Thursday, August 5, 2010

Silver Star Mountain Wildflower Extravaganza

My friend John is an avid hiker and mountain climber.  He organizes hikes almost every week.  I'm always included in his mass email invitations (which I appreciate!) but this year it seemed I was always busy every time he planned a weekend outing.

Then John sent an e-vite to join him hiking Silver Star Mtn by way of Ed's trail.  I've hiked to Silver Star Mtn. a couple of times, but never on this trail.  I'd heard reports that the wildflowers were now out in force here.  One of the best wildflower displays I've ever seen (besides McNeil Pt) was a couple of years ago on Silver Star Mtn.  To John's invitation I emailed back a resounding yes!!

John at the trailhead

John and I were joined by his friend Chuck.  With my dog Bear, we were ready to roll on Saturday morning.  The road to the trailhead is not long distance-wise, but the last few miles are on terrible Forest Service roads, slowing travel to a crawl.  But with Chuck's expert driving (thanks Chuck!) we made it to the trailhead.  After stuffing our backpacks and syncing our gps we hit the trail!

Beautiful wild iris

From the very beginning, there were tons of flowers blooming.  I didn't get very far before my camera came out.  The star of this flower show was the lovely purple iris.  These flowers were blooming everywhere.  One hillside was covered with them.

John and Chuck smile for the camera

The other cool thing at the start of the hike was a thick cloud/fog layer that hovered below the mountain tops.  It was very picturesque.

Chuck photographing the flowers

It didn't take very long for the mountains to pop out of the fog.  Mt. St. Helens was visible practically from the parking lot.   Soon, Rainier and Adams followed suit.

Climbing a bearagrass-covered hillside

We kept climbing on a trail that wound through wonderful fields of flowers, with stellar mountain views behind us.  The fog bank kept hanging in the valleys, which provided great photo ops.

The beargrass was plentiful

There were LOTS of beargrass blooms everywhere.  I was my usual self, lagging behind, trying to photograph everything.

Fog hanging in the valley

The three mountains and the foggy valley dominated our views as we climbed towards Silver Star.

We arrive at the rock arch

I'd heard this trail went through a natural rock arch.  It was described in Sullivan's book and on the Portland Hikers website.  Now I got to see it live and in person!  And I got the opportunity to hike right through it.

Chuck is our "arch-model"

After I snapped about a zillion photos of the arch (way cool!) we continued on.  Shortly after the arch, we had to do some scrambling up a rock face.  Wasn't too bad - about 15 feet or so up.  I wasn't sure if  Bear would be able to handle it, but he did!  He hopped right up the rocks, and only fell once.  What a trooper!

More wonderful flowery meadows

Soon we reached a trail junction with an old road.  We were close to Silver Star's summit.  After a trudge along a rocky road that was partially in the sun, we arrived at the top.

Summit views

Silver Star Mountain has two summits.  We opted to head for the north summit.  There were a lot of people on top when we arrived.  We found places to sit within the rocks, and enjoyed a well-earned lunch.  It was nice to take a break and enjoy the views.  We'd worked hard this morning and the scenery was our reward.

Paintbrush and Mt. Hood

After lunch, John wanted to continue our hike a little bit further.  He suggested we hike over to the Indian pits, about a mile away.  The day was still young, so I thought, why not?

Approaching the Indian pits

The Indian pits are rock-lined depressions created for vision quests by the ancient Native Americans.  Supposedly the young men fasted until they saw a guiding spirit.  There are several of these pits along a ridge not far from Silver Star Mtn.

John tries out a pit

As we approached the pits, we saw a dog sitting next to one of them.  There was a young man sitting in this pit.  The guy looked like he was deep in thought, so we tried to be quiet as not to disturb him.  John was a good sport, and got into one of the pits for to pose for some photos.

Awesome view of St. Helens

The flowers along this part of the trail were the best I'd seen so far.  Add to it more mountain views - we could now see Mt. Hood, the tip of Jefferson, and a killer view of St. Helens.  I was glad John suggested we come this way.

I'm in my happy place!

I had to get at least one photo of myself surrounded by all this beauty!

The view behind me heading back

Heading back from the Indian pits, the light was perfect behind me, and the views jaw-dropping.  Flowers crowded the side of the trail, and Mt. Hood was always behind my right shoulder.  Too bad I couldn't of walked backwards to better enjoy the sights.

St. Helens and Rainier look over a wildflower meadow

We ended up back on the rocky road.  John said the road would be our return path back to the car.

Our views on the return trail

This road had the best wildflowers yet.  My photos didn't come close to capturing how wonderful it all was.  There were numerous varieties of flowers blooming along the road.  And as we hiked, there was a continual view of Mt. St. Helens in front of us.

Cheerful flowers line the trail

At that point, I REALLY began to lag behind the guys.  I was stopping everywhere to capture the flowery show.  But there were other people hiking this road with cameras, and they too were snapping along with me.  Sadly, when I got home and looked over my photos, I didn't feel I  had adequately captured how wonderful it all was.

Mt. Hood rises behind a wildflower meadow

Close to the end of the trail, Mt. Hood appeared in between two hills.  The light illuminated the mountain and it gleamed brightly.  A meadow full of wildflowers added to the beauty.  This was my parting view, and it was a beautiful way to end an awesome hike and wonderful day. 

Thanks John for taking me to such a great place! 

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