Saturday I'd enjoyed a wonderful 10-mile trek through wildflower fields dotting Mt Hood's SE flank (if you missed the recap read about it right here). Hungry for more bloom-peeping, I'd ambitiously asked Catherine to join me for another hike the very next day.
|Catherine admires the colorful flowers|
It didn't take long for my enthusiasm to win over my body's achy protests. After all, I was visiting Silver Star Mountain - the premier wildflower hotspot in SW Washington. And I'd heard nothing but glowing reports about this year's massive bloom.
|Slope full 'o daises|
Luckily, my initial hike with Catherine to Mt St Helens hadn't scared her off, and she was willing to join me on another ramble.
|Hiking around Pyramid Rock|
Although as the crow flies Silver Star Mountain isn't far from the Portland Metro area, visitors must travel a series of winding country lanes and rough gravel roads to gain access. Hikers have a choice of two trailheads - Ed's Trail on the north and Grouse Creek Vista to the south. Although Ed's Trail is my favorite path up the mountain, it's horrific rocky access road is not. To spare my sanity (and car!) I chose to start our hike at Grouse Creek Vista.
Mid-July is prime wildflower (and crowds) season, so we got an early start, and rolled into the trailhead parking area by 8:30. My plan was to take an old, rocky road that was now a hiking trail 3.5 miles to Silver Star's summit. From the summit, we'd loop around and follow Ed's Trail before descending the Tarbell Trail back to the car.
|Green ridges spread out in all directions|
Catherine and I trudged up the rocky road. The first mile was fairly steep, and we were thankful for the day's overcast skies and cooler temperatures. Thick forest lined our road, so there wasn't much to see. That changed in a big hurry.
|Views from Silver Star's summit|
About a mile and a half into our hike, the forest began to clear until we came out onto an open slope. Views stretched forever. I could see the foothills with their patchwork-quilt pattern of forests and clear cuts (thanks to logging). Up ahead Silver Star's summit rose before us, our immediate goal.
|Unique pink flowers|
But - oh the flowers! Both sides of the trail were packed with colorful blooms. Orange Indian paintbrush dominated, but white daisies, lupine, and an unknown yellow flower were close seconds. All forward progress ground to a halt.
|Fabulous flower show|
Catherine was amazed. Her first time to Silver Star, she'd never seen such a concentration of wildflowers. We spent so much time photographing, she joked we might need a "flower intervention" (aka "flowervention") or our families would be sending search parties to look for us.
|Best display yet|
But finally we tore ourselves away from the beauty and continued on, past conical shaped Pyramid Rock, and back into the forest for the final mile climb .
We came out on the saddle between Silver Star's twin summits. Despite still-cloudy skies, breathtaking views abounded. Green ridges stretched out in multiple directions. Flowers bloomed in the open meadows below.
|Look who's coming out of the clouds??|
Choosing the northerly peak, I was pleased to find only one woman sitting atop. But we'd no sooner dropped our packs, when a group of men arrived. On their heels was another hiking party. And another....And another..... In the span of 10 minutes I counted 30 people packed onto Silver Star's small summit area. This definitely wasn't the place to find solitude! The noise and chaos got to be too much, so Catherine and I cut our break short.
Thanks to numerous online hiking websites, Silver Star has become a wildly popular destination. As Catherine and I trekked back down from its summit, we passed a steady stream of people crawling to the top. The majority appeared to be coming from Ed's Trail. Amazed that so many people were willing to brave that awful road, Catherine started asking people about their drive in. One couple admitted the potholes were so bad they'd parked their car and walked the road two miles just to reach the trailhead.
|And, yes, more flowers|
After touching the summit, I directed Catherine down another old roadbed, heading northeast towards Ed's Trail. We came out into another clearing and the flower show was at it's colorful best. More paintbrush, lupine, yellow Oregon sunshine, daisies.....oh the list went on and on...Truly the best wildflower display yet! (Might there be another flowervention happening soon??)
More frantic photography ensued (mostly by me). Catherine noticed a couple climbing a small rise, and wanting to see what was going on, followed them up the flower-filled knoll. On top was a drop-dead gorgeous view of Mt. St. Helens, slowly emerging out of the morning's clouds.
|Lots of pink wildflowers|
The skies were beginning to clear, and this open ridge was the best place to see three Washington Cascade peaks lining the skyline - Adams, Rainier, and St Helens. As Catherine and I wandered down this rocky road to clearing skies, the views just kept getting better. Wildflowers and snow-capped mountains - perfect!
|Mt St Helens and Rainier anchor the skyline|
At the junction between the road and Ed's Trail, Catherine and I came upon a break in the ridgeline that framed Mt Hood perfectly. We decided this was a great place to have lunch.
|Photo ops abound|
Properly refueled, we then tackled the gradual uphill climb along Ed's Trail. One of my most favorite places to hike, I kept looking back at the panorama of peaks along the horizon. The wide-open meadows here were the result of the Yacolt Burn - the largest forest fire in Washington state's history. This fire burned so hot that trees have failed to reseed and grow. But...the silver lining was that the fire created these fabulous wildflower meadows we were enjoying today.
|Amazing wide-open vistas from Ed's Trail|
Ho hum.....more wonderful wildflower displays......I was starting to get floral overload!
|Catherine admires the view|
The mountains and now-clear skies made for some great photo ops. And because I like people in my shots, Catherine became my model. (She's learned when you hike with me you get included in lots of pictures.)
|The famous rock arch|
We passed through the famous rock arch, along crumbly steep slopes, and up a rocky cliff (about 15 feet of vertical climbing - it was fun!)
|Mt Hood sighting|
Soon we were back at the junction below Silver Star's summit once again. Seven miles covered thus far, it was time for the homestretch to the trailhead. Decision time - did we take the longer, less scenic, Tarbell Trail and make a loop, or the rocky road we'd followed this morning?
|I managed to catch one butterfly standing still|
The decision was unanimous - the flower fields had been so lovely, both Catherine and I wanted to see them a second time around. Plus, compared to the Tarbell Trail, this route was about a mile and a half shorter.
|Back through the flower zone|
Second consecutive day of hiking, another 10 miles logged, and I felt just fine. Maybe I need to do less working and more wildflower hiking! (Of course, that might lead to another "flowervention.") :)
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