Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dog Mountain Tradition

"The flowers are calling and I must go."

Happy balsamroot

If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know come spring, there's one trail I never miss - the steep, but rewarding trek up Dog Mountain.  In late May, this humble peak's summit erupts in a  frenzy of yellow balsamroot flowers.

Gorgeous Columbia River view

However this year, everything's been blooming a month early.  The first weekend in May, I caught wind that flowers were in full blossom mode up on Dog Mtn.  Time for my yearly visit!  Since this trail is so popular during peak flower season, I made sure to arrive at the trailhead extra early.  Total success!  I was the 6th car in the parking lot that morning.

Calypso orchid

Beginning the steep climb, I had the trail all to myself.  Bumbling along, enjoying the solitude, I came upon a man with a camera, crouching over a patch of wildflowers.  A kindred spirit!  I struck up a conversation, and found out the guy was none other than Greg Lief - head of the Oregon Wildflowers website and Facebook page.

Breaking out into the main meadow

Along with being a wildflower expert, Greg's a fantastic photographer.  I tagged along after him, asking questions, and stopping to photograph some of the same flowers.  Since I've contributed photos to the Oregon Wildflowers Facebook page, Greg knew of my existence, and was happy to put a face with the name.

Classic Wind Mtn view

Greg and I leapfrogged along until arriving at the first viewpoint, about 1.5 miles and 1500' up from the trailhead.  Cheery, yellow balsamroot blooms covered the hillside.  Below was a killer view of Wind Mountain and the Columbia River.  The river was so calm that morning, the adjacent Gorge cliffs reflected perfectly it it's blue waters.

Lots of these guys!

But hard climbing awaited.  It was a steep, grueling 1500 additional feet to reach the summit.  I slogged along after Greg, but lost him after he dropped back to photograph some dainty, pink Calypso Orchids.

A hiker pauses to take it in

From the lower viewpoint to the summit meadows, the trail winds through dense woods.  The path is so steep in some places, travel is reduced to a crawl.  But, placing one foot in front of the other, I kept a constant (but slow) pace, and soon saw the forest opening up ahead of me.

Looking east towards Hood River

The entrance to the upper meadows is quite dramatic.  The forest suddenly parts, and - bam! - an enormous field of yellow flowers opens up before you.  Balsamroot blossoms stretch up the steep mountainside as far as the eye can see.

Indian Paintbrush

This was what I'd come for!  The camera was hastily unpacked, and I spent the better part of an hour inching up the trail, capturing as many gorgeous flowers as possible.

Bright purple Phlox

Although balsamroot was the predominant bloomer, there was also Indian Paintbrush, Phlox, and Larkspur mixed in.  I also saw small patches of dainty white flowers, which I couldn't identify.

On to the summit!

Before the final trek to Dog Mountain's very summit lies another Gorge overlook, nicknamed "Puppy Point."  I made a quick stop at this viewpoint and admired the amazing panorama.  The mighty Columbia unfurled below, green tree-lined forest ridges spread out on either side. 

Two bugs in an **ahem** moment

Then I slowly meandered up the rocky, dusty trail.  Lined by ever-present yellow balsamroot, distractions were many.  I saw a bug posing for me inside one flower, and had to stop for a capture.  It wasn't until I'd clicked the shutter a dozen times that I realized there were actually two bugs, and I'd likely interrupted an intimate moment. (Oopsie!)

The crowds have arrived!

Yes indeed, flower season on Dog Mountain brings out the hikers, and a sunny, Sunday morning just adds to their numbers.  By this time, the hordes had caught up to me, and I watched an endless conga-line of people trudge by on their final summit push.


But the wildflowers were so spectacular, I continued my photographic dawdling.  So much to capture!

Amazing summit panorama

It was late morning before I finally arrived Dog Mountain's summit.  By then, a crowd of at least forty people were gathered on top, spread amongst it's grassy meadows.  I found a spot to sit, broke out a snack, and enjoyed the stupendous views.

Nature's flower garden

The frustrating part about sharing this popular trail with so many is beauty like this brings out all types of people, even sadly, those I refer to as "the clueless hikers."  These are the folks who cut switchbacks, leave their toilet paper in the woods, and, my personal pet peeve, pick the wildflowers.  I saw a few people sporting balsamroot blossoms in their hair, and one dog who was decked out with a bouquet lining it's collar.  People - no matter how tempting they look, please DO NOT PICK WILDFLOWERS!  Leave them for all to enjoy!

(Okay - my rant is over)

My favorite - chocolate tiger lily

After a wonderful rest on top, I packed up and began my downhill trek.  By now, so many people were climbing up the trail, I felt like a salmon swimming upstream, trying to shimmy by.

Heading back down

Luckily, three main trails access Dog Mountain's summit, and for my return trip I always pick the lesser-used Augspurger Mountain Trail.  Although a bit longer in distance, this trail offers a gentler slope (better for the knees) and a nice change of scenery.

Western Groundsel

Contouring across Dog Mountain's steep sidehill, the crowds diminished, and I took some final shots of these truly wonderful flower fields.

