Archive for the ‘wildflowers’ Tag

Single-Image Sunday: the Mariposa Lily   Leave a comment

I’m going to start trying to use each Sunday to post single images, in posts that are word-scarce, especially compared with Friday’s photo how-to posts.

A beautiful flower of springtime in the drier semi-desert areas of eastern Washington, Oregon and adjacent Idaho is the Mariposa lily.

A beautiful flower of springtime in the drier semi-desert areas of eastern Washington, Oregon and adjacent Idaho is the Mariposa lily.

The beautiful mariposa lily is my favorite wildflower from the steppe regions of the Pacific Northwest where I live.  It blooms in late springtime, usually in single, tall flowers.  They look so delicate and easy for the wind to flatten (and the wind does blow strong in these parts).  But they are as dependable in eastern Oregon and Washington after spring rains as the smell of sagebrush.  Enjoy!

Note that this image is copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission, sorry.  Just click on it if you’re interested in it.  Once you are in the high-res. version, click “add this image to cart”.  It won’t be added to your cart right away.  Click the appropriate tab to be shown pricing options.  Please contact me if you have any questions, and thanks very much for your interest.

Dog Mountain in Bloom   7 comments

A rusting railway bridge along the Columbia River just outside Stevenson, Washington.

A rusting railway bridge along the Columbia River just outside Stevenson, Washington.

I hiked Dog  Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge yesterday.  It was late in the day, so I only made it half-way up the steep hike.  Although I’ve hiked it many times before, this is the first time I didn’t go all the way.  But since the goal of the hike was to catch sunset from a position far above the Columbia River, and since there is a photogenic viewpoint about halfway up, I wasn’t disappointed.

The hike up Dog Mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is popular for a reason.  Here a hiker has it to himself.

The hike up Dog Mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is popular for a reason.  But everyone had gone by sunset and I had it to myself.

Dog Mountain is on the Washington side of the Gorge and is one of the area’s most popular hikes.  Get there from Portland by driving east on I-84 to the town of Cascade Locks, cross the Bridge of the Gods into Washington ($1 toll), and turn right on Hwy. 14.  Continue east through Stevenson and look for the wide gravel parking lot on the left.  It is just over an hour’s drive.

There is a loop option by going left on the trail from the parking lot, following signs up the Augsberger Mountain Trail and returning on the main Dog Mountain Trail.  Or just climb up the main trail to the right (east) from the parking lot.  This route forks not far above the parking lot, allowing yet another loop option.  Be aware it is a steep hike, about 7-8 miles round-trip to the top and back.

Flagged trees and wildflowers stand up to a stiff west wind on Dog Mountain in Washington's Columbia River Gorge.

Flagged trees and wildflowers stand up to a stiff west wind on Dog Mountain in Washington’s Columbia River Gorge.

This time of year the entire upper mountainside is covered in blooming wildflowers.  The iconic flower of this area, the bold yellow balsamroot, is on the wane.  But it is joined in mid-May by purple lupine and red indian paintbrush, along with other flowers.  Clouds nearly ruined the chances for pictures, but I managed to get a few.  I even did a self-portrait, which is rare for camera-shy me.  It was windy, which is typical for the Gorge.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.  They are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission, sorry.  If you’re interested in either download or printed high-resolution versions, just click on the pictures.  Then click “add image to cart” to see price options.  Don’t worry, it won’t be added to your cart until you make your choices.  Thanks very much for your interest, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Balsamroot bloom far above the Columbia River on Dog Mountain in the Pacific Northwest's Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.

Balsamroot bloom far above the Columbia River on Dog Mountain in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.

Rowena Plateau is Blooming   8 comments

Dawn breaks on Rowena Crest in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

Dawn breaks on Rowena Crest in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.


Rowena is one of my favorite places to hike and photograph in springtime, not only in Oregon but anywhere.  Around Easter the showy yellow blooms of the arrowleaf balsamroot appear, and they are soon joined by lupine, paintbrush and other more subtle flowers.  It’s a show that shouldn’t be missed if you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest in spring.  It is very popular with photographers and hikers both.

Early morning dew coats arrowleaf balsamroot at Rowena Crest in the Columbia River Gorge.

Early morning dew coats arrowleaf balsamroot at Rowena Crest in the Columbia River Gorge.

