Catherine Creek – Wildflower Mecca

There are some iconic wildflower hikes in the Columbia Gorge and Catherine Creek is at the top of that list.  With its dry climate the wildflower season comes earlier to Catherine Creek.  It’s a great time to head east to the Old Highway 8 turnoff.

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Old Highway 8 between Bingen and Lyle, Washington.

In early Spring – the landscape on the dry side of the Gorge is greener than it will ever be – especially this year when we had a long wet and snowy winter.  There is a lot of anticipation for the wildflower season.

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Sunrise at Rowland Lake – near Catherine Creek.

The Catherine Creek area has several options for hikers – from easy and all access to more challenging and longer hikes up into the hills.  The view of the Columbia River cannot be beat no matter where you go.  Looking east you see the Rowena Gap and the town of Lyle. 

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Looking east from Catherine Creek.

But we are here for the wildflowers.  A couple of days ago the Camas were everywhere putting the rolling hills in a sea of purple.  Making the bees very happy!

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Bee works a Camas bloom.

And on this day – I found a rare albino Camas.  This flower really stood out amongst his purple kin. 

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Rare albino Camas flower.

I came early but soon the parking lot was full and I was joined by many others.  It’s fun to be able to see others out enjoying the early wildflowers.

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Wildflowers of the Columbia Gorge

One of the best things about exploring the Columbia River Gorge is the thousands of wildflowers in the area.  Given the variety of topography and climatic conditions – this could be a lifetime of work and for Russ Jolley I suspect it was.

Jolley is the author of “Wildflowers of the Columbia Gorge”, an indispensable companion for a trip or hike in the gorge.  My dog-eared copy has accompanied me on many hikes and trips for the past 25 plus years.  Recently I noticed that I had written dates by some of the flowers of where and when I had spotted a particular flower.  My earliest entry – April 6, 1991.  What a fun way to re-visit my younger self.

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Balsamroot and Indian paintbrush near the Memaloose Hills.

This early in the year – the best spot for wildflowers is the drier eastern Gorge.  Most are counting the days until the explosion of balsamroot, Indian paintbrush and lupine but we are still about a week away – although I did find a few near the Memaloose Hills.

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Pungent Desert Parsley

My early season favorites come from the Lomatium family – commonly known as desert parsley.  Here are two – the Columbia Desert Parsley and the Pungent Desert Parsley both rarely seen outside of the Gorge area.  I invite you to discover why it is called “pungent”!  I love photography – but it limits us to only one of our senses. 

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Columbia Desert Parsley – rare purple flower from the Lomatium family.

If you come visit – a great place to help you get started is the Friends of the Columbia Gorge website.  They offer hikes and other helpful information.  It is a great organization that is helping preserve the Gorge so we can enjoy it for years to come.

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Delicious food and great beer at Pfriem Brewpub, Hood River, Oregon.

Just as famous as Columbia River Gorge wildflowers – are the many breweries on the north and south side of the river.  A well-earned treat for the way home!

Favorite Roads – Columbia Gorge

 

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Starvation Creek Falls

Trails, ravines, creeks, waterfalls, plateaus, valleys – vista’s ah yes the vista’s – a visit to the Columbia Gorge is an opportunity to visit one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.  But it can get crowded.

My recommendation – and something I have been doing more in the past year – is to visit the lesser known spots, especially on the Washington side of the river or at the eastern edge of the Gorge.  It is an opportunity to explore the geological and topographical variety of the Gorge as you travel from the wet western side to the arid eastern plateaus.

Recently I got up early one Sunday (ok it was insomnia) and drove out to a popular wildflower spot on the arid eastern side of the Gorge.  No one there to see this sunrise except me and a few crows.

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Catherine Creek plateau looking east. 

Catherine Creek is a popular trail area – and because of its drier location – it will be one of the first spots in spring to have wildflowers.  But go early like I did – the small parking lot gets full fast.  This is a good thing – I love seeing families enjoying this special spot.  The hiking is easy and the scenery is wonderful.

The Columbia Gorge has so much to offer.  Take the road less traveled and discover your own special place.  If you want some ideas – leave me a comment and I am happy to share.

 

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Cabin Creek Falls

 

Portland’s Epic Snow Storm

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I apologize for the delay in posting but Portland is going through one of our biggest snow storms of the last 20-30 years.  The blog has taken a back seat to long treks to work and the joy and wonder of walking and shooting hundreds of pictures in the snow.

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Iconic Portland sign framed by snow.

We got over a foot in the space of about 8 hours.  And it all happened over night so imagine the joy (or horror depending on your outlook) of waking up to this magical new world.  It has been a challenge to get around – the car has been in the garage and I am getting a lot of good walking done.

It has been unusually cold so nothing has melted since the snow fell last Tuesday night.  And we have had a beautiful “wolf” moon – so the moon sets and night time walks have been spectacular.

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The West Hills from the roof of my hospital.

Words really can’t describe the beauty so I will let the pictures tell the story.

On the first morning of the storm – we received about 12 inches and it was still snowing.  Getting to work was challenging – Portland is just not that prepared for these kinds of snow events.  When I finally got on a bus headed to work – our bus got stuck behind another bus (see photograph below).

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A big shout out to Tri-Met our local mass transit company – they weren’t perfect but they got a lot of Portlanders to work, to needed healthcare, to events – the bus drivers did their best under stressful conditions.

Oregon Mountain Snow Day

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Mt. Hood Meadows

Coast, Columbia Gorge, mountains, wine country – such abundance and so much to be grateful for here in Oregon.  In 2016 I did a lot of exploring and only barely scratched the surface.  I can’t wait to keep going in 2017…

New Years Eve – my older brother Phil and I opted to explore Oregon’s Mt. Hood ski area.  He skied and I pulled a camera out of the bag that I haven’t used for a while.  I need to sell it but like an ex-lover, I wanted one more day together.

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Crystal cone

We went to Mt. Hood Meadows Nordic Center – full of friendly, fit, sober, Subaru owners!

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Big brother looking awesome!