Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Butterfly Sunday

It was Father's Day, and my hubby wanted to go off fishing somewhere.  Fine with me!  That meant I was free to take a hike.

One of many friendly butterflies

I'd heard reports that wildflowers were in full bloom up on Silver Star Mountain.  One of my favorite places to catch midsummer flowers, I was due for a visit.

First big views

Silver Star Mountain is located in SW Washington, just east and a bit north of Vancouver.  However, one must navigate some very rough Forest Service roads to access many of the trailheads (most notably the wildly popular Ed's Trail).  Not wanting to put my car through such abuse, I chose to begin my hike at the Grouse Vista Trailhead, located on the mountain's south side. 

Keep on climbin'

It had been over 10 years since I'd been to Grouse Vista and I nearly forgot how to get there.  Getting turned around on an unmarked road, I lost almost an hour trying to find the trailhead.  But after figuring out my mistake, it was smooth sailing on good gravel roads.  There were still parking spots when I arrived at 9 am (but that would soon change!)

Lovely trailside paintbrush

My plan for today was to begin on an abandoned road that led up to Silver Star's summit.  After tagging the top, I'd return via the Tarbell Trail, making my trek a nearly 9 mile loop.

This butterfly matched the flower

The day was already warm as I started out on the old, rocky road.  This trail began climbing relentlessly from the very start, and I was thankful for the shady thick forest.  But after a mile, the woods gave way to open meadows and fantastic views.

Beargrass alley

I contoured along the side of a ridge, cleared by a long-ago forest fire.  Up here, I could see for miles and checked out the nearby green hills, some bearing scars from logging operations.  My view extended far west and north, and I could just make out Silver Star's summit, the day's destination.

Mt Hood near Silver Star summit

The old road continued to climb steeply, gaining 1600 feet in 3 miles.  In the clearing areas, wildflowers began to color adjacent hillsides.  I saw penstemon, loads of bright orange paintbrush, and some cheery yellow flowers (which I didn't know the name).

Busy summit

A few butterflies flitted through the blooms, and I tried in vain to capture one with my camera.  But just about the time I'd get focused in, the butterfly would get wind of my purpose and fly off.  One yellow butterfly did sit still on a yellow flower and waited long enough for me to get a couple shots.

Beargrass bonanza

I had the trail almost all to myself until the junction with Ed's Trail, just below Silver Star's summit.  A gorgeous trek through colorful meadows, this trail is heavily traveled, despite the horrible road one must travel to reach it's trailhead.  (For photos of Ed's Trail click here

St Helens and Rainier line the horizon

There was a continuous stream of people trekking from Ed's Trail up to Silver Star's summit.  I'd never seen so many people here!  I tucked in with the mob making their way uphill.  Although a steep climb, it was short, and in no time at all, I was on the summit gazing at Silver Star's incredible views.

Lovely beargrass tuft

Not only could one see four major Cascade peaks lining the horizon (St Helens, Rainier, Adams and Hood) but the beargrass was blooming thick and furious in the valley below the summit.  I delayed my lunch to take lots of photos of the amazing sights.

Mt Adams view

Then I sat on the rocky summit and wolfed down my food.  I was far from alone - I must've shared this small area with thirty people.  One lady kept trying to do headstands while her companions took photographs.  Another group was talking super loudly - which was most annoying.  As I ate, more and more groups of people made their way onto the already crowded summit.  After downing half my lunch, I'd had enough, and decided it was time to leave.

Rainbow cloud

Approaching the junction directly below the summit, I noticed a bunch of people staring and pointing cameras at the sky.  Looking up, I noticed a thin wispy cloud sporting rainbow colors.  A most unusual sight!

More butterflies!

After a quick bit of searching, I located my return route.  It required a short trek down an overgrown, abandoned road to reach the Tarbell Trail.  The good news was that almost nobody was hiking this way, so I was able to escape the crowds.

Wild iris

The other good news was that along this old road, the wildflowers were thick!  I spotted wild iris, asters, more paintbrush, and lovely orange columbine.


And, best of all, the butterflies were back!

The butterflies loved all the columbine

They seemed to love the columbine.  I saw numerous swallowtail butterflies attaching themselves to these flowers.  There must've been something good to eat on those blooms, because those butterflies latched on, and didn't care if I got close with my camera.

Gorgeous columbine flowers

Butterflies posing for my camera!  It was a dream come true.

Getting something good!

The lower in elevation I traveled, the more butterflies I saw.  There were dozens of them, in all colors  and sizes, fluttering through the forest. 

