As spring approaches, hikes in the Columbia Hills are some of my favorites. Spring and fall are the best times for these hikes as summer temperatures can be extreme, and the hills are exposed to the winds in the winter.
In October 2012 I led a Friends of the Gorge-sponsored hike to the Columbia Hills Homesteads. We hiked down Eight-mile Creek on the east side to see the Lucas homesteads and then came back to the Crawford homestead on Dalles Mountain Road. We saw deer, four wild turkeys, two apples trees in fruit, and a Concord grape vine, planted by the Lucases, still producing sweet grapes. The newer discoveries to me were the Henry and William Brune homesteads and timber cultures. These claims are largely west of the road to Stacker Butte. With help from local historian and hike leader Jim Denton, and with some hiking partners willing to ramble, we found the Skibbe gravesite, root cellar foundations, water troughs, the restored Brune cabin, and stone alignments.
Trails are planned for this undeveloped state park, but for now it’s a great place to ramble and find history. An interpretive panel has been installed at the Crawford complex. A Discover Pass is required for parking.
On a May 2013 hike for Friends of the Gorge, our group discovered the yellow rose bush planted by Mary Lucas in front of her homestead in the 1890’s. This Harrison’s Yellow was likely brought as a cutting from the east and has continued to grow wild here, surviving long past the house John Crawford built for his bride.