Monday, July 15, 2019

Springtime at Tom McCall Point

After spending a long weekend on the Oregon Coast, I was itching to get back to the Columbia River Gorge for another spring wildflower fix.  Rumor had it the balsamroot was peaking at Tom McCall Point, so the following Friday I made an early morning visit.

Lupine at sunrise

Although arriving in plenty of time for sunrise, cloudless skies made for a less-than-impressive dawn.  I wasn't satisfied with any of my images (of course, that might have been due to the photographer.....)  The only shot that I felt really turned out well was this backlit cluster of lupine.

Lovely morning light on the Columbia River

Once the sun crested over the hills, I wandered around the Rowena Plateau, enjoying fantastic early morning light on the wildflowers and Columbia River.

Rowena Plateau

I ran into a professional photographer from the East Coast, out scouting locations for future photo workshops.  He had lots of questions about photogenic spots in Oregon.  The guy asked about some of the well-known and photographed spots on the coast and I was able to tell him "I was just there last weekend!"

Riot of color on Tom McCall Trail

After the photographer and I parted ways, I decided to hike up Tom McCall Point.  Rumor had it the wildflowers were at peak on top.  The hike started out well - not far from the trailhead I ran into this technicolor meadow.

Breathtaking Mt Hood view on top

The 1.7-mile climb to the top was a pure delight.  Wildflowers bloomed profusely on the grassy slopes.  I even spotted a few deer happily grazing in the meadows.  With so many photography subjects, let's just say I wasn't a speedy hiker.

Mt Adams peeping over the hills

Visitors making the 1100 foot climb to the very top are rewarded with stellar views.  Mt Hood rises from the southern skyline, while Mt Adams peeps over the Washington side of the Columbia River. 
And down low before you, the Columbia River and it's steep banks spread out east and west, as far as the eye can see.

Columbia River view looking west

This wonderful preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy, who maintains the trails, studies the rare plants, and keeps this area as pristine as possible.  The name of Tom McCall honors a past Oregon governor, who was committed to conserving Oregon's natural treasures. 

Another grand view from Tom McCall Point

Once on the summit, of course I got busy with my camera trying my best to capture all this floral beauty.

Balsamroot sunshine

The morning was still early, so I shared the summit with just a couple other people.  I chatted briefly with one lady who'd trekked up solo.  After snapping a few images, I turned around and she was abruptly gone.  A few minutes later, I located her lying in the middle of the flower fields, apparently taking a nap.  Going off trail is a big no-no here, as people can trample the plants (not to mention ticks live in the grassy areas). 

Lovely lupine

That's the problem with the onslaught of social media.  Although I love to share my photos of these special places, it does bring more people to visit.  And not everyone is aware of the damage that occurs when you start walking through delicate flower fields.  My message to those reading my blog is this - if you visit, please stay on marked trails and be respectful of nature.  Don't pick flowers, leave litter, or stand in the middle of flower fields for your Instagram shot.

Amazing spring wildflower bloom

Before departing from the summit, I switched to my 60 mm macro lens, hoping to get some close-up flower images on my way down.  Imagine my surprise when a deer bounded across the trail, not 10 feet in front of me.  Only having my macro lens, I did the best that I could trying to capture it.  (Story of my life - I never have the proper lens on my camera at the right time!)

Caught this deer running by

Despite the bungled photo op, I still had a lovely hike down, capturing all the flowers I missed on the way up (or thought I missed!)


These purple penstemon were especially fetching.

Chocolate Lily

And I even found a few stems of chocolate lilies.  One of my favorites!

More amazing lupine

Lower down, the lupine was a lovely deep shade of purple.

Caught one butterfly

I was even able to capture a blue butterfly as it paused atop a flower.

Mother Nature's bouquet

But by far my favorite spring flower is the balsamroot.  It's bright sunny yellow petals make me smile.

Happy flower

As I descended back to the parking lot, I met group after group of people, all climbing to the flower fields.  The advantage of going early, I had the trail and summit nearly all to myself.  I arrived back to an overflowing parking area.  Time to get the heck outta Dodge!

Best way to spend a spring morning!

No better way to spend a sunny spring morning than chasing wildflowers in the Columbia River Gorge.


  1. Your efforts were rewarded with some great photographs. You did well with the deer image; I usually just stand there with my mouth open until the photo-op has disappeared into the distance. At least flowers don't do that!

  2. ...Mother Nature sure is busy tending her beautiful gardens, what a delight to see. Thanks for taking me along.

  3. You enjoy such a wonderful array of colours in your wilflower meadows. That deer was an added bonus.

  4. Hello, looks like a beautiful day and a wonderful hike. The views of Mt Hood and the River are stunning. I love all the wildflowers, awesome photos. I always stay on the trail! Wishing you a happy day and a great new week!

  5. What an amazing spring flower bloom you had in the PNW...and you really have done it justice! Beautiful photos Linda.

  6. I'll say it again. Very few people know that what they are missing in the high country. Mountain meadows are something I will never forget.

  7. It's an amazing year for flowers in the Northwest, wild and otherwise. I really need to get to Tom McCall Point next spring! Balsamroot is one of my favorites, too.

  8. Those Balsamwort meadows are absolutely amazing. Very little like them here.

  9. Absolutely sensational Linda!

  10. I love wildflowers and you captured so many gorgeous ones in your photos, Linda! I'm so glad you mentioned the rules of " Stay on the trails, leave only footprints, take only photos"

  11. The area, the flora and the fauna are all spectacular. It would be interesting to visit in all the seasons to capture the changing landscape.


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