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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Catherine Creek

 The grass widows are blooming!

Dew-dropped grass widows

Mid-February, and wildflowers were already appearing in the eastern Gorge.  Continuing unseasonably warm weather was the culprit.  It was becoming painfully apparent that winter had decided to skip the Pacific NW.


The little flowers were everywhere!

February is my birthday month.  For several years now, I've had a tradition - taking my B-day off work and going skiing.  This year, I planned to do the same.


Flowers dot the landscape

But my friend who I'd planned to ski with, ended up sick and had to cancel.  I thought about driving up to the mountain by myself, but skiing the prior day had wiped me out.  And the snow really wasn't that good.  Hmmm......I'd read reports of grass widows blooming at Catherine Creek.  Maybe a birthday hike?


The road led through an oak forest

So B-day morning found me bypassing Mt. Hood in favor of the Columbia River Gorge.  I pointed my car east, crossing the Columbia at Hood River, and traveling the Washington side to Catherine Creek.


Catherine Creek

Although the Columbia River Gorge's western end is green and lush, once you've passed the Cascade Mountain's eastern slopes, things dramatically change.  Tall stately, Douglas Firs are swapped for scrubby oak and ponderosa pine forests.  Wide open grasslands replace thick vegetation.  It's a totally different environment.


Old corral

Here in the eastern Gorge, an abandoned ranch in a grassy canyon has been preserved as a natural conservation site.  It's a lovely wild area of wide-open spaces, unique rock formations, and prolific wildflowers.


The rock arch

Although the eastern Gorge gets blistering hot weather in summer, spring conditions are quite pleasant.  And as an added bonus, wildflowers of many varieties bloom throughout this season.  Most well known are the grass widows.  Their delicate, purple petals normally unfold in mid-March.  But not this year.


Weathered wood close-up

Even before I stepped out of my car, I spotted traces of purple mixed in the grassy pasture.  The adjacent field was chock-full of grass widows.  My photo session began in the parking lot. 


Someone made an arch of their own

After spending several minutes wandering around the first field, I tore myself away, and headed down the trail.  Following an abandoned ranch road, it led visitors along Catherine Creek, and into a canyon bottom.


More rock art

So many interesting photo subjects!  A grove of old gnarly oaks, the rushing blue waters of the creek, an old wooden corral, and a steep rimrock canyon, complete with a natural rock arch.  And, of course, more flowers.


Widows in the meadow

After wandering around the corral, and gaping at the magnificent arch, I followed the trail as it wound up along the canyon's rim, climbing out of the valley and onto a high plateau overlooking the Columbia River.


Foggy skies

I admired a couple of rock art pieces along the trail.  Someone had constructed a large, sturdy cairn, and their very own stone arch!


Dew-spangled flower

The plateau's broad open grassland normally gave visitors expansive views of the Columbia River below.  But today high clouds obscured much of the river.  Although the murky sky didn't make for great landscape photos, it did mean shadow-free light to photograph flowers.  And I did.


More lovely grass widows

The grass widows in this upper meadows were exquisite.  Dotted with dewdrops from the morning's precip, these purple beauties made great subjects.


Looking across the canyon

I stood on my high vantage point, taking in the views, enjoying some cookies, and reading Facebook birthday wishes from my phone.  Numerous greetings from friends and family made me smile.


Hiking along canyon's edge

Many informal user trails criss-crossed the meadow.  Choosing the most well-used, I meandered back towards the river.  This path eventually came out atop the canyon's rim, and began to follow it downward.  The clouds started to lift, and I caught glimpses of the valley below.


A fence to keep people off the arch

In time, my path wandered by the top of the rock arch.  To protect the arch, park officials had constructed a sturdy log fence designed to keep people away.


A man who thought the rules didn't apply to him

Sadly some folks don't think the rules apply to them.  While walking by, I witnessed a young man vault the fence, and clamber out onto the knife-edge tip of the arch.  Looking at his precarious position, I thought it would serve him right if he slipped and fell (natural selection...?)

Of course, I really didn't want to see someone get hurt, and was relieved to later glimpse the guy and his girlfriend following me down the trail.


Columbia River view

By the time I'd returned to the parking area, the day's murky skies had begun to clear.  I crossed the road, and ambled a short distance on a paved pathway to get a few Columbia River views.  Grass widows were thick here also, and made great foreground subjects to my river shots.


Obligatory trail sign photo

I returned to my car with a full memory card and smile on my face.  Fantastic weather, wonderful scenery, and lovely wildflowers.  Not a bad way to spend a birthday!


Sharing with:  Good Fences and Weekly Top Shot and Scenic Weekends

47 comments:

  1. happy birthday. Yes a great way to spend that special day. Wonderful photos so thanks for taking us along. Gorgeous dew dropped flowers and great scenery. Love the varieties of fences love the close up one.

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  2. Your images are spectacular!!! I love "Looking across the canyon".. and your selfie!
    I love the east side, it truly has a beauty all its own.
    Happy belated birthday. We share February as our birthday month!
    Great post. I hung around awhile, enjoying all your captures.

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  3. What a great way to spend your birthday! I love all the spring flowers. The tiny water drops are so pretty.

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  4. Happy belated birthday, Linda! I would say it is a great way to spend your birthday. I love the views, flowers and all the rock art.. The rock arch is cool. Great fence captures and selfie.. Have a happy Friday and weekend ahead.

