|Sunrise on the balsamroot|
I've become hooked on early morning light. Blame my recent photography class, but I've discovered rising at o-dark-thirty has it's benefits. For one, colors look so much richer in the wee hours. For two, there's a whole lot less people.
|As I ascend, the Gorge views open up|
My destination on this late April morn - Tom McCall Point in the eastern Columbia River Gorge. Located east of Mosier, it rises above Rowena Crest's high plateau. The entire area is managed by the Nature Conservancy, who has preserved it's unique landforms and flora for all to enjoy.
A good hour and a half drive from my home, I didn't quite get out the door in enough time to catch sunrise. Sun's rays peeped over the cloudy horizon as I was rounding the final turn. The day's first light illuminated a lovely rainbow. I raced to park and get a photo, but it quickly faded upon my arrival. Drat!
|Looking down on the Columbia River|
Although I'd been foiled by the sunrise and rainbow, I hadn't missed the spring bloom. Even better than my visit two week's prior, balsamroot had exploded across the plateau.
|Can you see the rainbow?|
Shouldering my backpack, I headed to the trailhead, at the beginning of a flowery meadow. Tom McCall's summit rose high above. The mountaintop looked so far away. Although only a 1100 foot elevation gain in 1.7 miles, the climb appeared daunting on this cloudy spring morn.
|Paintbrush on the hillside|
The first meadow was chock-full of wildflowers. Balsamroot was so thick, it looked like a golden sea. Patches of deep purple lupine mixed in with yellow and greens into a lovely kaleidoscope of color. It took my camera and I a long time to traverse it's length.
|Columbia River view|
Beyond this meadow the climbing really began. As I trudged upward, the high plateau became smaller, and the Columbia River spread out below. Around every turn was another tremendous view, worthy of a photo stop. At this rate, I'd never reach the top!
|Oak trees line the path|
I passed through a lovely grove of gnarled oak trees. Beyond the trees was a huge patch of wildflowers, with the deepest purple lupine I'd seen yet.
Of course springtime does bring a few hazards to the eastern Gorge. Shiny new poison oak leaves lined portions of the trail, threatening to intrude upon the path itself. It's one of the reasons I always hike in long pants. That, and this area also has a reputation for ticks. Sticking to the trail lessens one's chances of an encounter with either.
|From on top of McCall Point|
Frequent photo stops delayed my arrival on top, and it took a good two hours before I was finally taking in Tom McCall Point's commanding view. Devoid of trees, one could see for miles in all directions.
|Looking towards the Eastern Gorge|
The mighty Columbia snaked through the gorge like a tiny blue ribbon. Steep wrinkly hills on the Washington side alternated between shade and sunshine. The ultra-green Rowena Plateau spread out directly below. But looking to the west, I could see a line of dark, heavy clouds heading my way. Not wanting to be up here in a rainstorm, I decided it was time to head down.
But before leaving, I fished my new macro lens out of the backpack and swapped lenses on my camera. I hoped those flowers were ready for their close-ups!
While the climb up focused mostly on scenic views, my return trip captured the more intricate details.
|Raindrop-studded lupine leaves|
I didn't lack for photo subjects. Besides the zillions of balsamroot blooms, there were also many lovely stalks of lupine. And glittering dew drops on the lupine leaves looked like tiny diamonds.
|Chocolate tiger lily|
Then I happened to glance down at just the right moment, and there it was! A small patch of rare chocolate tiger lilies. My favorite wildflower! So stunning, the petals were still wearing droplets of the morning's dew. Slightly off trail, I had to kneel in the tall grass to get my shot. But ticks and poison oak be damned - I had a flower to photograph! This was hands-down my favorite image of the day.
|Bright bug in the lupine|
In another location, I spotted this electric blue bug on top of a lupine stalk. And the little guy struck a pose just for me!
I passed several patches of brilliant orange Indian Paintbrush, which also got some proper attention from my camera.
|Curvy road from on high|
Oh, the trip down was magical! Between the flowers, the high overcast sky (perfect light for photographs!) and views such as this one, of the curvy road around Rowena Crest, I had as much fun hiking down as the initial climb up (maybe more!)
And, as I emerged into the flowery meadow where I'd begun this morning, a lovely orange butterfly landed in a flower and held still long enough for a portrait. What a great way to end this wonderful hike!
Since I'd gotten an early start, it wasn't even noon when I reached my car. There was time for one more short trek. And I knew just the place - turning westward, I headed towards Eagle Creek and it's wonderful mossy, waterfall-filled canyon. To be continued........
|Back to the flower-packed meadow|
Checking my stats, I realized this is my blog's 500th post. When I took up blogging seven years ago, I had no idea how this little hobby of mine would evolve. I certainly never imagined I'd be here blogging in the year 2015. Thanks all you readers, I'm still plugging away, sharing my humble adventures.
I'd also like to thank Mersad Donko, at Mersad Donko Photography for choosing my blog as one of the "10 Photography Blogs You Need to Follow." I'm honored to be included in this list. If you haven't already, please give Mersad's website a visit. His photography is fantastic!
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.