|Peak bloom in the Gorge!|
Which is exactly what I did one early Saturday morning. Hearing reports of peak balsamroot and lupine blooms at Tom McCall Point, I set my alarm and arrived at an ungodly early hour. Although arrival time didn't quite coincide with sunrise, mine was still one of the first cars in the parking area. Better yet, the trail to Tom McCall Point was nearly deserted.
|Tom McCall Point, my destination, is the peak in the center|
Rising from a plateau overlooking the Columbia River, Tom McCall Point's steep slopes are known for their annual spring wildflower show. Gaining 1000 feet in a mile and a half, however, you have to work to see the goods.
|Lovely purple unknown flower|
The trail starts out in a level field jam-packed with yellow balsamroot flowers. Lupine and a few other purple blooms add to the color festival.
|Views begin to open up as I climb higher|
Then the climbing begins! Switchbacking up Tom McCall Point's grassy slopes isn't easy. But as you rise, the views get better and better.
|Penstemon just beginning to open|
Midway, the path meanders through a scrubby oak forest. I kept an eagle-eye out for poison oak and tried to avoid the brushy trail shoulders. Along with poison oak, ticks thrive here in the spring, and I didn't wish to encounter either one.
Near the top, the forest clears away, and hikers are rewarded with wide-open views along the Columbia River.
|Green Gorge hills|
I was happy to see the upper slopes covered in a mosaic of yellow and purple.
|Explosion of color|
From the summit, Mt Hood made an appearance.
|Mt Hood makes an appearance|
A classic spring Gorge scene!
|Flowers and mountain|
Progressing upward, I watched the parking area down below fill with vehicles. Since I'm a slow hiker and make many photo stops, it didn't take long for all those people to catch up.
|Sitting in the flower fields|
So when I finally arrived, the summit was far from empty. But I was happy to see most folks were respectful, sitting on the bare spots and quietly taking in the beauty. (And thankfully NOT picking any flowers!)
|The bloom stretched forever|
Oh the balsamroot bloom was colossal! The upper slopes were awash in yellow. It was quite a sight!
|Lots of hikers began arriving|
I was fortunate to have clear, sunny weather that day, which made for stunning views east and west down the Columbia River.
|Lupine patch front and center|
Fields of colorful wildflowers, fantastic mountain views, sweeping river panoramas......This is the stuff nature photographers dream of.
After spending a happy half hour wandering around Tom McCall's summit meadows, I reluctantly packed up my camera for the trip back down.
Driving back home via the Historic Columbia River Highway, I entertained stopping in Mosier for the short hike up Mosier Plateau. But the parking area was plumb full when I passed by, so instead I just kept driving. Something to save for another day.
Another great spring morning in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge!