Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Balsamroot Paradise

After enduring a rainy April weekend, I was more than ready to get my spring wildflower fix.  Rumor had it the balsamroot were in top form east of Mosier.

Good morning from Rowena Crest!

If there's wildflowers to be photographed, I'm there!  Early that next Saturday morning I packed my camera and headed east.  I didn't quite make the sunrise at Rowena Crest, but as a consolation prize, the early morning light wasn't too shabby.

Balsamroot twins

And the balsamroot were in full bloom.  The just-risen sun illuminated their cheery yellow petals nicely.

The blue Columbia River

Aside from a few photographers parked along the roadway, there weren't many people around yet.  And only one vehicle was parked at the Rowena Plateau trailhead.  Getting up early has it's advantages!

Layered hills line the river

I wandered out onto the plateau, following it's well-worn trail.  Clumps of balsamroot filled the adjacent fields, providing a nice foreground to the layered Gorge cliffs and Columbia River below.

Desert Parsley

Lots of yellow blooming here!  Along with the balsamroot, Desert parley added to the spring color.

Old barn perched atop a steep cliff

Orchards and farms dotted the adjacent hills.  Across a steep valley, I admired an old barn and farmhouse perched atop one of the basalt cliffs.  What a fantastic place to live!

Lupine just getting started

Although lupine is one of the prolific spring wildflowers here, it was just getting started.  I only found a few tiny blooms on the entire plateau.

More steep basalt walls

It was about a mile ramble to trail's end at a steep cliff showcasing a most excellent Gorge panorama looking westward.  The mighty Columbia gleamed a sparkling blue.  It was wonderful to take in this lovely scene, especially since I had it all to myself.

Gorge panorama at trail's end

Although I'd met only one person on my way out to the overlook, I encountered many folks on my return trip.  The rest of the world had finally woke up, and they were converging on the plateau trail.

Backlit blooms

Time to head back and find another area to explore.  And I knew just the place.

Sunny yellow flower

Last year I discovered the Memaloose Hills.  An area of rolling hills and meadows east of Mosier, the variety and number of flowers blooming blew me away.  It was hands-down one of the best spring wildflower displays I'd seen - ever.

Flowers line the Memaloose Hills trail

Lucky for me, the Memaloose Hills trailhead was just down the road.  Although I worried about securing a spot in the tiny gravel parking area, my good fortune continued as I got the last space. (I should've bought a lottery ticket!)

Mt Hood view from Marsh Hill

The trail system here is very informal.  No signs direct hikers to viewpoints.  Last year, I found Marsh Hill by accident.  Although I didn't make it to nearby Chatfield Hill, I decided this time I'd be sure and visit both places.

Flower-covered Chatfield Hill

Balsamroot, lupine, larkspur, chocolate tiger lilies, and many other wildflower varieties lined the path through an old oak forest.

Chatfield Hill had most balsamroot I'd seen this year!

I met a man hiking back towards the trailhead who gave me directions to Chatfield Hill.  He highly recommended I visit, commenting he'd never seen so many flowers in bloom.

More Hood views here too

First I hiked what I knew, following a large group of people up the side of Marsh Hill.  The balsamroot bloom was as good as I'd remembered from last year, and I also got great bonus views of Mt Hood.  But the large group of noisy hikers kind of ruined the vibe (and they all sat right down in the middle of the trail) so I didn't stay long.

Flowers carpeted the forest floor

Back down Marsh Hill, I looked for a side path leading to Chatfield Hill.  The man's directions were spot on, and soon had me wandering through a field full of tiny yellow buttercups.  Then I began to switchback upwards through another oak woods.

Lone tree on Chatfield Hill

And then the trees parted to reveal a wide open hillside.  To my delight it was carpeted yellow with balsamroot petals.  Just as the man described, it was indeed the best wildflower bloom I'd seen so far this year.

More lovely Gorge views

It took me quite some time to climb the final distance to Chatfield Hill's summit.  There were too many lovely scenes to capture.  Mixed in with the balsamroot were purple lupine and orange Indian paintbrush.

Indian Paintbrush

Once on top I admired the amazing view westward of the Columbia River and dramatic Gorge hills rising steeply up.  The adjacent property owner had sited a bench atop this knoll and tempted as I was to go sit upon it, a barbed wire fence with stern warning signs against trespassing kept me on the correct side.

Tip of Mt Adams

Off to the north, Mt Adams' white tip peeped above the foothills.

Chocolate tiger lily

Although the views were grand, it was very windy and cold atop Chatfield Hill.  That, and a conga-line of people continuously arriving made it a very busy place.  Not one for crowds, I cut my visit short.  Back down through the woods I trekked, snapping a few final photos.

One more balsamroot pic!

It was a successful morning's outing capturing wildflowers in the eastern Gorge.  I caught peak balsamroot bloom in both places and returned home with a full memory card and happy heart.


  1. I particularly like the shots which show the flowers in their landscape. Yellow seems to be the colour of choice, strange how the predominant colour shifts during the year.

  2. ...WOW, natural beauty on steroids!

  3. Fotografias fantásticas e de grande beleza.
    Um abraço e continuação de boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  4. Its that time of year when expect and demand a post from you about your wild flower blooms. Absolutely magnificent

  5. Wow, gorgeous wildflowers and awesome views of the Gorge and Mt Hood. Lovely post and photos. Have a happy day!

  6. Fabulous flowers, pretty yellow ones for sure. Thanks for sharing this excursion with me. :-)

  7. Rowena Crest is a favorite place; whenever I'm there in the MX-5, I always drive this part of the old Gorge highway. What aperfect place to hunt wildflowers, with the river and mountains as a backdrop! Lovely photos; love that lone tree.

  8. Such beautiful trails and wildflowers. Excellent captures - of course my favorite is the one with the stunning Mt. Hood.

  9. Stunning! One of the many bonuses of living in a wet part of the country!

  10. Some lovely photos there. You certainly put the effort in to get great shots.

  11. All those flowers! I'm not sure how the beargrass is going to be this year. I've only seen a few outliers so far.

  12. Hi! I have never seen the balsamroot flowers. They would grow colonies. They are very cool. Mt. Hood is always very beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Such lovely wildflowers and my favorite color too! Can you imagine living on that cliff...I am afraid of heights so I wouldn't live there beside that I would worry about kids and dogs:) I can tell you had a wonderful day except for the people:)

  14. I love seeing your array of wildflowers each spring! That balsamroot is so pretty. It has been unusually hot and dry here--in the 90's, so i have not been hiking much lately. Thee is also smoke in the air from the 3 large fires burning in our state. Hope we get much needed rain soon!

  15. Enjoyed your tour through Balsamroot Paradise, Linda! I'm thinking I should add Chatfield Hill to my very large list, thanks to your photos

  16. The views are just amazing. Such a gorgeous area. I'm always glad when you share your photos because I'd never be able to do that hike.


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