Thursday, April 25, 2013

Checkin' Out the Eastern Gorge

Another Friday off!  However, morning obligations prevented a ski excursion.  Not wanting to waste an entire day, I decided to squeeze in a quick afternoon hike.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.


Portland was it's usual rainy self.  Hoping to escape some of the wet, I traveled to the eastern Columbia River Gorge.  Rumor had it wildflowers were starting to bloom at Tom McCall Preserve.  Time to check things out!

Twisty roads of the Old Columbia River Hwy

Tom McCall Preserve is just east of the town of Mosier.  Located on a high plateau, this unique area boasts a spectacular display of early spring wildflowers and a diverse wildlife habitat.  Tall basalt cliffs tower over impressive views of the Columbia River.

This field was a mass of yellow

From Mosier, the Old Columbia River Highway winds along the bluff-tops.  I passed cute little farms and cherry orchards in full bloom.  Newly-leafing trees and young spring grasses colored the hillsides an electric green.

The Rowena Plateau

This preserve has two official trails.  One climbs steeply to the top of Tom McCall Point, offering glorious mountain views.  The other is an flat, easy ramble along the lower plateau.  Short on time, I opted for the second trail.

Posts from an ancient fence

The plateau trail wanders through a grassland that's famous for an abundance of spring wildflowers.  Sadly, I'd arrived too soon.  Although I spotted some yellow desert parsley dotting the landscape, most everything else was just getting started.

Desert Parsley

My path passed by a small pond, rimmed by gnarly oak trees.  A field covered with tiny, yellow flowers caught my attention and garnered a photo session.

Cliff overlooking the Columbia River

After meandering by a second pond, the trail emerged to a cliff-edge viewpoint.  The tall basalt walls of the Gorge rose from both sides of the river.  The rocky layers alternating with green grassy slopes made interesting patterns.  The Columbia River, brown and mighty, wove through the bluffs.

Gnarled oak trees

Traveling along the clifftops, I spotted a lone tree adorned with white fluffy flowers.  Of course, I had to investigate.


Above river's edge, the wind was howling.  Made photographing these white flowers very difficult when their branches wouldn't stay still.  I patiently waited, camera in position, hoping for a break.  I did manage to capture one half-decent shot.  Later research in my wildflower guidebook identified these fluffy petals as serviceberry.

Steep basalt cliffs

Perched high on the plateau, I could see up and down both ends of the Gorge.  A dark, heavy cloud hung in the western sky.  It appeared to be moving my way.  Thinking I was about to get wet, the camera was hastily packed away.  But I got lucky.  Only a few drops sprinkled my shoulders.  Once the raincloud passed, my camera came back out again. 

Delicate pink flower

Trail's end brought me to the edge of a rocky bluff.  The landscape was dotted with yellow balsamroot flowers, just beginning to bloom.  A huge hawk sailed above me.  Mesmerized, I watched him glide along the cliffs below. 

Magnificent view at trail's end

My vantage offered a fantastic view of the western Gorge.  Perfect spot for a self portrait.

Another balsamroot flower

After lots of balsamroot shots (LOVE that flower!) I retraced my steps back through the grassy plain.  Returning on the Old Columbia River Highway, I came upon this tumble-down barn nestled in a scenic valley.  I couldn't resist stopping for a quick photo or two.

Abandoned farm on the way home

Even with limited time and not-so-stellar weather conditions, it was great to get outside and explore the Gorge with my camera.

Linking to:  Share Your Cup Thursday and Weekly Top Shot.


  1. Much as I've loved and learned from your ski photos, I've been anxious for your hiking season to come. That's how I first found your blog and I can't wait to "see" more trails through your eyes!!

  2. LOVED your photos of this area and the wildflowers! You are one brave lady if you traveled up the road from Mosier:)

  3. Gosh, it is so pretty there right now! Thanks for taking us along on your journey. I love the last shot of the abandoned building!

  4. Columbia River Highway looks to be a great place to travel . Thanks for sharing this was an awsome stroll ! Perfect self portrait to capture your outdoor loving nature :) Hawk flying overhead earlier, icing on the cake

  5. I was stunned that skiing was still a possibility with May only a few days away. From my point of view, a wonderful start to your hiking season and I look forward to sharing all your amazing trails.

  6. That looks like a great trail you took us on and there were quite a few varieties of wildflowers you spotted on route.

  7. Very pretty, and that road looks like so much fun!

  8. Linda, you always delight us with your lens. That shot of the barn should be enlarged and framed. Hubby and I bought a barn photo taken by a local when vacationing in ID. I've yet to get a frame. This reminds me to do so. Love the gorgeous blooms! Thanks for sharing them with SYC.

  9. It's finally spring here, but not wildflower season yet, just the tulips and daffodils. We're in central Wisconsin for a trip in two weeks and I hope spring wildflowers will be making an appearance! Thanks for all the yellow, so refreshing after such a long winter!

  10. Oh yes, there is the barn! Love how that area changes so dramatically in a short time!

  11. Beautiful landscapes, beautiful pictures!


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