Frenchman Coulee Hike, Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, Washington

    The kids had another random day off from school for no apparent reason, or at least that’s what it seemed like, so somebody had to take the day off from work.  I don’t mind taking a break from work when it’s during a time of year when the weather might be favorable enough for an outdoor adventure, always love getting the kids out.  The forecast looked stellar for the middle of the state so we hit the road west making the two hour drive to the trailhead for Frenchman Coulee just outside of George, Washington.

    Frenchman Coulee had been on my to do list for years and a recent picture on a social media feed rekindled my interest. Frenchman Coulee is part of the 192,000 acre Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, and is thankfully closed to motor vehicles.  After loading provisions we picked up the old jeep track as it veered east into the coulee. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies with lots of sunshine, something we had not experienced in a while. We would have been hiking in t-shirts if it wasn’t for the cool breeze coming out of the west.

    The trail entered a vast landscape surrounded by basalt cliff walls extending toward the heavens. Sagebrush almost five feet tall in places lined the old road, unfortunately we were too early for the wildflowers. We wandered the meandering path up, over and around for close to a mile when the kids discovered a couple rusting car bodies laid to rest below the southern wall of the coulee some two hundred feet or more below the old highway, they begged to explore the old carnage and I gladly obliged. That’s the thing to remember when hiking with kiddos, take the time to explore the things that interest them on the trail, even if its litter in the landscape to you, so many times my kids have pointed out things of interest to me that I would have otherwise overlooked.  Once the kids had enough of crawling around the old rusted wreckage we continued on, at the head of the coulee we could make out a seasonal waterfall, the main attraction of the hike.

    The packed dirt trail soon gave way to sand, which made for an interesting trek as the souls of our boot bottoms gave way in the soft silt, it felt as if we were approaching a beach. The temps were on the rise which forced us to shed some layers. The trail soon turned north putting the entirety of the falls on full display right in front of us, which was quite impressive. After passing a small creek we made the final push up to the base of the falls. It felt great to hear the falling water against the valley floor, life was in the desert and spring is on the way, it gave me hope and reinvigorated the soul. Birds of prey soared above as I gazed toward the sun to feel her heat against my face, it was becoming down right hot, Kylie and I stipped away the shirts to maximize our vitamin D uptake. We found the perfect rock to take a break, enjoy a snack and partake in a little sunbathing. I couldn’t help but lie back, pull my heels up onto the rock and place my head on the pillow I made out of my shirt, I could have taken a nap.  After a long break it was reluctantly time to hit the road, after packing up our belongings we made the hike out.

    While walking back to the car we discovered an alternative way out and turned right at a junction setting out in the direction of Babcock Bench. We followed the path a way giving us an alternative view on the hike out. Kylie soon hit a wall so I picked her up on my back and hauled her here and there, that girl is getting heavy. Eventually the short side trail gave us another option, we went left in the direction of the trailhead to complete a short loop option to the hike. Just before the trailhead we passed a couple of impressive rock formations before crossing the road to the car and making the long drive home. Frenchman Coulee was a great hike that did not disappoint and offered plenty of what we were looking for, sunshine and warm temps, we covered about 4.5 miles and perhaps 200 feet of elevation gain. Sources for the hike were “Best Desert Hikes” by Alan Bauer and “Day Hiking Eastern Washington” by Rich Landers. For more pics click the link.  Frenchman Coulee Hike

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