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.

hittheroad
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.

lakeviewwithtree
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. 

riverview
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!

camasbee
Bee works a Camas bloom.

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

albinocamas
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.

hikerscathcrk

Sense of Place – Astoria, Oregon

chowder

With no destination in mind – but with a firm desire to road trip – I left my last meeting on Friday with only the open road before me.  I had to get home from Dash Point, Washington to Portland.  This is a quarterly trip so I was used to the routine of getting on I-5 south.  Part of me wanted to get home and be a responsible leaf-raking home owner.

For no reason that I can explain, just north of Centralia I veered off the freeway and headed to the coast.  Ironically – the retreat I had been just attending was all about decision making. My head was full of ethical discernments.  This was spontaneous – absolutely no discerning other than seeing a road sign saying “Aberdeen/Raymond” next exit.

Taking all the anticipation out of this road trip tale – I ended up in Astoria, Oregon for 2 days.  Best decision I have made in quite some time – I must have learned something at that retreat.

Some of the highlights:

Early morning photo shooting in Astoria and exploring this wonderful and historic town – founded in 1811!

cannery
Early morning at the Cannery Hotel

Wave watching at Cape Disappointment (not disappointing!!)

capediswave2

Buoy Beer for dinner

buoy-beer

And finally, there is this little church about 2 miles west of the Astoria Megler bridge on the way to Ilwaco, Washington that I have passed a hundred times.  It’s in the middle of nowhere but is beautiful in its simplicity and isolation.  I have regretted never stopping and learning the story of this church by the sea.  I stopped.

stmarys
St. Mary’s Church, McGowan, Washington

History fans (I am one!) should read Peter Stark’s Astoria – recently released in paperback – for a closer look at the early years of Astoria.

Astoria has transformed from river city with an economy and industry (most significantly fish canneries) reliant on the Columbia River – to an artistic corner of Oregon – focused on tourism and the two mainstays of Oregon – beer and coffee.

The Columbia River is still a strong force.  Cargo ships provide entertainment as their huge hulks pass by the waterfront. And the nautical history is never far away – including the Flavel House Museum (George Flavel was the Columbia’s first river pilot back in 1850).  But you are more likely to see Willapa Bay Oysters featured on area menu’s than Columbia River salmon.

ship

Ode to winter road tripping

img_0960It’s Friday in the Pacific NW and time to hit the road before the holiday rush gets too crazy. Winter travel is the perfect time to enjoy Oregon and Washington.  Less people, big waves at the coast, inland the wind swept trees create a moody landscape,  and everything has the watery glow that reflects our rainy disposition.

Don’t let winter weather keep you home bound.  Grab the coat, bundle up and put your face into the wind and enjoy the precious hours.  Is there any time better than now?