|Just before sunrise|
It's become one of my new traditions. Since discovering the Dalles Mountain Ranch two years ago, I've made it a point to catch the annual spring wildflower bloom.
|Lupine and old fence|
Two Saturdays ago, I paid my yearly visit. Rising at an ungodly early hour, I drove east in the predawn darkness, headed towards the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. Across the river from The Dalles is the Columbia Hills State Park. And within this wonderful park is an old ranch (you can read more about the ranch here and also here).
|Vast flower fields|
Although the old ranch buildings are interesting, the main attraction of this park is the prolific wildflower fields. Every April, the surrounding hillsides erupt in brilliant shades of yellow.
|Morning light hits the hills|
The cheerful yellow balsamroot blooms are the stars of the show. Mixed in with all this brilliant yellow are dazzling purple lupine.
Arriving before sunrise, I wandered amidst the vast flower fields, trying to pick out a good spot to capture the sun's first rays.
|Star of the show|
Although my attempts to catch daybreak were a bust, I did get some good post-sunrise photos.
|Mt Hood rises above|
2016 has been a good flower year. I've never seen such a huge amount of balsamroot. The concentrations were so large they colored the hillsides yellow. It was as if someone had swept a giant paintbrush across them.
A gravel road takes visitors above the ranch for a bird's-eye view of the vast sweeping pasturelands and the Columbia River below. There's also some killer views of Mt. Hood.
|Another shot of my favorite mountain|
I must've spent well over an hour wandering those grassy slopes with my camera.
The Columbia River was a shining blue ribbon far below my lofty perch.
Not only was it a good year for balsamroot, the lupine also seemed to be doing just fine.
I finally drove back to the old ranch buildings, and spent some time wandering amongst them. A few pieces of ancient farm equipment were scattered in another flower field, and I had fun photographing them against this colorful backdrop.
|Old wagon wheel|
One of the big draws to the Dalles Mountain Ranch is a rusty old car sitting in the middle of a large field of flowers. Two years ago, I spent a considerable amount of time searching for this old auto.
|Heading towards the famous auto|
My previous two trips to the ranch had been on weekdays, and I'd had the car and it's flower field all to myself. But today being Saturday, I knew I wouldn't get so lucky.
|Lots of photographers at the auto!|
I wandered over to the car's final resting place. As I glanced over the fenceline, I spotted a good half dozen photographers spread out around it's old, rusting hulk. It's location no longer a secret, I realized there was no way I'd be able to get any good photos today.
However, I found the highest concentrations of wildflowers here in this field. Not only were the flowers thick, their colors were the most vivid of any place on the ranch. Since, I couldn't get any unobstructed shots of the car, instead I opted to photograph the flowers.
|Marmots in the old barn|
After getting copious wildflower images, I wandered back through the old barnyard. As luck would have it, I happened upon a couple of marmots hanging out beside one of the tumble-down structures, and was able to get a few photos of them.
By 10 o'clock I had a memory card full of gorgeous wildflower images. Taking a final pass through the ranch outbuildings, I just had to capture one more photo of this picturesque vintage wagon.
|Old ranch wagon|
Yes, truly a gem of a state park, I was glad I'd made the effort to rise early and make the drive.
|Back at the ranch|
The Dalles Mountain Ranch is truly a special place. I'm glad the Washington State Parks department had preserved this beautiful area for all to enjoy.
Until next year!
Sharing with: Floral Friday Fotos