Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tom McCall Point

Another "up before dawn" photo expedition in the Gorge.  (Yes, I'm officially crazy.)

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.

Balsamroot everywhere!

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.

Flower garden!

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.

Balsamroot buddies

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!

Lupine macro

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!

Indian paintbrush

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!)

Friendly butterfly

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.


  1. I am glad Mersad included your Blog. I enjoyed my visit and will be back. The flowers put on a great show but the little bug is my favourite.

  2. I am very happy that Mersad added your blog as one of the top 10 photography blogs, Linda! He is a very nice guy and a great photographer himself. This is such a gorgeous series! Thank you so much for sharing your lovely walks, Linda!

  3. Another fantastic hike, and post! Loved your scenic captures and your macros are gorgeous, and a special mention for your images of that grove of gnarly oaks.
    Happy 500th... I'm glad you stuck around!

  4. HI Linda Well it certainly is worth getting up really early if these sre the standard aadn lighting condition you get. Loved all the images. The raindrops on the Lupins looks like diamonds.

  5. Hi Linda, congrats on your 500th post. You are a wonderful photographer and I enjoy visiting your blog. I feel like I am there hiking with you seeing the beautiful scenic views of the river and all the gorgeous wildflowers. The Chocolate Tiger Lily is lovely and new to me. Awesome photos and post, enjoy your day!

  6. My favourite time is early morning too for taking photos and for the same reasons as you. You shared lovely landscape shots and magnficant macro shots. I'm glad I came across your blog a little while back. I have enjoyed checking out where you have been and seeing it through your eyes. Maybe one day I will make it down your way. Koodoos to you on your 500th post!

  7. Breathtaking scenery! What a wonderful way to start the day. And yes, I saw the rainbow in your image!

  8. Those are two very good reasons to get on the trail early! Lately, for us, it's the heat (but we only get up before dawn,not out!).

    Do you have to worry about rattlesnakes this early in the season? When we hiked the WA side last summer we had to worry about both poison oak (TONS) and rattlers (saw one...in fact Hans stepped over it without seeing it, just about gave me a heart attack)?

    Gorge-ous shots! Congrats on the top 10 listing!

    1. Lisa, rattlesnakes do live in the eastern Gorge, but they are seldom seen. I guess Hans got lucky :)

  9. Stunning landscape with all those flowers, and great macro shots.

  10. I simply love all your pictures and am glad I discovered you, however it happened. I also love the macro shots, especially the lupine and the tiger lily. Wow! :-)

  11. Oh how exquisite, thank you for taking us with you! I do hope you will share the love up-close with I Heart Macro, your wildflower photos are wonderful!

  12. ჱه° ·. Lindas paisagens!!! Destaque especial para as flores!!!
    Ótimo restinho de semana
    cheio de saúde e harmonia!

    ╱/ Beijinhos.

  13. Gorge-ous! I'd be up before dawn more often, but here in the Midwest it seems like every time I try it's too cloudy. I often wonder why those folks out in Arizona, Utah and other points west aren't up earlier to avoid the glare. I think because they are hikers and travelers foremost and the photography is just to document the trip. I fall into that category as well, I get sucked in to the "gotta see it" more than the "gotta shoot it" category mostly. Lack of time in one spot plays a part, I've noticed the folks out there shooting the great shots are mostly in their "home" range and have time to wait for the right light, time and spot. You are one of those, by the way and I love it!

  14. I say the same thing here...WOW! Thanks for getting up early for me...these photos are stunning!

  15. The Columbia River gorge looks the same size as our biggest lochs like Loch Ness. Beautiful scenery.Glad you are enjoying marco photography. The butterfly looks like a Painted Lady, didn't know they were in the USA as well as we get them here in good summers coming over from Europe in the warmest months.

  16. Spectacular! I need to learn how to get up early. :)

    Thank you for identifying balsam root for me: what a pretty flower, and how good it looks in your pics. And the electric blue bug in the lupine is divine.

  17. That's another great hike and lovely photos. I also love early morning light but rarely get up that early on a weekend since I'm up early every weekday.

  18. linda these early morning lighting shots are all just amazing. It is incredible how you can take the very best shots even before the sun rises and all of the amazing depth of colors you get in these predawn times. Definitely makes it worth rising very early. I have hiked with a headlamp on more than once to get that special morning light and arrive early at the places I want to photograph. Your flowers here are just stunning. Wondering what sort of macro lens you got. Your shots are great!

  19. Congrats on your 500th post LInda and also on Mersad's inclusion of your blog on his list!! My favs this time are several of your macros. Very, very nice! Love the yellow.
    Blessings, Aimee

  20. Gorgeous shots of those lovely yellow, sunny flower faces!

  21. Very nice - I got a wild lupine yesterday too.

  22. The light sure is gorgeous in these photos! I admire you for being able to get up so early! ;))

  23. Thanks so much for sharing the love up-close with I Heart Macro ♥

  24. Mersad has an awesome blog and so do you. Wonderful views here that just amaze me. I'm never one to be up that early but am so glad you are. Just fantastic photos to drool over here. I'm showing my mom the one of the loops.

  25. You have a very very beautiful landscape, you're so blessed for living so near! And the wildflowers are so plenty and big, my first time to be introduced to balsam root, i thought first they are sunflowers. And of course first time i saw lupines in a cold country i was mesmerized. Thank you so much for all of your photos, i am adding you to my list so i wont miss anything. BTW, waterfalls are my favorite, am waiting.

  26. what amazing scenery! what are the flowers in the first photo?

  27. Man I want to go on a walk there! So beautiful!

  28. Happy 500th! What a great looking place - in many parts of the world (including here!) flowers that looked like that would be garden escapees!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  29. Hi! Yes I could see the rainbow. I like your rain-drop leaf photo very much. Nice good scenery and beautiful flowers! I like the curvy road photo too. Thanks for sharing.

  30. So beautiful! I think I would be in seventh heaven if I lived there :-)

  31. Yes I spotted the rainbow! What a beautiful early morning adventure! I enjoyed all your photos...especially the Lupines! All of my lupines winterkilled so I have to sow some seed again...about every five years they get wiped out. Lovely hike I hope you are getting up early again soon:)

  32. It is truly amazing the variety of wildflowers that grow there. Almost like someone flung seed across the hills and they all grew.

    Truly beautiful images Linda. And you're right the tiger lily is awesome.

  33. Absolutely wonderful! Congratulations on your 500th post. You definitely make my day when I discover a new post to ooh and aah over.

  34. Beautiful scenery and I love all the flowers. I'm too lazy to get up that early. :-)


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