To get there, take Interstate 84 east of Portland all the way out past Hood River to the town of Mosier.  Get off the freeway and turn east on the Dalles-Mosier highway.  This is an extremely scenic two-lane that winds up through the hills toward Rowena Plateau (also known as Rowena Crest).  When the road tops out and the trees thin out, look for a turnoff and parking to the right.  What a view!

Note also that there are wide spots to pull off along the road before you get to the official viewpoint.  But please don’t drive off the gravel; this is fairly delicate terrain.  After your visit, you can keep going on this road as it winds spectacularly back down to the Columbia River, where you’ll be able to access the freeway again for the return.  I’ve seen car companies shooting commercials here.  It will take about an hour and a half to drive here from Portland.

Mount Adams is visible on the hike up to Tom McCall Point at Rowena Plateau in Oregon.

Mount Adams is visible on the hike up to Tom McCall Point at Rowena Plateau in Oregon.

Trails head in both directions from the viewpoint at the crest, and you can’t go wrong with either one.  If you take the trail that heads north toward the river, you’ll pass fields of wildflowers and a small lake.  It’s less than a mile to the cliff-edge, where you can look straight down on the freeway and the river.  Use caution!

If you go the other direction, toward the south, wildlfowers will again greet you as you climb toward McCall Point.  Making the short <2-mile climb to this point will reward you with views of both Mounts Hood and Adams.  Please stay on the trail, and avoid stepping on the plants.  Some are quite rare, even endangered.

Doe and yearling mule deer are curious to see who is visiting at Rowena Plateau near the Columbia River, Oregon.

Doe and yearling mule deer are curious to see who is visiting at Rowena Plateau near the Columbia River, Oregon.

This whole area is a preserve named for Tom McCall, a former governor of Oregon known for his environmental stewardship.  He was also famous for his unofficial motto “Oregon, enjoy your visit but please don’t stay!”  He did not want his beloved state to become California, and a sign was even posted with this motto on the main highway near Oregon’s border with our southern neighbor.

The area is preserved because of its unique botanical treasures.  The showy sunflower-like balsamroot and lupine are very common of course, but there are smaller, less noticeable plants here that are rare and make botanists go giddy with pleasure.  It’s a gorgeous place, especially at sunrise.  I camp here in my van so as to be here at daybreak.  It’s one of the few places I go that I share with a good number of other photographers.  It’s just too good to miss.

Mount Hood stands beyond the spring blooms on Tom McCall Point in Oregon.

Mount Hood stands beyond the spring blooms on Tom McCall Point in Oregon.

If you come here note that it can often be very windy (see image at bottom).  When the sun shines and temperatures rise (which often happens on this drier side of the Cascades), watch for snakes.  Rattlesnakes, which are potentially dangerous, are not as common as gopher snakes but the two can be hard to distinguish.  This is not least because the non-venomous gopher snake has some tricks up its sleeve that it uses to mimick the venomous rattler.  The triangular-shaped head of the rattler, along with its well-known method of warning hikers, should be enough to tell the difference.  Various birds (including raptors), lizards, wild turkeys and deer also frequent the area.

Rowena would definitely be high on my list if I was visiting the Hood River/Columbia Gorge area.  I hope you enjoy the images.  Please be aware that they are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  Click on any of the pictures to go to the main part of my website, where there are purchase options for high-resolution images.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks a lot.

A very stiff wind blows the balsamroot and lupine at sunrise on Rowena Plateau in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A very stiff wind blows the balsamroot and lupine at sunrise on Rowena Plateau in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.



Life without Mountains? No way! Paradise Park   Leave a comment

Indian paintbrush bloom in Paradise Park on Oregon’s Mount Hood.

Shifting gears now, into the realm of my nature & landscape photography & exploration.  But I’ll return to travel again soon.  Mount Hood is the closest major mountain to where I live in Oregon.  I don’t think I could be happy living somewhere without mountains.  I will never understand why people retire in flat Florida.  We in the Pacific Northwest of America are blessed with several different ranges of mountains, but it’s the Cascades that are the tallest and most convenient to where most of us live.

Before going on, I should mention the images you see here are available for licensing and download, or you can purchase as prints.  Visit my website or contact me for more details.  It’s not lawful to download and use them without permission.  Thanks for your interest and cooperation on this.  Okay, back to the mountains!  We have had a much cooler and wetter Spring and early Summer than the rest of the country.  And so the high country has been slow to melt off.  But now the snow is beating a rapid retreat and flowers are beginning to reach their peak in the subalpine meadows of the Cascades.

