Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moseyin' Around Mosier

Springtime just wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Mosier area.

Columbia River from Rowena Crest

The tiny town of Mosier, Oregon is located near the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge.  Landing on the Cascade Mountain's eastern slopes, it boasts drier and sunnier weather.  Perfect for sprouting early wildflowers!

Loop-de-loop road

One sunny day last April, I rose early and headed east to catch some of the flowery goodness.  First stop - Rowena Crest, a spectacular plateau just east of Mosier.  Not only does this place burst with color every spring, there's some pretty cool windy roads you have to drive to reach it.  (Perfect place to film a car ad, don't you think?)

The balsamroot was out in force!

The vast fields of cheery yellow basamroot didn't disappoint either.

Cloud reflections on the Columbia

After wandering Rowena Crest's high plateau for awhile, capturing dozens of flower images, I returned to my car, and headed back to Mosier.

Mosier Pioneer Cemetery

Last year, I discovered a great new trail that began right inside Mosier's city limits.  (Photos and story can be found here.)

Lovely lilacs

This trail climbs to a short hill to the local pioneer cemetery.  Overlooking the Columbia River, it's a quiet, scenic resting place.  Wildflowers and a lovely lilac bush were blooming. 

Tiny gravestone for a tiny person

Some of the town's founding families were buried here.  I think it's so interesting to read gravestones from days long ago.  I always wonder what stories they could tell.

Sweeping views from Mosier Plateau

Continuing past the cemetery, the trail follows Mosier Creek and Mosier Creek Falls.  As I climbed, the canyon walls deepened.  Houses perched precariously on the opposite rim.

Lupine dancing

Then my path began switchbacking up the side of Mosier Plateau.  Wooden stairs were placed at the steepest climbs. The forest opened up into grassland, and I began to feel the sun's rays beating down.

Fluffy yellow balsamroot

And then - I was on top!  The Columbia River opened up below me in a spectacular panorama.

Follow the path

Oh the flowers!  Huge fields of yellow balsamroot covered the plateau's wide-open surface.

Gorge panorama

I wandered across the plateau, taking in these amazing sweeping views.

Busy bee

I admired the bees, busy gathering pollen.

Took zillions of balsamroot shots, from every conceivable angle.

Heading back towards town

After soaking in the stupendous views and gorgeous flowers, I reluctantly pulled myself away and trekked back down.

Colorful bloom

But I made time for a couple more photo ops on the return trip.  This colorful flower was just begging to be photographed.

Interesting gravestone

I had to get one more shot of this interesting headstone.

More lilacs - just because!

And these gorgeous purple lilacs.

The best way to end a hike

There's no better way to end a day of exploring than to partake in a local brew and burger from one of Hood River's amazing brewpubs.  Another great spring excursion in the Gorge!

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hardy Ridge Friday

I love it when John sends a hike invitation that coincides with my Friday off.

The gang's all here!

Wanting to take advantage of this sunny April day, John chose a trail that promised big views - Hardy Ridge, on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Tunnel of green

I'd hiked Hardy Ridge for the first time last June and was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number and variety of wildflowers blooming.  Although cloudy skies foiled the ridgeline views that day, the amazing floral display more than made up for it.  But, thinking it was too early for flowers, today would be an opportunity to catch those views I'd missed.

Bleeding Heart

It was a "hardy" group of six that gathered at the trailhead.  Our fearless leader John led us down an abandoned road for a mile where we then turned down an old trail that he described as "undulating."  (We gave John high grammar points for using such a big word!)


This trail was quite lovely.  The surrounding forest had exploded into a dazzling display of neon-green new leaves.  We felt as if we were hiking in a tunnel of green.  Pale pink Bleeding Heart flowers bloomed in the underbrush.

John gets up close and personal with a flower

Leaving the "undulating" trail, our climb began in earnest.  We switchbacked through a dense forest, it's floor decked out in with white trillium blooms.

UPF (unidentified purple flower)

There were other flowers blooming, equally as pretty, but we had no idea of their names. 

Another UPF

In the end, my friends and I dubbed these lovely blossoms "UPF" - an acronym for "unidentified purple flower."

Our first major viewpoint

After climbing for an eternity (well, it seemed that way!) we were rewarded with our first big view of the Columbia River.

Young capturing some Glacier lilies

A short, steep jaunt got us to the top of Hardy Ridge proper.  And what was waiting for my friends and I?

Glacier Lilies all in a row

More flowers!  This time cheery yellow Glacier Lilies were the main attraction.  I'd never seen these varieties blooming in the Gorge.  And they were everywhere!

Bonneville Dam waaay far down!

Contouring along the ridgeline, the forest opened up and we began to enjoy the first of many fabulous vistas.  The Columbia River shone a bright blue as it wound through the Gorge.  Bonneville Dam looked like a tiny children's toy from way up here.

Following the ridge

Our goal was to make it to the very end of Hardy Ridge.  John assured us we'd have a wonderful lunch spot there.

Amazing lunch spot...

And, boy was he right!  At ridge's end were front-row views of Table Mountain.  Our panorama stretched far down the Columbia River Gorge.  We couldn't have chosen a better day to enjoy it all.  The sky was as clear as a bell.

With a Mt. Hood view!

