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Friday, August 18, 2017

"Flowervention" on Silver Star Mountain

Two hikes in one weekend!  What was I thinking?  I awoke Sunday morning to a tired, stiff body and was seriously questioning my sanity.  But I'd promised my new hiking buddy Catherine a trip to Washington's Silver Star Mountain, and I wasn't about to go back on my word.


Flowerama!

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.


More paintbrush

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.


Wide-open panoramas

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??)


Gentian

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


So back through the amazingly beautiful flower zone we traveled!  By now, the afternoon heat had brought out the insects, and hundreds of colorful butterflies floated through the blooms.  It was fun to watch them swoop and dive.  One butterfly seemed to follow me as I walked along the trail.  What a great way to end such a wonderful day!


Purple lupine patch

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.")   :)

Sharing with:  Through My Lens

23 comments:

  1. ...it would take me forever to make this hike, I'd be stopping every few feet!

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  2. I would be like Tom, Linda! There is so much to see here, what a gorgeous and amazing place!

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  3. That's a lot of hiking in two days. But it was so worth it. The scenery is gorgeous. Especially the flowers. Love sweeping landscpaes with the sun coming through the clouds and partly lighting the mountains.

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  4. Hello, I like the word "flowervention" . Wow so many beautiful flowers. The views of the mountain tops is awesome too, great captures. What a fantastic hike? Your photos are awesome, as always. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

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  5. Hi! It looks you are hiking in a paradise. If I have a chance I want to go hiking these places.

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  6. WOW, just WOW! That is probably the best flower display on a hike EVER!

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  7. Amazing views and wildflower meadows, thing I woud want to sit and stay a little longer

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  8. Wow! Wow and double wow! You were certainly in paradise. I so want to go to a Flowervention. Just
    magnificent.

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  9. I just can't believe those flower meadows! Amazing place!

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  10. what a golorious perusion of wild flowers. Stunning scenery. Have a good week ahead.

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  11. With so many wild flowers there must be loads of butterflies and bees everywhere. That's a new one for me in your photo.

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  12. Absolutely stunning scenery and images!

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  13. I thought I had commented on your wonderful post! I remember seeing it! Gorgeous hikes...I would love to be able to hike again but I have too many issues...I sure love it when someone shares like this. Beautiful photos! Happy to hear you are not only in WA, your daughter lives in Redmond! Maybe we could meet some time when you are visiting the area. I haven't seen much of the traffic they said we would be expecting....I think most of it is in Madras and Prineville (though 97 goes TO Madras!) We went out to dinner at Terrebonne Depot last night and the traffic on 97 was normal. Your daughter should be ok to get to work Mon morn! Have a great week. And keep posting such gorgeous photos!

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  14. You are walking through some very beautiful countryside.

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  15. wow gorgeous wildflower displays. gorgeous scenery all around.

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  16. Such a stunningly gorgeous area. A wonderful and relaxing way to spend the day.

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  17. Wow, your adventures are incredible. Love the vistas and all those gorgeous wildflowers. (They seem to be fading away now.)
    Great post!

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  18. Linda, What wonderful photos! The wildflower fields are amazing. The panoramas where you can see for miles are fabulous. Thanks for sharing and have a great week. Sylvia D.

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  19. Wow! It's amazing to see so many wonderful colors on the mountainside!

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  20. What a beautiful hike! Your photos are just awesome!

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  21. Oh my stars the wildflowers & views here are just amazing and oh so beautiful.

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  22. Stunning, absolutely stunning. From a very envious UK hiker :)

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