Lupine bloom along the ridgeline near Paradise Park on Mount Hood, Oregon.

One of Mount Hood’s finest hikes follows the Pacific Crest Trail west from Timberline Lodge and drops for a few miles, only to rise again to Paradise Park.  It is about 11 miles but feels longer.  You will do most of your climbing on the return trip.  With photography it took us a full 8 hours to do the hike.  That includes the 1/2 hour we spent building a rock bridge across Zigzag Creek.  We could have simply taken off boots and waded across, but that would have been too easy.  Besides, who doesn’t like building things, even if it is only a dozen rocks plopped into a river to form a hop-hop crossing.  Those rocks were heavy though!

One of the numerous waterfalls along the trail to Paradise Park, Mt Hood, Oregon.

The weather was perfect, sunny but not hot.  Beautiful lupine, indian paintbrush, glacier lily and beargrass, along with other flowers blooming along the trail, water tumbling everywhere, and the west face of 11,235-foot Mount Hood looming over all of it.  I mentioned the crossing of Zigzag Creek, but you will also need to cross the canyon it has carved.  Moderately steep switchbacks on either side make you earn your entrance to Paradise Park, which extends north from the opposite side of the canyon.  Soon after crossing the creek, a loop route departs the main trail and enters perfectly named Paradise Park.

Park is a word applied to subalpine meadows near timberline (at 5000-6000 feet elevation here).  Gorgeous streams lined with water-loving wild lily and monkeyflower pass boulders dropped by glaciers.  Glaciers are still visible from here, but they have retreated far up the mountain during recent (warming) times.  There are several great camping spots, and one was occupied by a backpacking couple.

On the return trip (it’s an out and back hike), the clouds which had been hanging in lower elevations began to rise and swirl among the trees, causing a beautiful effect looking toward the sinking sun.  Light was shifting so fast I did not bother to set up a tripod, and it was just bright enough shooting into the Sun for hand-held pictures.   As we approached the Lodge, Mount Jefferson formed a distant counterpoint as the last rays of the sun hit the iconic building.

Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge is less than an hour and a half from Portland, Oregon, and parking is free.  In summer Timberline is crowded with ski camp participants, mostly youngsters in bright lycra.  They look a little funny in their enormous boots, lugging bulky boards.  You might think the trail would be crowded as well, but realize that most people do not have the energy for an 11-mile hike, so you should only see a few other hikers in Paradise Park.

Mists swirl through the forests of Mount Hood in Oregon.

This hike is near the top of my list on Mount Hood.  There are a few other great ones, but Paradise Park requires a fairly short drive and you get to park somewhere that does not require a Forest Service parking pass.  For me, one who does not go along with the Forest Service on this, it’s a nice bonus!

So if you find yourself at Timberline Lodge  some day, set aside the good part of a day to do Paradise Park.  If you don’t hang about taking tripod-mounted pictures, it should only take about 6 hours.  You will thank yourself for taking the time to hike through the flower-filled meadows and beautiful forests of Mount Hood.

We don’t have the highest mountains in the world, and they are not stacked on top of each other as in the Rockies or Alps (they are isolated volcanoes). But this is enough for me.  And since Portland lies only an hour or so from the Cascades, it’s the next best thing to actually living in mountains.

I’m watching many family members and some older friends retire to Florida now, and I just can’t see myself joining them.  Where would I hike?  Where would I ski?  No thanks!

Timberline Lodge floats above the clouds on Mount Hood in Oregon.

The Gorge II   1 comment

The sunflower-like balsamroot blooms in profusion along the dry rocky terrain of the eastern Columbia River Gorge in Washington.

This is the second of two parts on the Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest.  This part focuses on the sights.  The Gorge is truly a playground, one that everybody in the Portland/Vancouver (WA) area treasures.  We often take it for granted, but we love it and want it to remain as it is.  For a great introduction, you can drive up the Historic Highway, exiting I84 at Corbett and climbing up the hill to Crown Point, the landmark overlooking the west side of the Gorge.  Keep going to Multnomah Falls, and past that, to hike the Oneonta Gorge.  Oneonta Creek can be waded in summer, going a half-mile or so up to a waterfall.  Prepare to get wet.  Just past Oneonta is Horsetail Falls, where you can take a moderate hike to Triple Falls, up Oneonta Creek, to view from above the gorge you just waded.  Keep going, lunching in the town of Cascade Locks, overlooking the Bridge of the Gods at the Charburger (on your left right after you exit).

