5. Cape Horn; Lewisia and Clarkia at Tracy Hill

Cape Horn    May 19, 2017    (#26)

We heard the larkspur might be blooming at Cape Horn, a hike near Washougal, Washington.  The trail is a loop, but this time of year the lower section is closed for peregrine falcon nesting.  We started in the middle, and hiked down to the waterfall overlook, then back up to Pioneer Point.  We did see some falcons flying below us.  The larkspur were blooming in the lower area near Hwy 14, but not in the upper trail near the Nancy Russell overlook yet – should be another week or so up there.  A beautiful day, and not too busy on the trail. (6.0/1200′)


Eastward view from the Nancy Russell overlook


Silverstar Mountain, with snow, looking north from near Pioneer Point

Tracy Hill  May 21, 2017  (#27)

Two years ago in February we hiked up Tracy Hill above Catherine Creek, and I noticed lots of Lewisia (bitterroot) foliage on the rocky patches as we made our way up the hill.  Knowing that the bitterroot is in full bloom now, I wanted to go back and see the handsome pink flowers along the trail.  The suite of wildflowers that bloom in the later, drier season were out, the green grasses and early blooms have faded and gone to seed, so the hills are less spring green, and more a blend of olive greens, browns, and pinks, in a lovely color wash.  The bitterroot were blooming, as expected, but more toward the end of the cycle, compared to two weeks ago, and we also saw a few pink slender Clarkia along the way.  Yellow monkey flower and purple lupine added pops of color to the landscape, and there were purple penstemon blooming along the cliff edge north of the arch.  It was hot (90 degrees) when we finished the hike.  This may be our last eastern gorge hike until fall. (6.0/1300′)


Bitterroot still in bloom



Looking south to Mt. Hood and the parking area

4. Rainy Weekend: Rainbow, Bitterroot and more Balsamroot

Starvation Ridge          May 12, 2017          (# 24 )

Lots of rain in Portland this weekend.  Friday we decided to try the Starvation Ridge loop near Hood River (50% chance of rain).  Two cars in the parking lot, but no actual raindrops.  Clouds were looming just above the top of Dog Mountain directly across the Columbia River.  The loop is about 3 miles, and the Oregon Hikers trail guide recommends a clockwise loop as the first uphill section is really steep but would be more difficult going down.  We completely agree with their assessment – also there were a couple of washouts on this part of the trail that would be harder down hill.  The trail switchbacks along the ridge and crosses under the power lines.  There are open meadows in places that were full of wildflowers.  We also had drizzle or rain about 50% of the time, but as we were standing on one of the high overlooks, the sun came out behind us, creating a rainbow below us over the river.  We did have to scoot across one stream crossing on a log on our backsides. We enjoyed the hike, and we had the trail entirely to ourselves.  (3 miles, 1100 feet )  We finished the Starvation hike around lunchtime, and ate our lunch while reading the signage about the train that was stuck in the snow here for three weeks in December, 1884, though noone actually starved.


Starvation story


First overlook, east toward the trailhead, with phlox


Rainbow below us, toward Wind Mountain


Dog Mountain, across the Columbia River


Rainy meadow

Bitterroot at Catherine Creek     May 12, 2017

After lunch we crossed over the Hood River Bridge to Catherine Creek as we had seen reports that the bitterroot were blooming.  Yes!  The meadows are starting to look dry, but the rocky balds are sprinkled with clumps of blooms, with more to come.  We wandered up to the vernal ponds area above the road and could see bitterroot bloom far and wide.  The ponds are dried up, but filled with swathes of purple camas and monkey flower.  Buckwheat are starting to bloom, and a few white death camas remain in the shady areas.




Near the parking area


Vernal Pools filled with camas



Catherine Creek arch


East view – Columbia River


West view- Columbia River


Looking back at the vernal pools

Weldon Wagon Road      May 14, 2017   (# 25)

Mothers Day – Once again going east out of the rain, we decided to walk this trail above Husum, Washington. We went with our son, and some friends with their dog. We had been once several years ago, in April, and I remember enjoying walking through the oak woodlands that reminded me of the California hills of my youth.  We were pleasantly surprised to see that in May, the open slopes in the upper part of the trail are covered in balsam root flowers with lupine, buckwheat, and various parsleys. We could only see the very lowest part of Mt. Hood below the rain clouds, but we did not get any rain, and had a very pleasant hike (5.5 miles, 1300′).



Trail cutting through upper slopes – balsam root in bloom


The lower shoulders of Mt. Hood ahead



Columbia desert parsley in the ravine

3 – Lilacs and Balsamroot

Hulda Klager Lilac Garden    May 6, 2017

We went with friends to see the lilacs in bloom at the 1889 farmhouse in Woodland, Washington.  The lilacs were lovely, there were some interesting quilts in the house, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch at nearby Horseshoe Lake.  We also visited the Tulip farm at the south end of town, and saw the last straggling tulips – mostly done for the season.

Tom McCall Point hike  May 7, 2017    (#23)

Our best hiking weather for the weekend was Sunday, so we knew there would be plenty of people hiking the trail from Rowena Crest to Tom McCall Point on the eastern edge of the Columbia River gorge.  We were all there to see the amazing show of flowers – and the flowers were amazing!  Bright yellow balsam root, purple lupine, red paintbrush, several varieties of parsley, blue-eyed Mary and saxifrage, prairie stars, larkspur, chocolate lilies .  The trail has been relocated since the fire three years ago, and the grade to the top is a bit less steep, and traverses more open meadow than oak woodland. We continued to the high point on the ridge to the east, heading toward Seven Mile Hill, but stopped where the fence crossed the trail (total about 6 miles/1300′). On our way home, we drove down the Old Highway switchbacks to Rowena.  Later that night, the cliff above the road gave way to a massive landslide which will block the road for a few weeks until repaired.


View from the trailhead


East toward Rowena


Through the balsamroot


Parsley lined trail


Memaloose Hills to the west


Mt. Adams to the north


Mt Hood


View from our highest point, back toward Tom McCall Point, Rowena Crest and the Columbia River


Hiking back up Tom McCall Point


Another view of Mt Adams on the hike down

2. Crystal and Oak Springs


Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden            4/28/2017     (#21)

We went to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in southeast Portland for an afternoon walk.  Rhodies and azaleas were in various stages of bloom.  The Japanese maples were lovely.


Dan at Crystal Springs

Oak Spring Trail, Dalles Mountain Ranch        4/29/2017     (#22)

The wildflowers in the eastern gorge are blooming at the middle elevations.  We took the fork to Oak Springs instead of to the top of Stacker Butte to get out of the wind.  We saw the suite of flowers blooming in the oak woodland, including waterleaf, yellow bells and oaks toothwort.