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  5. That's the most beautiful way to spend a birthday! :)
    I would have loved to join you on that hike, seeing
    all those pretty wildflowers and the gorgeous land-
    scape :) I envy you for that! :))
    Have a wonderful weekend with all your
    wonderful memories
    【ツ】Knipsa

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  6. How exciting to find the grass widows blooming! Like a breath of fresh air!

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  7. Happy Birthday! Another interesting hike, and beautiful flowers! I've never heard of those before, let alone blooming in February. Sorry you don't have more snow; here I'm still out chasing frozen waterfalls.

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  8. Very interesting landscapes. Love the flowers that are emerging from the ground. Looks like a really great hike.

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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  9. Linda, love the purple, the fences, and especially the rock formations. The rushing water as well. What a nice walk to take with you!

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  10. i think your birthday hike was a great one! lots of beauty in blooms, terrain, great fences! thanks for linking in and happy belated to you!

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  11. Happy birthday, Linda! You got some fabulous shots on your birthday hike. And yes, we've certainly skipped winter around here this year. Our Mt. Baker River snowpack is only 22% of normal. :-(

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  12. Wonderful scenery indeed Linda! Flowers already, terrific! I hope you had a great birthday. I always took my birthday off when I was working.

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  13. Not a bad way to spend a birthday at all! How nice to see flowers on a trail we hiked last June,

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  14. My photography teacher just mentioned that flowers were blooming here, so I'm happy to see this series of shots! Happy belated birthday too!

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  15. What a wonderful way to spend the day...Happy Birthday!

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  16. Wow... Purple is my favourite colour and these flowers in purple looks so pretty..

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  17. Love your thinking on natural selection. Belated Happy Birthday.

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  18. What a wonderful way to enjoy your birthday (happy belated one!). The photos are fantastic. And it's nice to see some flowers.

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  19. Nature was truly generous with her gift to you. A perfect way to celebrate. Happy birthday.

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  20. Happy Birthday! Those wildflowers are beautiful!! What a special treat to see them in their natural habitat! :)

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  21. Linda, a belated Happy Birthday! Those "widows" look like little crocuses. I really can't abide when people ruin natural wonders for others - I'm sure that guy has no conscience, however. The raindrops on the purple flowers looks fabulous. Sorry you didn't have snow for your birthday ski! Don't worry, I skied one for you.

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    Replies
    1. PS I tried to follow your Facebook link but it doesn't work.

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    2. Hi Barb - Thanks for letting me know about the Facebook link malfunction. Looks like I've got a broken link with both my Facebook and Instagram buttons. I'll try and get it fixed this week!

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  22. Linda, happy birthday to you, and sorry I am late in my response. Your photos are captivating!!! :)

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  23. you captured some great fences and beautiful flowers and views.

    happy belated birthday.

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  24. Happy birthday Linda! The hike looked refreshing - love the arch!.

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  25. Such a cool place and FANTASTIC photos, Linda. A great way to spend a birthday. Hope your next trip around the sun is full of more and more beauty like this!

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  26. What a great series of shots. Love the purple and the rock arch a lot!

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  27. I know you are sad about not having a true winter but spring does look glorious to my eyes. I cannot believe you have wildflowers blooming already!

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  28. What a great hike and nice photos from it - that arch is impressive.

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  29. What a treat for yourself, hiking in the gorge! I've never heard of Widows before, but they are so delicate and I love their color! Thank you, Linda, for coming by sharing your creative photography on the Weekly Top Shot, #168!

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  30. Happy (belated) Birthday to you! What a gorgeous area! Loved all the flowers, the creek, the views of the river, etc. -- my kind of place:)
    Blessings, Aimee

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  31. Happy birthday - a bit late, but sent with warm good wishes!
    Loved the natural selection ;)

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  32. Nice series - the flowers are pretty and new to me.

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  33. Nice photographs. Spring seems to be coming earlier in many parts of the world. We have a shorter winter season here most years and spring is sometimes three weeks earlier than 30 years ago.

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  34. Happy Birthday!!! I think that was a great way to spend birthday. The grass widows a absolutely gorgeous. I love its color especially combined with greens...what a harmony. Thank you for sharing those wonderful views and many interesting subjects.

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  35. I loved your series of photos. I would enjoy spending time there.

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  36. Happy birthday-what a wonderful way to spend it and then share it♪ http://lauriekazmierczak.com/palmed-orb/

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  37. My favourite way to spend a birthday is to get outdoors and walk - usually somewhere I haven't been for awhile or even somewhere new. So love the views, the rocks and the flowers on your walk. especially love the misty view of the old corral and the stone arch.

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  38. Hi! Happy birthday to you! Sorry too late. Your grass widows flower photos are breathtakingly beautiful. I hope you will have a nice skiing day in next time. Thanks for sharing.

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  39. Best way to spend a birthday!

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  40. Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I am a little late getting back to you. Sorry. This was an amazing post! What a fantastic way to spend a birthday! The photos are just incredible...it's a beautiful place, and you captured it perfectly! I can't think of a better way to spend a birthday!

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  41. I would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a b'day - what a great looking place.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  42. I love this hike...there were several of the grass widows blooming at Rowena Crest, also.

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  43. What a great way to celebrate your birthday. This is a lovely area. I've never heard of Grass Widows before, they remind me of crocus. Such a lovely area. I enjoyed taking your journey with you through your wonderful photos.

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  44. I hope you had a very happy birthday--what a wonderful way to celebrate it, with such a beautiful excursion! The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, and I love those purple flowers! The rock arch is very neat and so is the old corral!

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  45. Love the flower pictures, some day I am going to make plans to hike that trail.

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