Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Memaloose Hills

Sorry for last week's absence from blogland.  I just returned from a wonderful trip to Hawaii (which you'll hear all about very soon).  But for now, it's time to play catchup.

After a successful morning photo session at the Dalles Mountain Ranch, I headed over to an area I'd heard glowing wildflower reports from but had never visited - the Memaloose Hills.

The balsamroot show continues!

Located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, just east of the tiny village of Mosier, these hills above I-84 and the Historic Columbia River Gorge Hwy (aka US Route 30) were rumored to produce a fantastic display of spring wildflowers.

Gnarled oak trees

Intending to start at the rest area along I-84, I took a quick detour up to Rowena Crest below Tom McCall Point.  The yellow balsamroot flowers were blooming in force, but not much else.  So I continued down the Historic Highway towards Mosier.  A large amount of cars were crowded in the scenic overlook pullout.  Taking advantage of a rare open parking spot, I decided to explore.

Yellow sunshine along the trail

Which way to go?  Above the highway or below?  Noticing a user trail amongst the oak forest on the highway's uphill side, I made a snap decision to go high.  As you'll soon see, it was definitely the right choice.

Lovely larkspur

 Right away I spotted Indian paintbrush, Prairie Stars, Larkspur and of course lots of balsamroot. 

Unknown two-tone flower

I ran into a couple of men from Australia, visiting the Pacific NW on a photography vacation.  Amazing that folks from other countries knew about this area that I'd never visited!

Approaching Marsh Hill summit

Climbing higher, through gnarled, mossy oak trees, I struck up a conversation with a local man heading back downhill.  He pointed out a cluster of chocolate tiger lilies that I'd missed.  A rare spring flower, there must've been over a hundred blooms in the vicinity.  (In a good season, I'm lucky to spot a half dozen)

Marsh Hill's slopes were covered with balsamroot

The man told me there were two main trails in this area.  One would lead me to the top of Marsh Hill, while another climbed the slopes of adjacent Chatfield Hill.  Winding between private land, this trail system provided access to some lovely views and flower fields.

Sweeping summit views

Thanking the man for sharing his trail tips, I continued steeply uphill.  The concentration of wildflowers kept getting thicker.  Progress was slow - so many photo ops!

Glimpse of the Columbia River

Crossing a small stream, I came upon the trail junction the man had described.  Having no destination in mind, I made a snap decision to go left towards Marsh Hill.

Prairie Star hanging out with the balsamroot

Winding up the slopes of Marsh Hill, the forest thinned, the balsamroot began to grow thicker, and the vistas opened up.  This was by far the most balsamroot I'd seen so far.  It covered the slopes in a huge patch of yellow.

Big Head Clover

On Marsh Hill's humble summit, other flowers joined the wildflower show.  Tiny white Prairie Stars mingled with the balsamroot's large yellow faces.  And numerous patches of pink Big Head Clover added a nice color contrast to the scene.

Hikers delighting in the flower fields

The views on top were grand indeed.  I could see the adjacent farmland spread out in three directions.  Towards the north, I caught teaser glimpses of the Columbia River flowing beneath the Gorge's steep banks.

Chocolate Tiger Lilies

It was terribly windy on top, making flower photography difficult.  I tried hard to be patient and wait for a break in the gusts.  I managed a few good shots, but ultimately decided the sheltered woods below Marsh Hill provided better photo ops.

Balsamroot group

Back down the slope I traveled.  By now, it was past noon.  Although I'd initially considered also exploring Chatfield Hill's summit, a rumbling tummy was persuading me to head to Hood River for a burger.

More lovely unknown flowers

So back through the now-familiar flower fields I traveled.  Even though this was my second time through, I still found floral subjects I'd missed (or at least thought I had!). 

Balsamroot swaying in the wind

By midday I met a steady stream of people trekking up the trail.  Thanks to social media, Oregon and Portland Hikers websites had been inundated with posts from this area.  Beautiful places aren't a secret anymore!

Tons of chocolate tiger lilies here

Still, how could anyone keep such a lovely place as this a secret?

Wonderful spring sunny joy

Truly one of the best wildflower blooms I'd seen this year!  Why had it taken me so long to hike here?

Indian Paintbrush

Near the parking area, I ran into a huge patch of gorgeous orange Indian Paintbrush.  Mixed in with white Prairie Stars and yellow buttercups it made for a colorful forest floor.

Colorful forest floor

I ended my day with a memory card full of vibrant floral images and a happy heart.  Being outdoors in a beautiful place always works wonders for my mood.

Wildflower bonanza!

Yes, this place will definitely go on the "must visit" spring wildflower list for next year!


  1. Que maravilha de fotografias e os campos começam a ficar cheios de belas flores silvestres.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa

  2. Hello, the flowers are all beautiful! I can see why the area is so popular with hikers and photographers! Lovely series of photos! Enjoy your day!

  3. So wonderful! I love the flowers and your incredible eye. Love the larkspur especially. :-)

  4. Hi! Long time no see. Your posts have changed from winter to spring colors. I enjoyed your beautiful flower photos very much, especially the Prairie Star hanging out with the balsamroot.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. You been to some great places with beautiful spring flowers

  6. ...the only word that come to mind is gorgeous!

  7. So many lovely, lovely blooms. What a great hike you had.

  8. It reached 30 celsius here today in Montreal, and was pretty hot and humid, Linda, so I am so happy to see your photos! Gorgeous, refreshing and delightful! Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. A wild flower extravaganza and that large gorge from any direction looks stunning.

  10. So beautiful - all we're seeing today is white, again!

  11. I wonder what Memaloose stands for. There's one over here as well.

    1. Memaloose is Chinook jargon for "death" or "corpse." The nearby island in the Columbia River is where Indians brought their dead for burial (placing them on wooden structures to protect the bodies from vultures). I meant to include this fact in the post, but forgot (that's what I get for trying to write a blog post late at night the day I get home from vacation!)

  12. What a wonderful place to hike! Spectacular scenery and amazing wildflowers! Hope I can get there some day!

  13. Giant Blue Eyed Mary!! I bet that name will stick with you for your unknown bi color wildflower! What a great hike, I enjoyed all your photos. Hawaii!! I bet you have tons of photos!! :)

  14. Great series! I followed your advice and visit this trail, about a week later than you. Balsam root was starting to fade during my visit. Looking forward to the Hawaii post!

  15. SUCH an amazing array or wildflowers and love that shot of your big head clover especially... but they are all great. Can't wait to see some of your shots in Hawaii! That is such a special place and bet you had a wonderful time! Will be looking for that...

  16. Hawaii! How fun. Your flowers are a little ahead of ours. Ours are late. Mostly glacier lilies out now.

  17. Such beautiful and abundant wildflowers! I can't wait to hear about your trip to Hawaii!

    We had snow a few days ago so full wildflower bloom not here as yet at our higher altitude. We were able to visit RMNP a week ago and now three feet of fresh snow closed many roads in the park again.

  18. Happiness is a camera and a field of flowers

  19. That is some show of flowers - some of the best places to see such abundance in Australia are in the western Australia deserts - after some rain (!), so its a bit hit and miss.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  20. Can't wait to hear about Hawaii quite a change from your snowy mountains!

  21. What pretty wildflowers! I hope your trip was wonderful.

  22. Wildflower heaven. I'd probably still be there. fabulous pics.


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