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!

It’s trillium time

trilliumraindropsMy 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?”

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Favorite Roads – Columbia River highway

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The famous Rowena curves of the Columbia River highway.

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.

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The highway near Rowena Crest is a great area to cycle.

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.

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Balsamroot and lupine as far as the eye can see at Rowena Plateau.

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.

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Rowena Narrows – where pirates would dwell.

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.

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View of Columbia River highway from Rowena Crest.

Goodbye November, 2016

spainportugal3-816-editIt’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.