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.
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.
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.
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