And looking towards the south, Mt. Hood towered over the horizon.  How perfect was that?


Yes, it was an amazing lunch spot.  My friends and I perched on the slope's edge and took in all these marvelous views.

And more Glacier lilies!

Finishing up my lunch ahead of everyone else, I got a head start on the return trip.  I'd glimpsed a huge patch of Phlox and Glacier Lilies nearby that I really wanted to photograph.  Leaving ahead of the group I could take my time and get some good shots without worrying about being left behind.

Here comes the group

Of course it didn't take long for everyone to catch up!

And there they go!

And then pass me by.

Fabulous Hood view

But it was a great opportunity to get some action shots of my friends.  Mt. Hood provided quite a stunning backdrop.

Back down the ridge

Then it was all downhill.  Descending the ridge we were treated to one last view of the fabulous panorama of wooded hills, nearby mountains, and shining river.

Here come John and Dorene!

Then it was back through the thick forest, along more roads, until the trailhead, and our vehicles, came into view.

Trees springing back to life

Everyone agreed we'd hit the weather jackpot today.  The clear skies made for incredible views.  Although not expecting any wildflowers, I was pleasantly surprised by such a wide variety so early in the season.  Once again, Hardy Ridge Trail had delivered.

Enjoying our reward!

We capped this perfect day with a visit to one of the Gorge's famous brewpubs.  A cold brew is always the best reward.  Cheers everyone - thanks for such a great hike!

Stats:  9 miles, 2500 feet elevation gain.......and one pint of delicious cherry stout.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

End of the Season

It's time to play catch-up!  Hopelessly behind in posting stuff, I'm gonna start from the oldest and try to work my way up to the newest adventures from this wild and wonderful spring.

So this post is a month old - it's from a bluebird day in mid-April, when my best ski buddy Kim and I headed to Mt. Hood Meadows for our last day of the 2014-15 ski season.

Bluebird day!

It's been a tough winter for those of us who love sliding on snow.  Aside from some huge storms in late December, Mother Nature's been mighty stingy with the white stuff.  Many ski areas around the PNW were forced to close early, while some didn't open at all.

Mt Hood encircled with clouds

Lucky for me, Mt. Hood Meadows, the resort where I always buy my season pass, stayed open until mid-April.  Although the lower runs were nearly bare by then, it's upper reaches still had adequate cover.

Kim strikes a skiers pose

Sunny skies greeted Kim and I as we pulled into the parking lot that morning.  Jazzed by the nice weather, we clicked into our skis and headed up the lift.

Ridin' up the Cascade Lift

Looking for the best conditions, we headed straight for the Cascade chair, which quickly zipped us to Meadows' highest runs.

Dramatic clouds

Warm temps had already softened the snow.  It was a dream to ski through.  We did a lap downhill and eagerly rode back up for more.

Ski buddy photo op

My foot finally healed from bunion surgery, it was wonderful to race down the slopes again.  From those first tentative turns on MLK Day, I smiled thinking how far I'd come.

Above the cloud layer

The ski area's very top, gave us a bird's-eye view of the world below.  A world that was shrouded by heavy clouds.  Made for some awesomely dramatic photo ops.

And of course I had my GoPro.  One last chance to capture those magical skiing moments!

Heading down the Cascade main run, I was filming away, when I noticed a huge puff of snow off to my left.  For a split second I wondered what it was, and then shrugged and kept going.  When I reached the bottom, Kim caught up to me and said "Did you see the snowboarder that almost took you out?  Hope you got it on tape!"  She'd been skiing behind me and witnessed the entire thing.  Reviewing the footage later that night, sure enough, you can see a snowboarder heading straight for me, and wiping out at the last moment to avoid a collision.  Whew! 

You can check out my near-miss in the above clip.  (It's about 56 seconds into the video)

Kim admires her tracks

Saved from an accident, Kim and I continued to make laps off the Cascade.  With only a couple lifts running, and the best snow up high, everyone was crammed into the half dozen open runs.  Which quickly became crowded. 

Top of the Cascade

So we took a run down Outer Limits, a trail providing lovely views of the nearby mountains. 
Mt. Jefferson obliged by poking it's top above the thick cloud bank. 

Mt. Jefferson rises above the clouds

We passed by some areas where the snow had melted all the way down to it's rocky soil.  A sad a normal year, this area would still be under several feet of snow.

The snow was mighty skimpy in some places

Around late morning, Kim and I took a quick bathroom and coffee break.  Imagine our surprise when half an hour later, we emerged from the lodge into a totally different world.  Thick flog cloaked the slopes, reducing visibility to nil. 

Find the skiers

Not wanting to quit yet, Kim and I were determined to make a go of it anyway.  Heading back up the Cascade Lift transported us into a world of white.  We could barely see a foot in front of us, let alone any of the other skiers.  "Skiing by Braille" was not our idea of fun.  We both decided it was time to throw in the towel.  Besides, burgers and beer in nearby Hood River were calling our names.

A perfect last day!

Thus ends another ski season.....Although short, with trying conditions, I'm glad I was at least able to log a few days on snow this year.

I posted this great chairlift shot of Kim and I on my Instagram account.  It perfectly captures the joy we felt on this glorious final day of the 2015 season.

Happiness is ...... a sunny spring day on the slopes with your best ski buddy.