Halfway trail sign

Then, the trail plunged back into dense woods.  As the day was now heating up, the tree's cool shade was a welcome relief.  I charged downhill, happy to see that my feet were holding up nicely.  I even passed a couple of folks! (And pre-surgery that never happened)

Cool, shady forest

I arrived back at my car to an overflowing parking lot, with crowds of people still heading up.  But my yearly trek now in the books, it was time to find a cool brewpub, and review the morning's photographic work.

Goodbye Dog Mountain.  See you again next year!

Sharing with:  Wednesday Around the World and Scenic Weekends


  1. Wow, Linda, so much beauty! Thank you so much for sharing your lovely photos!

  2. I enjoyed this walk and the views.
    I wish I could still manage to climb hills and mountains. Thank you for taking me along.

  3. It actually hurts when I see wildflowers being picked, especially when they're discarded along the trail. My pet peeve, too.
    You captured so many beautiful images of wildflowers, the gorge and the river below. Truly enjoyable post.
    Hope your foot is healing... mind the doctors!

  4. Wonderful! The hills covered in flowers look amazing.

  5. With so much beauty I wouldn't even know where to turn my camera. :) Really mesmerizing landscapes that you have caught masterfully.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  6. Spectactular landscape shots and the hils of yellow are amazing as are the macro shots of the other flowers.

  7. I think awesome is the word. Just a carpet of beautiful wild flowers.

  8. Hello Linda, what a beautiful hike to see the views and the gorgeous wildflowers. The views of the river and gorge are just stunning. And the wildflowers images are beautiful. I love the chocolate tiger lily. I loved this post and your descriptions are awesome, wish I could have been there too. Happy 4th of July, have a great weekend!

  9. What a gorgeous view and love the Wild Flowers!

  10. Yes indeed, the early bird gets the worm...errr, I mean parking space! What a glorious springtime hike! That's going on my list!

  11. I love all these photos! We've driven past the sign for this trail on Hwy 14 and seen the area packed with parked cars. I need to make sure we do this hike next spring!

  12. The phlox is my favorite shot, but all of them are great. I was talking with my husband about picking flowers/gathering edibles/etc. on trails. I regularly pick berries alongside trails, I know people who gather morels, I wonder where the boundary truly lies in my head. Is it with who owns the land (public vs. private) or is it the type of things gathered? I still haven't figured out where I stand on that. For the record, I haven't picked the flowers off public trails.

  13. What a spectacular place! The view is breathtaking. And what a fun encounter.

  14. Very nice- both the landscape and the flowers- can see why you never miss it.

    Your blog no longer shows up on the list of blogs I follow. Did you change some settings?

  15. 'Stupendous' views, wildflowers, photography and stamina.What a rewarding day for you, especially meeting up with Greg Lief.

  16. Like you, I always attempt to leave early if a hike is listed in one of our local guidebooks. I went on such a hike this week with a friend. We hiked up all alone - going down had to pass the hordes coming up. I've never seen the Chocolate Lily in person. The Calypso is one of my favorites. I feel a need to search for it every spring. Beautiful photos, Linda. Happy 4th!

  17. Lovely carpet of flowers and a nice looking hike. Think your bugs might be Soldier Beetles as we get a similar type here, also attracted to large yellow flowers but on a different flower. It's surprising how all the separate continents have a bird, insect, or animal that fills a role and has adapted along similar lines. i.e. once you recognize one magpie or kingfisher you can spot them in another country and still know what they are and roughly what they eat even if they have different colours.

  18. Thanks again for sharing your awesome beauty. Totally gorgeous scenery and your images capture it so wonderfully.

  19. Incredible wildflower displays! Hard to believe those slopes covered in yellow! And pretty good views too.

  20. Beautiful photos !!!
    I love the wildflowers - especially the sunflowers :))

  21. What a greats post - I can see why the flowers would call. Agree with all aspects of the rant!

    Trying to catch up on visits and comment while I wait for a flight - one busy week to go and it's back to normal!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Heathrow Airport UK (for the next couple of hours!)

  22. Fantastic photos, wunderful place. Thank you very much for sharing.
    Have a nice day.

  23. What amazing rewards for your trek! I see why you take this trail. The flowers are so pretty and I'm sure the scenery is much more than is captured with a lens.

  24. This is an amazing series of photographs, and it looks like a great trail to hike in spring. I'll put it on my list for next year!

  25. I loved going on this incredible trek with you! what an amazing place! you really captured it SO well!

  26. such a beautiful scenery. But I think that steep hillside would make me dizzy. :)


  27. Imagens belíssimas!!!

    Boa semana!

  28. Wow, what a post. Hard to take in all this beauty so quickly. Your photography is as spectacular as the scenery. That you so much for sharing this wonderful trek with us. P.S. And I thoroughly agree with you about the thoughtless people that ruin places like this!

  29. This is a paradise for those of us who love wildflowers!

  30. What a fantastic, flowery hike - lovely!


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