Saturday, July 8, 2017

Monumental Horsethief Butte

This basalt rock formation can be found on the Washington side of the Columbia River, opposite The Dalles and a little east, on Highway 14.  Although it is a popular spot for rock climbers to hone their skills, for us non-climbers, there is a 2 mile loop that takes you around and through the rocks.  I beat the heat this past week and drove over there for an early morning hike.
 Seeing snow-capped Mt. Hood in the distance seemed surreal when the temperature was already nearing 80.   Even so, the breezes that are carried down the Gorge, kept me cool as I walked around this amazing structure.  I say "structure" because Horsethief Butte was created 15,000 years ago by a catastrophic Ice Age Flood.  A 1,000 foot wall of water and ice came roaring down from Canada, scraping, splitting and carving the basalt landscape into the cliffs, canyons and pinnacles that make up the Columbia River Gorge today.

There were warning signs for rattlesnakes, but I didn't see a single one.  I did see rock climbers, though.  This youngster was rappelling down an inside wall with ease and perfect form.

I, for one, was more interested in the lines and shapes and mosaic colors of the rocks.  Art created by Mother Nature just can't be improved upon no matter how hard we try.

The trail around the back of the formation is relatively easy, but if you want to go inside, you must climb up a steep talus and scree trail.  
So worth it!

At the trailhead, a sign proclaims Horsethief Butte to be "A living Monument of the Past, Present and Future."  It goes on to honor the countless generations of fishermen and traders who made the Columbia River their home.  But there is one fact and one fact alone that should give Horsethief Butte monumental status:  That this basalt rock, formed over a million years ago, miraculously survived the devastating Ice Age Floods and continues to provide recreation, awe and beauty to those of us living today.

  Now that's a Trail of Wonder. 


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