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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
That sweet little snow storm I was alluding to in the last post – turned into the ice storm I was dreading and hit Portland hard. We started with enough snow to cancel school on Thursday. And forecasters stated the cold air was going to move out early Friday. But it didn’t do that… and more precipitation and cold winds created a thick icy coat over everything. Every tree sagged from the additional weight with devastating results.
And the city just wouldn’t warm up and two days of carrying that weight is too long for many trees to bear.
But in my neighborhood just a few miles south – and a few degrees warmer – it was a much different story.Just good old fashioned Oregon rain.
Its sad to see so many trees go down but that is nature taking its course.We have had ice storms in this area since the Columbia Basalt Field rose up above the river to create that beautiful gorge.
Ice storms can be devastating but they sure are beautiful.
What is the essence of a place? What makes your town, your state, your country unique to you and those who live or visit? This sense of place fascinates me and I find myself exploring this idea in the way I look at the world. You could say capturing place is my creative muse.
As I write this I sit in a Stumptown Coffee House in Portland, Oregon, USA, in the early morning hour before the work day. Perhaps this time and place is routine for some, but I cherish this moment to explore the sense of place right here.
At this hour it is delivery trucks, runners, and the early shift change at the hospital two blocks away. Overalls and scrubs, running tights and the occasional dog, all line up for their morning coffee. The baristas all have a story that speaks to this place – most hold two jobs – one that pays the bills, the other that feeds their passion.
Like many of us who love travel, I love the idea of exploring a new place and discovering and learning something new and exciting. But we don’t need to travel far or even travel at all to explore sense of place.
This is the first post of what I hope is a long exploration of sense of place – here in Portland – my home town, in the great state of Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, the western United States and if I am lucky – farther afield.
I invite you to explore your home town with the same curiosity. I would love to hear what makes your town unique and what is the “sense of place” where you are right now.
Thank you for reading and for joining me on this journey.