|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.