|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.
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.
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.