Frenchman Coulee on New Year’s Day / 法蘭區深谷裏過新年

For the past eight years, we had been welcoming the new year on a mountain. So the 80%-plus rain forecast was disappointing. The plan to Deception Pass State Park fell through. So after tossing around some ideas, we went out to Frenchman Coulee.

Frenchman Coulee from the eastern depression
Frenchman Coulee from the eastern depression

See more trip photos here.

Frenchman Coulee at a Glance

Access: Old Vantage Highway at mile 2.6
Round Trip: 5.3 miles
Elevation Range: 740′-1310′
Gear: none
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

Frenchman Coulee Echo Basin

This morning, we drove two hours from Issaquah to one of my favorite coulees by Columbia River. Just like yesterday’s trip, it was our eighth time here. We drove west past the climbing area and then parked by the gates. They provided access to both the north and the south basins. We spent the day in the Echo Basin.

Most people prefer hiking in the northern basin for the water feature. But to me, the Echo Basin was more appealing. It allowed us to walk continuously around the rim. Besides, we could get more mileage from the trip without being too close to the nearest road.

No getting over the rainbow
No getting over the rainbow

See more trip photos here.

Sunny Morning on the East

We started walking south in the cloudy morning weather. Several trails weaved in and out the basin. But I’d prefer scrambling and immersing ourselves in the bittersweet scent of sagebrush. We took the same counterclockwise route as before. So from the southwest edge of the coulee, we located the sandy ramp.

Rather than directly going up in the sand, we stayed close to the edge for traction. Once we got up to the top, we then started scrambling toward the rim. From a distance, I spotted a group of hikers at the rock tier below us. Another group ahead of them looked to be climbing. Their loud music sure killed the mood.

Reaching out
Reaching out

See more trip photos here.

Walking Along the Rim

Before reaching the eastern edge, we moved away from the basin. I had wanted to check out a small lake not far east of there. But I’d always forgotten about it until after the trip. Tall brush obscured the shimmering blue pool of water. So people probably wouldn’t even notice it unless they had to look for it.

After returning to the rim, we hiked up to one of the high points. We were now overlooking the center of the basin. Then we went down a small depression via a hidden ramp to the north side. A trail running through the dip hinted that hikers could also come in from the east.

Frenchman Coulee eastern depression
Frenchman Coulee eastern depression

See more trip photos here.

French Coulee High Point Plus Views

Before the hikers could catch up to us, we hiked east again to check out another pool of water. A short while later, we returned to the same high point. Then we took an extended break while enjoying views abound. The noise from the climbers on the northern basalt columns occasionally alerted the dogs.

Our February 2017 trip was the prettiest so far. Of all three trips taken during the same month, that was the trip where we saw the most snow. It was getting a bit warm by noon; the temperatures even rose to the low 50s. It was hot for the first day of January.

West panoramic view
West panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

Outro

After soaking up the heat, it was time for us to move again. We continued walking counterclockwise through the climbing area. Glad to see everyone taking advantage of the gorgeous weather. We took time and strolled through the northern rim. Sunset wasn’t for another three or so hours.

There were at least two main trails here. We saw a few groups down in the northern basin. Pretty soon, we came upon the main path just before reaching the western edge. Then it was a quick exit via the climbers’ route to get back down to the car.

Thanks for another sunny day
Thanks for another sunny day

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shannon

    Beautiful and dry! How long does it take to get there from the west side, John?

    1. onehikeaweek

      Thanks! Just under two hours of driving from Issaquah!

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