This one posed nicely

Oh it was so much fun to photograph these lovely butterflies!  All of them were so intent on getting nutrition from the flowers, they didn't care in the least if I photographed them.  I've never had butterflies hold still for so long.

My favorite shot

After umpteen-million images, and a nearly full memory card, I knew it was time to call it a day.  So I headed down the wildflower-lined Tarbell Trail, with butterflies sailing all around me.  It was magical!

Tiger lily

Nearing the parking lot, I had one final shot of beauty passing through an area thick with orange paintbrush.  The blooms were the largest ones I've seen this year.  They lined the trail like a bright carpet.  A great way to end such a wonderful day!

Lovely paintbrush patch near trail's end

I returned to a trailhead overflowing with vehicles.  Cars were parked down the narrow gravel road for a mile each direction.  I guess sunny summer days bring out the crowds!

Although the flowers and views were great as always, it was the beautiful butterflies that made this such a special hike.


  1. What beautiful photos, and taken not far from where I love in Vancouver!

  2. Hi! There are many beautiful butterflies along with the trekking road. St Helens and Mt.Hood are always very beautiful. I like your wild iris photo very much. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I usually avoid popular spots like that on weekends in order to enjoy more solitary hikes. It would really have spoiled it for me to have thirty people having lunch with me. But it sure was worth it, for the views and the wonderful butterfly and moth pictures! Don't we live in a beautiful place? :-)

  4. Magnificas e belas montanhas e uma mostra fotográfica da bela flora e insectos, gostei muito destas magnificas borboletas.
    Um abraço e continuação de uma boa semana.

  5. Gorgeous! You were indeed fortunate for the butterflies to hold still for you! I love the black and white beauties on the red columbine!

  6. Linda, you always share such amazing images...thank you so much.

  7. You captured those butterflies beautifully. Glad you found some peace on the trail to enjoy all those wonderful wildflowers. That rainbow sky is very unusual, I've never seen that before.

  8. This looks like a great place to hike. I'll heave to look into visiting here, although I'm a real wimp for rough roads, and there are lots in Gifford Pinchot.

  9. Beautiful scenery, but the butterfly photos are the best!

  10. Oh my, how beautiful. It pays to get an early start! This is too far from us for a day hike, but I bet the hiking/camping is beautiful in autumn too. Been backpacking in the Olympics and on Mt Adams, but that's it for Washington.

  11. Absolutely gorgeous, Linda! Here in Montreal it is very hot and humid, not ideal conditions for my beloved long walks in nature so I have to pick days that are not dangerous for me. (as in drier conditions and slightly cooler, too). Your photos are a breath of fresh air, thank you!

  12. Seeing all those butterflies would indeed be a treat. You got some amazing shots of them and of the wildflowers and I'm glad you were able to ditch the crowds.

  13. What a beautiful area. I love that rainbow cloud!

  14. I love the places you take us.
    Wonderful post!

  15. Well done getting such nice detail on the butterflies as I know how hard and frustrating it can be to capture flying insects as soon as you get close. Looks a nice hike as well.

  16. Okay, I guess I can excuse you for going off on Father's day as you have shown us some amazing flowers and views.

  17. Such a beautiful hike - you get such great views where you live.

  18. What a totally magical day. It's always wonderful to spot butterflies but to have them sit still among the flowers would be incredible.

  19. Spectacular scenery and beautiful flowers! I love the Bear Grass.

  20. Cool photos, it is a rare day when the butterflies pose for you

  21. Nice butterflies- you found more in one day than I have all this summer

  22. Hello, gorgeous wildflowers, scenic views and lovely series of photos. Another great hike.
    The butterflies are just beautiful, awesome captures. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  23. A great series, and beautiful butterflies!

  24. You could have called this the Butterfly hike! How wonderful to see so many of the beautiful creatures! :)

  25. Great beargrass! I feel the same way about crowded trails, although I understand why so many people flock there.

  26. Wonderful colours - I love those snow capped mountains.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  27. What an amazing hike you had! The mountain views, the wildflowers, and those abundant butterflies. Too bad about the crowds, especially those who can't sit still (and quiet) and just enjoy the silence and majesty of such a panorama. How nice that you had a back road to travel, and get the wilderness to yourself. And those butterflies... fabulous photographs, Linda!

  28. WOW another great hike with you. Love that beargrass. seeing all the butterflies would have indeed been magical.

  29. Charming butterflies! I admire your stamina. Right now I have a sore foot and can only manage to walk for ten minutes or so.

  30. Wonderful shots, especially the butterflies.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  31. Such gorgeous views and wildflowers! The iridescent cloud was a wonderful bonus. I hope I see beargrass in Montana when I visit it this month.


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