Arrived from New Orleans

I almost wrote, “The hike was fine.” But that doesn’t convey a lot of information. Then I almost went in the opposite direction and started to explain the background of all the places we visited in the voice of a current memoir I’m reading about a woman who spent a year visiting national parks, but that’s just plain boring and I confess I’ve started skimming these well-meaning, fiber-filled sections of the book.

So I’ll start at the beginning. 

I consciously turned my lead foot into a powder puff and dilly-dallied my way down the highway watching the white caps on the Columbia and admiring the last leaves on the cottonwoods. Our first stop was Starvation Creek. It is located right on the highway about 5 miles west of Hood River. This was my second time there, Henry’s first. Those white caps translated into icy wind gusts and Henry wrapped his scarf around his face while I appreciated my backpack’s windbreaker abilities. We were also in the shade of naked big leaf maples and second growth firs on the south side of the highway where the sun rarely shines. 

No one actually starved at the site, but they almost did. The waterfall is narrow and tall. Then we walked the half mile to Cabin Creek Falls and Hole in the Wall Falls. I took pictures of Starvation Creek and Cabin Creek Falls; I did not get one of HITW Falls although this one is interesting because it is man-made and comes directly out of the cliff face and not over the edge. It has a lintel.

About five miles down the road we crossed the river to the sunny north side and entered that liminal place where west becomes east, where the locals start calling a “creek” a “crick” and firs turn to pine. That’s where we found Coyote Wall. We hiked, up and up and up, appreciating our sticks and the colossal views up- and downriver at the edge of the cliff. 

On the way up I saw blooming bachelor-buttons and buckwheat skeletons. There was a raven. I saw grasshoppers, swallows, towees and a couple Steller’s jays. One jay left me a raggedy blue feather on the trail which I stuck into the knit cap I pilfered from Henry and, like a jaunty latter day Robin Hood, prepared to do battle with my trusty collapsible walking stick. Unfortunately, the gumbo (red mud not stew) on the way down bested by best intentions when the point on the end kept getting stuck and the stick pulled apart. I kept my balance. Henry did not; he ended up on his back taking a short cut across a grassy slope. No serious damage done. 

The things I saw coming down on the Little Maui Trail: Sacred Oak groves, two hawks playing Marco Polo above the hillside, stone outcrops, Coyote Creek, giant rosehips, and Raven quorking above us with something huge in his beak which is how I decided that this could only be the mythical bird since a mundane one would have dropped his prize to speak.

We ate a late lunch at Skamania Lodge and reminisced about all the other times we had been there. Then I put the peddle to the metal and raced the sunset home. I almost made it. We ended up inhaling carbon monoxide for about half an hour before I sloppily banked the car on the curb outside the house because it was too dark to see, home safe and sound, alive to tell the tale.


BIO: Kerstin Schulz is a German-American writer from Portland, Oregon. Her work can be found in Critical Read, Cathexis Northwest Press and Montana Mouthful, among others.


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