You can either cross the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks, perhaps taking another shortish hike at Beacon Rock on the Washington side, or simply follow Hwy. 14 back to Vancouver.  At Beacon Rock you can either hike up the rock itself (leave your fear of heights in the car), or up the Hamilton Mtn trail to “pool of the winds”, a waterfall only an easy 3-mile round-trip.  Back on Hwy. 14 westbound, there is an awesome overlook at Cape Horn, but only room for a few cars along the steep cliffside road.  Many think this is a better view of the Gorge than Crown Point.

If you have more time, you can continue from Cascade Locks up to Hood River, crossing the river there to follow Hwy. 14 back down.  Hood River has great brew-pubs, restaurants and an outdoors sports vibe.  If you want to stay, Skamania Lodge on the Washington side is fantastic, if a bit spendy.  There is a hotspring at Bonneville, on the Washington side, if your hike made for sore muscles.

Faery Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

Many people just drive up to Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s most popular tourist spot, grab a few pictures, and drive back to Portland.  If you’re short on time, this is fine.  But at least drive the Historic Highway, getting off at the Bridal Veil exit, where you’ll pass both Wahkeena and Horsetail Falls, both gorgeous, along with Multnomah.  And set aside time to hike to the top on the mostly paved trail.  I don’t often do this (too many tourists), but I will do the loop hike from Wahkeena Falls, climbing to the top past a gorgeous little cascade called Faery Falls (image above), taking a left on the tie trail and dropping down to Multnomah Creek.  From here, take another left and descend past spectacular cascades to Multnomah Falls.  I hope you don’t think me a snob, but this way I only experience the tourists hiking in high heels when I’m almost done.

Dramatic clouds pass over the Columbia River Gorge along the Oregon-Washington border.

Another touristy sight that is nonetheless very worthwhile is Bonneville Dam, where you can see huge sturgeon close-up, and watch salmon swimming upstream through the fish ladder.  There is an underground viewing area where you look through glass into the fish passage.  The Washington side has a visitor center on the dam as well, and here you can see more of the inner workings of the dam than you can on the Oregon side.  But here as well, you’ll have a close look at the fish ladders.  If you travel east of Hood River in the Spring, gorgeous flower meadows invite photography at Catherine Creek on the Washington side, and at Rowena Preserve on the Oregon side.  Sunrise is the best time to photograph in these places, and May is the typical blooming time for balsamroot, paintbrush, grass widow and other wildflowers.

A hiking option near to Portland is Cape Horn, which you access by crossing over to Washington on the I205 bridge, then driving east on Hwy. 14 until you pass over the high point at the Cape Horn overlook.  Just past this you will begin to descend; after just a mile or less you will see a gravel pull-off to the right.  Park here and you can do an amazingly uncrowded loop hike that takes you along the cliff edges, with great views down to the river.  Many people head to Angel’s Rest on the Oregon side for a quick hike, and if you follow suit be prepared for a crowd on the weekends.  But allow a bit more time and you can hike the slightly longer but just-as-nearby Cape Horn trail on the quieter Washington side.

At Celilo, native American culture was traditionally and still is today centered around salmon.  At the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which explored this region in 1805-6, Celilo was the site of an enormous cataract, and there were rapids all through the center of the Gorge.  The era of dams has changed all that, making the river look more like a long lake than a river.  Other places mentioned by Lewis and Clark are Beacon Rock and the mouth of the Sandy River at the Gorge’s west end.  Here, the explorers mentioned the extremely silty and muddy water pouring out of the Sandy.  It’s now known that Mount Hood had recently erupted, sending mudflows down the Sandy River and into the Columbia.

I hope if you visit the Pacific Northwest that you set aside at least one day for the Columbia River Gorge.  It is really a fantastic opportunity to see a cross-section through the heart of the Pacific Northwest.  You can examine the palisades and columns of flood-basalt lavas in detail, hike fern-draped grottoes where waterfalls thunder, and enjoy fantastic scenery & photography.

Lovely Multnomah Creek in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge takes on a glow just above Multnomah Falls.

%d bloggers like this: