It’s a June weekend and the weather is finally getting nice so I want to escape the city.But so does everyone else – the hiking and nature spots within an hour of Portland are busy.Trailhead parking is full by 11:00am.I am an early riser so getting ahead of the crowd is not a concern.I just want something more quiet and peaceful.
I head instead to a little known wildlife refuge in SW Washington.Conboy Lake Wildlife Refuge is about an hour north of the Columbia River and is a wonderful oasis of animal and bird life.I arrived late in the day relatively – it was 10:00am but the early birds were long gone, but I still had a wonderful easy hike on the edge of the refuge.
There is an historic log cabin next to the parking lot which I explored.The interior walls are lined with newspapers from the early 1900’s.Was this for insulation or decoration?
The approximately 4 mile hike was easy, flat and I didn’t see another soul.Even though the bird life was scarce – there were plenty of wildflowers to photograph and enjoy.Next visit I will get an earlier start to the day and I hope to catch some of the 25-30 Sandhill Crane pairs that mate here every year.Now that would be something special to see.
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.
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.
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.
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!
And on this day – I found a rare albino Camas.This flower really stood out amongst his purple kin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
My recipe for happiness begins here with this flower. The trillium. Three white pedals, three broad leaves. So simple yet so perfect.
Their peak bloom time is brief. Walking in Forest Park, here in Portland, Oregon – they are busting out all over. And each one is lovelier than the last.
Yesterday I interrupted my routine – stopping in the woods for a walk instead of commuting with thousands on the freeway. And that made all the difference. Yes this is a nod to Robert Frost. And William Stafford – “is there a better moment than now?”
This is a continuation of my Favorite Roads Series… see first Favorite Road post here.
This post and others to follow – I will share thoughts and pictures on my favorite road in Oregon – the historic Columbia River highway.A 75 mile scenic two lane road following the Columbia River from Troutdale to The Dalles in Oregon.
Photographing the historic highway provides a bounty of creative opportunity – from waterfalls to tree lined roads to historic structures (Vista House, Multnomah Falls Lodge), bridges, wildflowers, hiking trails, basalt columns, and views – in the posts ahead I will share some of my favorite spots. Today’s post is about one of the most famous sections of the highway – the Rowena loops and crest.
As with many great rivers across the world, the Columbia River has a tremendous history – from native Americans to the explorers Lewis and Clark – the Oregon Trail, and in the 20th century the burst of dam building and the building of the new freeway which parallels the historic Columbia River highway.
Pictured at the top of this post are the famous Rowena Crest curves – one of the most photographed spots in Oregon. When the highway was built vehicles could not manage anything more than a 10% grade – so engineers created a series of curves and loops to make the gradual 500 foot ascent to the top of Rowena Crest – not knowing they were creating a photographer’s dream.
Before dams flooded this area – Rowena was where the river narrowed as it passed basalt cliffs – Rowena Crest on the south side and Klickitat River watershed on the north.Pirates and others tried to seize boats passing through the “narrows”.There was a small army post at the base of Rowena Crest to protect the boats and others in this area.A young Army lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant was commissioned here for a short time before he went on to become a famous Civil War general and then president of the United States.
It’s winter in Oregon now. Not officially – the calendar has its own rules and the official start of winter is still 21 days away. But storms are rolling into the Pacific Northwest. Last week we had 3-4 inches of rain. The mountain passes require traction devices. Our local outdoor store, REI, is sending me emails reminding me to buy snowshoes and winter parka’s.
Instead I nourish my winter soul with a walk down this lane in Obidos, Portugal. This is what morning looks like in Obidos. In a few hours this quiet lane will be filled with hundreds of tourists. Obidos is a beautiful walled town – wonderfully preserved with gorgeous light and color. A photographer’s dream.
I love early mornings when I travel. I love to see foreign places wake up… delivery trucks and street cleaners are so much more romantic away from home. On a rainy Portland day – dark and dreary – I am going to pause and step into this picture. Remember the hours I wandered the blissfully quiet streets of Obidos.