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.
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!
Wave watching at Cape Disappointment (not disappointing!!)
Buoy Beer for dinner
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.
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.
It’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?
After three days in Lisbon it was time to explore the Portugal countryside. Our plan was to hike as much as possible and get to know the country. I usually like to settle in one place for a few days – but sometimes that first time visit to a country requires a bit more movement and exploration. And with the promise to come back.
We headed to the coast and hiked from Praia de Maças south. Our hope was to see if we could find the dinosaur tracks on the wall near Praia Grande as recommended by our friend and co-worker Andy Mason and his wife Kelly.
Praia de Maças is really cute and I only wish we had stayed long enough to have a cold beer in a chair on the beach. On our way out of town we passed the little tram that goes from Sintra (inland about 10 miles) to the beach. Next time. Odd side note – in Praia de Macas – the main street through town is called Avenida Eugene Levy. If anyone can explain this to me – I would love to know. (Yes yes I know a simple Google search would explain this but what fun is that?)
We hiked south up and over the cliffs that separate the beaches here – in Praia Grande – the biggest hotel pool I have ever seen and a lot of surfers.
At the end of the beach was a lengthy (and new) staircase right next to a cliff face. Thankfully Andy and Kel had informed us otherwise we might have missed the fact that the dinosaur tracks are on this vertical cliff face. It seems that millions of years ago this cliff was a flat muddy plain.
At the bottom of the staircase was a warning – only 6 people are allowed to lean on the railing at a time. Hmmm – sure enough as we discovered – to get a good view of the footprints – you do find yourself leaning out as far as possible on this railing. The three of us were alone so no fear of breaking a railing – we hope.
Impressive sight and so glad Andy and Kel had tipped us on this once in a lifetime experience. We hiked a bit further down the coast – discovering one secluded beach after another. Portugal is a great place to hide!
And looking out at the Atlantic – imagining Magellan or Vasco de Gama heading into the expanse of water – not knowing where they were going or what they would discover – sea monsters, mysterious islands, the edge?
You know that feeling when you are first falling in love? The giddiness? How the whole world looks better because you have this awesome warm glow all the time? That may be how I feel about Portugal. And this guy below – St. Jorge.
This was my first long trip in over 10 years – when I say long – I mean a trip over two weeks. Investing in the time and money to get to Europe from the west coast of the U.S. is substantial and I have made several trips over the past 10 years – they have been at most 11 days. Which just isn’t long enough. Two and a half weeks isn’t long enough.
But it was long enough to fall in love with Portugal. The people, the natural sights, the beaches, the churches, the food…. if you only go to Portugal to eat Nata’s it will be worth it.
Our first night in Lisbon we walked through the lovely Alfama neighborhood up to the Caste of St. Jorge (I love the Portuguese spelling by the way). And that’s where this guy hangs out. He is the king of his castle and master of his domain.
The castle is impressive and always brings out the 13 year old make believe child in me. But the views are better. You can see across the huge estuary of the Tejo River – ferry boats criss crossing and Lisbon has several impressive bridges – including a Golden Gate look a like suspension bridge. Red roofs as far as the eye can see, which at sunset glows like no other city I have been to. We watched the sun say goodbye to Lisbon from the castle walls – our faces smiling and glowing with the magical color of the Portuguese sun.
A great moment but the walk down after sunset was even more memorable. Tiny curvy streets with cute little hole in the wall restaurants and bars. Laughing Portuguese families and couples – I want to move here. We had a great meal in one of these that caught our eye – great wine, olives, cheese, bacalao (Portugese national dish), a little more wine.
Then a long saunter down through the neighborhood. We stopped to listen to a Fado singer – and peered into numerous lively restaurants – “we have to come back here…” we exclaimed. Happy Lisboetas wandered with us as we got lost and found again on our way back to our apartment. Is this really Sunday night in Lisbon?
The advantage of living in Oregon is the variety of geography we have within a day’s drive. And the fact that every season features some part of our state in a unique way. Since I am limited in my time off and ability to travel far – I am currently enjoying my own Oregon re-exploration. Although most think of the Oregon coast as a place to visit in the summer- winter is my favorite time of year – less people and fantastic storm watching. What a rush to see huge swells approach the headlands. To watch a squall approach from the sea and have it slam you head on. Last Sunday morning I remarked to someone – when those winter storms it is a perfect time to either sit inside and cozy up with a book or its a perfect time to be IN IT! To face the wind and let the Gert Boyle in you come out! (Oregonians will get that reference).